MichaelC: So, a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, an event even more shocking than Disney buying Star Wars occurred. That's right. Cewsh challenged me to a bet over the Royal Rumble result (Cewsh Note: He picked Sheamus, Barrett or McIntyre, I picked everyone else on the entire roster. It seemed like a solid bet at the time.) And failed miserably. As a result of my victory, I got to cash in a Review on any subject over the course of the next 12 months. It could be on anything. Kennel from Hell! Bread Eating Matches! Something TNA related! The possibilities were endless. Hell, I could have even gotten him to review the whole 10 hour Youtube version of "They're taking the hobbits to Isengard". (This actually exists!)
Instead, because "Nice" is my middle name, I decided to be... well, you can finish that yourself. So I picked WWF BREAKDOWN...In Your House! This is a show from 1998, one month after Summerslam. Our Champion is Stone Cold Steve Austin, but after a whole Summer of fiendish plans to take the title off him, Mr McMahon might have found his trump card. The midcard featured such young up and comers as The Rock (never heard of him), Triple H (some jobber) and Ken Shamrock (legend). There was a tag team division. There was a jobber division. There was people assumed to be heels who the crowd loved and were dying for them to break through that glass ceili...
Hang on, this isn't 2012 we're discussing?
I utterly love this show. This might seem strange, given how it comes across as a throwaway show. And yet, for all it was a B-show, both in hindsight and at the time it wound up more important than the Summerslam that followed it. It was a window into the future, the set up of a path which would only settle 7 months later at WrestleMania XV. If Survivor Series 1998 was The Empire Strikes Back, then this is A New Hope. (An analogy which makes WrestleMania 13 The Phantom Menace, making this analogy fit better with every passing year...) But this is all to come. Bring on the...
Nah, I'll let Cewsh say it. This is Nice Michael.
Cewsh: And this is your sad, defeated Cewsh saying that without any further ado, let's do a motherfucking review!
Michael C: Our opening video shows, should we have forgotten (or fortuitously need reminding as we are watching fourteen years later) that Vince McMahon is "damn sick and tired" of Steve Austin being the WWF Champion. To this matter, he has a masterplan of setting both The Undertaker AND Kane after the belt. Hey, they spent most of the year trying to kill each other, but they probably hate Austin more, right!
The Attitude era opening video combines historical footage alongside black and white footage of current wrestling events to try and give a more epic feel for the show. As I grew up with it, I love it.
The WWE have always done great videos for things. I'd buy a DVD of their promo videos. What say you, Cewshter?
Cewsh: As always when we cover shows from this general area of wrestling history, I find it necessary to remind our readers about a very significant fact. I did not watch wrestling during the Attitude Era. Thanks to a poorly delivered Pearl River Plunge on my Ultimate Warrior pillow that sent it hurling through the living room window, I was barred from watching wrestling of any kind from about 1996 – 2001. You may recognize this as the period where EVERYONE ELSE ON EARTH started watching wrestling, and while I’ve become well educated on the happenings of the era, I’ll never know what it was like to watch it unfold day by day like so many of you did. I know, bummer right? But the plus side to it, is that when we go back and review shows like this one, I have NO FUCKING IDEA what is going on. So while Michael takes the lead on this review, I’m going to be playing the part of the befuddled tourist, wandering through a foreign land and pointing out how silly everyone looks. Should be fun, let’s get started!
Okay now. So we’re clearly smack in the middle of the whole Austin/McMahon thing, and it appears that McMahon has decided to see if Austin is vulnerable to fire and lightning, as rattlesnakes are known to be. Taker and Kane hate each other, and McMahon’s plan is pretty Wile E. Coyote-esque as usual, but I have to say that they did a great job of making Austin look like a guy with no chance here, and this was great for an era before they had a production team that could rival any in the world.
This show looks like it’s going to be great, but I can’t help but feel like there’s something missing. Hmm. Let’s use the Cewsh Reviews time machine to ask Cewsh from 3 hours from now what we should add to make this a more enjoyable experience. Future Cewsh?
Future Cewsh: *slurring* WHAT ARE YOU LOOKIN’ AT YOU WHIPPERSNAPPER?!
Cewsh: Um, I was hoping you could tell us what would improve our enjoyment here, future me.
Future Cewsh: HOW ABOUT YOUR MOTHER YOU SLACK JAWED FACKWADDLE
Cewsh: That’s your mother too. You are, in fact, me.
Future Cewsh: …
Future Cewsh: Are you a wizard?
Cewsh: Okay, it seems pretty clear that 3 hours from now I am incredibly hammered. So either I finally got my wish of having Scotch for blood, or I invented a drinking game to go along with this show. And as a matter of fact I did! Feel free to play along at home, though any medical bills you incur as a result of playing this game are not our responsibility.
Everybody got it? Let’s all get hammered!
MichaelC: You might suspect I love this one. I couldn't possibly comment.
This is Edge's PPV singles debut. He debuted in a RAW match which didn't go tell well that April (it broke Jose Estrada's neck) and had been Sable's partner in some of her interminably long feud against Marc Mero. But here he is, in Canada, on PPV, against one of Canada's finest wrestlers.
Now, let me be honest about Owen Hart for a second. Bret was the better wrestler, had the more commitment, was better on the mic, and more of all rounder. That said, Owen was much more fun. He inhabited that "whiny kid brother" character with so much zest, and his every action on TV was designed to make the crowds HATE him. Plus, he showed signs of being genre savvy back when that was non-existent. And, as might become apparent, when he really wanted to, he could let it all go in the ring.
So young up and comer vs his mentor, a grizzled veteran (though only 33 years of age still). Owen is also the heel here. You might not be able to tell, as he's a bit over.
This starts off with Owen testing out the younger wrestler with all kinds of amateur holds, only to see Edge equal each of them, and find more inventive ways to flip out of the armlocks. What progresses is a wily match of reversals, with the fiery youngster out jumping and maneuvering the older man, but the wiles of Owen catching out the kid at every opportunity. Examples being the reverse powerslam on the floor, and Owen sidestepping off the top rope into a Sharpshooter. Watch back reminds me how fluid Owen could be at times, but also how good Edge was at an early stage. You could see Owen Hart fitting into this mentors role for another few years, and then retiring to a happy old age.
This match is Edge's first coming out, in which he goes one on one live with a smark favorite and shows himself an equal. Not only that, but the crowd believe he could actually pull off the upset. He graduates from being "newbie" to "one to watch" within a ten minute match. And then, right as he does so, the shadow grabs him right back again. Christian debuts (as a mysterious stranger), and we head towards the Brood.
Hey, Cewsh, how hard is to believe Edge (and Christian) were being used back then to get Gangrel over as a credible top card force?
Cewsh: About as hard as believing that the guy would have a thriving career in the porn industry.
MichaelC: I'd give this match the MichaelC Download Seal. Watching it in early May 1999*, it was the first hints for me that Edge of the Brood had something to watch for. Before that point, he was the one who wasn't Gangrel (just look at him!) or Christian (who'd been a big plot focal point in the McMahon/Taker/Shamrock feud).
*22nd May 1999 actually. I watched it with a pal who collected the videos. I remember the day, because, well, you know what happened the next day.
Cewsh: There are some times in life when you rise to the incredible challenge of trying to top yourself at your best. When I reviewed this match in our Cewsh Reviews Super Mega Ultra Technicolor Dream Card 2: Electric Boogaloo, I pretty much covered all of my thoughts on the matter. So I have the choice of either attempting to review this match again and do it even better than before, or simply copy and paste in my previous thoughts, and go play Halo for the next 15 minutes.
Yeah, it wasn't a hard choice for me either.
Cewsh: What a fun goddamn match this was.
Here he get our second dose of Edge, and this one is even older than the last, as this is back in the days when he was being pushed as a mysterious singles wrestler who wore eyeliner and was, well, mysterious. Here he’s wrestling his first really high profile match against Owen Hart on PPV, and while I think Owen is technically supposed to be some sort of heel here, the people don’t give a fuck and are cheering the FUCK out of him. As well they might. Unfortunately they wouldn’t get the chance to enjoy him for much longer.
The action here is fast and furious, and really puts Edge on the map almost immediately, as he dominates the majority of it.
I really can’t think of a time from that era where an up and comer was given 17 minutes to tell a story and get themselves over in the ring like this, so it’s really cool to see Owen absolutely putting Edge over as his equal, and having a fantastic match in the process. Towards the end, Edge appears to have the upper hand until a mysterious figure (guess who!) with long blonde hair and glasses steps out of the crowd and stares coolly at him, allowing Hart to steal the victory. And just like that they’re made a new star and introduced an interesting new character in one segment. I may be sort of generally anti-Attitude Era, but that, boys and girls, is great booking.
Great match, great booking, and good times. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know.
84 out of 100.
Cewsh’s Download Seal of Approval
MichaelC: So, an underrated tag team before they became one of the most over sides on the roster, and two underrated wrestlers who haven't aged in about forty years? Sounds good on paper to me.
Al Snow started out as Avatar. That gimmick failed, so he became a New Rocker with Marty Jannetty, under the moniker Leif Cassidy. The New Rockers got over like The New Blackjacks, The New Nation and The New Originals. IE, they didn't. (That incidentally, is your obligatory Spinal Tap gag which I stole off Mick Foley. Always steal jokes...) Snow got papped over to ECW in the talent exchange - another example of the evil Vince McMahon holding down ECW by giving them wrestlers, financial aid and promoting their PPVs - and was about to win the ECW title when he wound up back on RAW. Every time he came close to a WWF contract, the machinations of Jerry Lawler and Too Much (of whom, Brian Christopher was completely not Lawler's son, honest) prevented him getting a contract.
Until six days prior when Snow beat outgoing WWF Commissioner Sgt Slaughter for a contract. His best buddy Scorpio (of still being 2 Cold fucking awesome Scorpio) came to aid him, and now they want revenge against the upstarts who have caused him hell for the last few months.
You know, this show is so far better planned than I recalled it being. If we find a back story for Droz/Mero...
This is a swift match to let the fans get revenge. It doesn't need to get Snow over, as he is over like Rover. Just a simple story of two punks getting what was coming to them, after a few months where it didn't look like it was going to. Booking 101. JR even refers to Scorpio as "under appreciated". He and Snow work well as a tag team, its a shame they weren't to last too much longer after this, although they did get to form the Job Squad. What is noticeable, however, is that this is four men who aren't used to getting this much time on PPV to show their stuff, and damn, but they are determined to try and make the most of it. Stuff like this shows you why Too Much and the Hardys got kept from the jobber tag teams of 1998, and DOA and Public Enemy got canned. Scorpio got fired in January 1999 for failing a drug test. Too Much became Too Cool, and very popular. Al Snow stayed crazy over, and after many Hardcore title reigns and a European title run, wound up a trainer on Tough Enough. And Jack Doan the ref is still in the WWE today.
Cewsh: Now, I never actually knew that Scorpio actually wrestled for WWE outside of his time as Flash Funk, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him here. He’s teamed up with Al Snow who is really incredibly over and seems to be in the middle of a great midcard push that will, for some reason, never really lead anywhere substantial. Seeing them is great. Seeing the future Too Cool wearing floral print and playing the bongos on each other’s asses is even better.
Off to a great start so far.
After about a minute of some great chain wrestling from Scorpio and Taylor, two things become clear. The first is that Scorpio is one of the smoothest and most fun to watch wrestlers I’ve ever seen, (which I already knew,) and the second is that the team of Too Much is the most homoerotic tag team of all time, (which I didn’t.)
We get plenty of examples of this throughout the match, from the above ass bongos and stimulating face rubs, to the classic “face full of dong” move that followed up a botch so bad that only Scorpio could make it look as smooth as it did.
Al Snow gets tagged in and, as Scorpio distracts the ref, promptly hits everyone in the face with his Head about 20 times, including Scorpio himself. The ref apparently decides that this is just fine and not any of his business, and goes back to playing with his Tamagotchi or doing the Macarena, or whatever people did back in 1998. The whole thing becomes a wacky clusterfuck, before Snow finally just pins someone and has done with it.
65 out of 100
Cewsh: I should probably apologize for that segment header, because I have made this sound infinitely more awesome than it is. In fact, that movie should be in development immediately.
The Undertaker and Kane are backstage, being interviewed by Michael Cole and filmed by someone who is apparently confused by the concept of dynamic lighting. Cole wants to know which of the two will be the one who gets to win the title tonight. Taker tells him to mind his own business and then rolls his eyes back in his head, which is a pretty solid way to end a conversation.
Drinks During This Segment: 0
MichaelC: Oh god.
Droz was a rugged diamond in the rough, the likes of which if he debuted now Cewsh would LOVE. Sadly, before he was able to realize his talent into anything other than mass potential, he was to become permanently paralyzed in a terrible in ring accident in a match with D'lo Brown, an incident neither man was able to fully recover from. Droz only started training in 1997. His entire career from start to finish was under 2 years. Sigh. And Marc Mero left the WWE in 1999. Thankfully.
This is one of those things WWE used to do. A five minute showcase of a newer talent against a bigger name, with the new guy getting to look impressive before going down without shame to the more recognized talent. And here it is a cheat victory, to add credence to the rookie's plight. The only problem with this match, apart from rookie inexperience, is that, at the end of the day, no matter which way you splice it, Marc Mero is still Marc Mero.
And okay, the Marvellousity isn't too bad either.
How good Droz might have been, though, is one of our great unanswerable questions.
Cewsh: You know what, we’re going to give Droz a pass on the whole “looking ridiculous” thing. Because a) it was his gimmick and b) the dude has had a pretty rough go of things. But you know who isn’t exempt?
Now this is Marc Mero POST Sable break up, so he’s pretty much just running out the clock on his contract. But to his credit, he actually seems to put in some effort here and makes Droz look good for awhile before beating him with, it must be said, one of the better Shooting Stars you’ll ever see.
This match didn’t have much structure, which is fair because it didn’t have much purpose either. But in this era, WWE just let midcarders go and make each other look good on PPV, and that’s really what this was. Better than it should have been, all the way through.
70 out of 100
Sorry, I Take It Back. You're Drinking For Droz.
MichaelC: You might be surprised that this match has never captured my spirit. After all, it has Vader AND Bradshaw, in a No Holds Barred match. It has everything a MichaelC could want for. But, this was Vader's last WWF match before he got released, and he seems to know it. So this isn't quite what it could have been.
Michael Cole interviews Bradshaw. A younger looking Bradshaw, who tears into Vader on the mic before prowling out to ringside. (I love his entrance theme, btw, but then Bradshaw never had a rubbish entrance theme.) I do love the line though: "He couldn't reform to Raiders team rules, and when you can't do that..." I don't even know the Raiders, but it SOUNDS impressive.
MichaelC: The story of this is basically Vader is on his way out, and Bradshaw kills him on his way out the door. Vader, once the biggest dog in the company, is utterly and mercilessly hammered by the younger, angrier man. Vader has his moments, but it's never enough, and you couldn't have seen a finer example of the Old Yeller in wrestling until Shawn told Flair he loved him. JR tells us these two were tag team partners who couldn't get along. Now they want to kill each other. So that's 3 out of 4 matches with a storyline reason. This shows how much attention I paid when I was 12!
There were always plans to make Bradshaw a top guy. It detoured for a bit to give him seasoning in MichaelC's favorite tag team ever, but even from Day 1 they had big plans for that man. And as I watch it here, I find myself actually quite enjoying it. Its a massacre, but those can be fun in a wrestling sense. It reminds me of a slightly more equal version of the Acolytes vs Hardys and Michael Hayes from one year later, and I love that match to bits. Vader hands a gift to Bradshaw on his way out, letting him convincingly kick out of the Vader Bomb. The crowd and JR are shocked at the kick out... And all match long Bradshaw goes for his big Clothesline, and Vader dodges it by all means. Finally it connects, and Vader gets his final thank you for his WWF service, getting to kick out of the Clothesline from Hell. A second Clothesline swiftly follows, then the Neckbreaker modification Regal made famous.
And so ended Vader's WWF run. A disappointment, sure, by the standards he set in his career. Yet it had enough big moments for me to feel its not entirely a write off. The Gorilla Monsoon injury angle, the Shawn feud, the stuff with Foley and Bulldog in 97, his Undertaker matches, Vader v Owen: it wasn't until 1998 it really all fell to pieces, and even then he's done his best to put over the new WWF monsters, Kane, Mark Henry and Bradshaw. Regardless, he's a proper wrestling Hall of Famer. As for that Bradshaw type, he spent a few years in The Acolytes, before breaking out and having a WWE championship reign. Now he climbs mountains for charity and does commentary work. Controversial and brilliant in equal manners, he always picked the baton up when it was handed to him, so his eventual mass success was no surprise.
Cewsh: Good fucking god, you can almost hear the sound of jobbers crying all over the world just by hearing these two names put together. JR has done his best to placate them by saying “slobberknocker” so that we can all drink.
While saying this may earn me some hurt looks and puppy dog eyes from Michael, the truth is that this match was really pretty bad. The crowd did not give one semblance of a shit about either of these guys, and it was really just the two of them clubbing each other as hard as they could for ten straight minutes, and then no selling it all. Vader hit his whole moveset on Bradshaw, which Bradshaw politely treats like a bee sting, before hitting the Clothesline From Hell twice and doing a funky neckbreaker, (because that will look real credible after 35 mega lariats,) and winning. Learning that this was Vader’s last match in WWE makes sense, because this was an outright burial of the man, and like all such things, the match suffers as a result. I’d love to see what these guys could have done together under optimal circumstances, but rest assured that this aint that.
And as Vader gets to his feet to some moderate applause from the crowd for his last match, they quick cut to D’Lo Brown’s entrance. Because fuck Vader, apparently.
58 out of 100
MichaelC: D'lo had been European Champion until the previous RAW when X-Pac won it off him. D'lo and X-Pac had great chemistry. A title is only as important as the wrestlers make it feel, and D'lo and X-Pac made the European title feel worth dying over, which makes its relegation to Shane McMahons toy soon after all the sadder. Anyhow, D'lo just lost his belt, is angry, and needs to bounce back against an undefeated rookie.
At the end, out comes Mark Henry, 12 years before he became any good, long enough to distract Gangrel for his first pinfall loss. This gives him the momentum to win back his European title a few weeks later, which set up a feud ender with X-Pac at the Judgment Day PPV.
This show drew a 0.70 buyrate (a good rating for a B-show back then). So nearly as many people saw Edge and Gangrel and Droz and Bradshaw coming out as they did Austin vs. Bret at WrestleMania 13 live. Give folk a main event of intrigue and then let the young guns show they mean something on the undercard. Its a nearly bombproof PPV policy.
Cewsh: Gangrel didn't do the entrance where he rises up through the flames here. D’Lo did some head waggling. I think it’s fair to say that those are the only two things about this match that you wanted to know about.
68 out of 100
MichaelC: Shamrock is interviewed by Michael Cole (who isn't having the best night) and, despite his limited promo skills, manages to express the idea of a man who had best intentions but whose experience of back jumping and, well, Russo booking, leaves him realizing he's best being selfish instead. I can't help but agree with his motivations.
MichaelC: Okay, so let's explain this as succinctly as we can.
In the beginning, The Rock was a cookie cutter face. The fans hated him, so he turned heel, and swiftly won the IC title, which he held throughout 1998, until he lost it to his rival Triple H in a classic Ladder match. Shamrock was his eternal rival throughout 1998. Not only that, but he kicked Rock's ass all over the country, but could never control his emotions long enough to snatch the title off his nemesis. That, and The Rock was able to use Shamrocks emotions against him. Shamrocks big win came in the King of the Ring final, when he made Rock tap out clean in the middle of the ring. Now, Mankind has been Vince McMahon's chosen one since he teamed up with him to take on Austin in April. McMahon has used him to do his dirty work by promising great things down the line, and to this point Foley hasn't twigged something is amiss.
This is technically face vs heel vs heel. Except, its meant to be Shamrock (face) vs Rock (heel) vs Foley (heel). This is where it gets complex. The Rock hasn't officially turned face. (In fact, the first time he *officially* turns face is actually in 1999!) However, over the course of being a heel on a live mic, he started getting more and more over. They had to do the HHH blow off at Summerslam, because they could hardly keep the fans booing the Rock any longer. He's still 'officially' a heel here, but he's one of the most over men in the company. It's CM Punk like. Shamrock, his nemesis eternal, on the other hand, is still "officially" a face. Yet, ever since he won his war against Owen Hart at Summerslam, he's begun to act more and more, well, like a jerk. So while he's meant to be a face, the fans are questioning Why that is when he's not acting like one. He's not officially turned till November 1998 though.
(Cewsh Note: This really is his version of succinct.)
Foley is Vince McMahon's chosen one for another few months, despite hints here and there - which we'll see here - that things aren't as cozy as they might appear to him. Yet, for all the instant heeldom that implies, the journey of the character Mankind, from deranged Cactus Jack type in 1996 to the lovable goof so fondly remembered was in full force. So he was a heel, who admitted he was thankful after Kane attacked him with a sledgehammer as "he managed to shield the blow with his arm...and he wasn't all that great looking to begin with."
What you have is two heels that are becoming difficult to jeer, and one face who is becoming difficult to like. We get that now, and they just run with it. Whats amazing to look back, from a writers POV, however is that this is entirely intentional. What we have here is the dichotomy of a face/heel turn embodied in three wrestlers slowly changing their allegiances, all the while stuck to each other. Its exceptionally difficult to pull off, and suggests a more long term booking plan than one would expect from a period of the Attitude era. All three men hate each other. All want the WWF title. There can only be one Number One contender. So they get to decide who... inside the solid steel cage. Pinfall or escape to win.
So Rock is a heel that the fans are in love with, Mankind is a beloved face waiting to happen trying his hardest to be a meany face, and Shamrock is a face nobody likes. That's one spicy gumbo. Let's get to it.
- Ah, the blue cage. I miss it. Even I could climb that one!
- I do like Foley trying to sneak out the door right at the start. He then takes a breather watching Shamrock kick Rock.
- Man, The Rock is so massively over. I mean, he's the most over man in the entire show to this point, and we've had some Canadian style pops to this point.
- Rock and Mankind had chemistry together. It's a shame they never wrestled a lengthy program together, or had a tag team, or a wrestling relationship extending over a decade...
- Shamrock is very good at pinging between the two as they kill him. No one can get a long term advantage due to the uniqueness of the match, however.
- My issue with cage matches usually winds up with the obvious - people can escape the cage at any time, but never do. Here with a third man, the three try to escape any chance they get, but there is always someone to foil their attempts. (Though as I say that, Shamrock has a chance to run out the door but he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, you know.)
- Shamrock attempts the Ankle Lock submission on Foley, but Rock makes the save. Something to remember.
- An interesting commentary segue as JR and King wonder WHY the fans have started cheering The Rock. King goes for personality, JR plumps for his athleticism.
- Another thing I love is Mankind having the Dude Love shirt underneath, as if Foleys split personalities are ready to switch at a moments notice. I've always found it interesting how in Mankind, Cactus Jack, Dude Love and normal Foley, all being the same person, the wrestling audience has essentially taken a split personality gimmick and run with it as if its perfectly sensible and not wrestlecrap.
- Rock Bottom to Foley, and Rock goes immediately for the pin, but Shamrock pulls him off. Remember that.
- Shamrock falls off the top, then Rock falls off. Foley only has to climb down...and he's won....but that image of Snuka/Muraco flashes through his mind... and he MISSES the elbow drop from the top of the cage. Crash and burn!
- Shamrock tries to escape but Foley pulls him back in the ring, only for Shamrock to have dragged a chair into the ring. Shamrock loses the chair, eats the Double Arm DDT and smashes Shamrock full force with the chair. Foley then starts climbing to leave the cage, but the Rock climbs over for the pinfall on Shamrock and the win! Foley thinks hes won but Rock has.
Now, why didn't Foley pin Shamrock? A plot hole you might think, until you remember the following: Shamrock went for his Ankle Lock twice, and Rock went for a few pins. Foley only ever tried to escape the Cage, even when he had brilliant pinning chances. The implication being that Vince McMahon never told his Chosen One you could win by pinfall. But that The Rock and Shamrock seemed to know it. Little things like that, which would reveal to be big things indeed at Survivor Series. So The Rock is number one contender. Well, Vince McMahon isn't going to like that. Unless... it was planned all along?
Ah long term booking, I love you.
Cewsh: This was an interesting match for a lot of reasons. The interplay of faces and heels here really made it so that at some point in the match, all three of these guys were faces while the other two were heels. Shamrock's section lasted maybe 5 seconds, but Rock and Mankind really took turns playing the good guy without those roles ever overlapping.That makes this a much funner match than it probably would have been otherwise, and went a long way to make up for the fact that Ken Shamrock clearly had no business being in the ring with these guys.
That's one of the things about not having seen this stuff at the time like so many others did. Being the future space man that I am and looking back on those days, Shamrock seems so underwhelming in everything that he does that it's hard to square that with the oaths of fealty that several fans at the time still seem to carry with them to this day. But when I watch Mick Foley and the Rock in their natural element here, I would have to be blind not to see the qualities that made them so significant and appealing. The Rock is just so athletic and charismatic and Foley is just so daring and sympathetic, that having a guy like Shamrock standing in there with them is sad and expecting him to be the babyface is laughable.
Ultimately the finish, (the Rock stealing the pin while Foley escapes over the top of the cage,) falls a little flat for me, since the Rock doing that while the crowd was going nuts for Foley was kind of a blunt rejection of face work he had been doing earlier. But it worked in its way, and it certainly set up a string of Rock/Foley matches that would go on to define their careers. As for this match, though, you're talking about a solid, if unspectacular match, that will appeal mainly to the nostalgia set. Which, since this is still the future, isn't too bad at all..
78 out of 100
MichaelC: Val is a porn star who has an affair with born again Christian Dustin's wife, Terri Runnels. A storyline with as much taste as it suggests. The man who was (and was about to become again) Goldust and Val were underrated talents though, so storyline aside, lets see how they get on in the ring.
Though, I mean, is Val *meant* to be a face? In any way? Man, you could write an entire thesis on the values dissonance here. Of course, Goldust in 1997 walked out on his wife and kids on live TV. So making your own bed.
Either way, when I talk about the good moments of the Attitude era, this isn't what I mean.
The the bell rings and the two try to have a good match. And they talented enough to have one despite the storyline walking in on it, but its not what you'd think from the talent involved. Val wins, and its a not a bad match, but the whole thing is just a bit too unsavory for me. Maybe i'm just a prude?
Cewsh: I know what you mean. Removed from the sleazy nature of the time, it really is kind of baffling how this storyline seems to have played out. Runnels hit Val Venis with a sign, so Val nails her, makes a video of it, and shows everyone at Runnel's workplace? And then KEEPS ON acting like he should be the one getting revenge? I know that cocksmanship is how Val Venis handles pretty much every situation, but even by those standards this is still pretty cruel. So when Val brings Terri out in the most preposterous skanky outfit ever worn by a human being anywhere, while a visibly sad Runnels waited in the ring, I found myself actively feeling bad for the big lump.
But it's been awhile since I was 13, in fairness. My priorities were probably different then.
Regardless, these guys are here to fight, and this is one of those rare times post 1995 that you get to see Dustin Runnels wrestling without make up and using the old school Southern style that he was so damn good at when he was young. Unfortunately like most people who tried to work a Southern style in WWE in the 90s, (Jarrett, Lawler, Steve Williams, etc,) it doesn't really work. But the match holds together anyway, because Val Venis really was a master of the 10 minute midcard match. I don't think he should have ever been pushed to the main event like some people say, but when it comes to getting the crowd involved in a fast paced match halfway through a show, he's one of the best in modern times. So putting that together with Dustin's ability to be carried, this turns out pretty okay. At least, until AN AIRHORN USED BY A CROWD MEMBER BREAKS UP A PINFALL.
That is just flat out embarrassing, and the wrestlers seem to stall for a minute or two to figure out what to do next, before Val just hits the Money shot and shoves his tongue down Terri's throat so we can all move on. HOORAY.
71 out of 100
Cewsh: This show is actually proving to be less alcoholic than I'd hoped. Hopefully something comes along to...
Cewsh: Oh, here we go.
MichaelC: This is Mark Canterbury, formerly Henry Godwinn's last WWF PPV match after a four year run. Nobody knew it at that point though. He had returned from a broken neck suffering in a Road Warriors match far too early in 1997, and the results led to his forced retirement after spinal fusion surgery about a fortnight after this match. A sad end for a good hand for the WWF. X-Pac beat Jeff Jarrett in a hair v hair match at Summerslam, as part of another attempt to get Jeff Jarrett over as a big level foe in the WWF.
DX are massively over. They are minus HHH here, who did his knee in and was out for four months. The Outlaws jump the barricade and take the big men from behind, and thus begins a rather chaotic six man tag. Now, with the exception of Sean Waltman, who is forever talent wasted, none of these men are greats in the ring. However, when they are in the mood, and confident, like here, they can have an enjoyable match. Road Dogg, incidentally, was one of the finest WWF examples of the "in peril" guy in a tag team. He did the "in peril" section wonderfully before Billy Gunn would tag in to clean house. Yeah, I said it, Road Dogg is underrated. He made the most of his ability. (I remember when it was ICW law that he sucked. He doesn't.)
Canterbury's injury left Dennis Knight a bit high and dry until he became Mideon around December of 1998. He was apparently one of the most popular men in the locker room, always able to cheer folk up with a song or a joke. Shame how he could rarely transfer it into in ring charisma.
Cewsh: To this day it makes me sad whenever I see how utterly desperate Jeff Jarrett was to have one of his catchphrases catch on. He printed them on his shirts, stuck them on his guitar, said them in every other sentence, and just otherwise acted like the biggest try hard imaginable. Whether the catchphrase was the terrible "Don't P*** Me Off!", the astonishingly poorly thought out "Aint I Great?", or the legendary "Slapnut", Jeff Jarrett's catchphrases are both adorable and pathetic, like a 13 year old asking Salma Hayek to a school dance. With about the same rate of success.
Knowing that Jarrett was real life good friends with Vince Russo makes a lot of sense when you look back at this stuff, because Jarrett was given an astonishing amount of table time for a guy who was never actually over with the WWE audience, and never had a real standout performance. Then again, it's not like Russo pushed Jarrett hard while he was booking in WCW or TNA. I'm probably just being paranoid.
This match follows the familiar template of Road Dogg and X-Pac getting beaten up excessively and then SuperBilly flying to the rescue.
Since that is basically what every match featuring any combination of the members of DX was, they're pretty damn good at it, even when bumping around for two guys that the crowd doesn't even seem to know exist, and the most unpushable talent in WWE history. As the match comes to an end, SuperBilly decides that it's time for some delicious just desserts, and grabs Jarrett's guitar to use on Canterbury. The ref confiscates it and, in a move that only a wrestling referee would understand, drops it out of the ring like right next to Jarrett. So it probably won't come as a surprise when mere seconds later, something unfortunate happens to X-Pac.
Undaunted by this, SuperBilly springs into action about one second later and drops Knight with the Fame Asser for the win. But that's secondary to the health of X-Pac who is clutching his eye and moaning like someone who had just seen Battlefield Earth for the first time. Clearly, the epic Jeff Jarrett/X-Pac feud will be continuing from this point on, which will go on to shake the foundations of wrestling so much that I had no idea it ever happened until this actual match.
But hey. it was a GOOD match at least!
73 out of 100
MichaelC: So here we are, Master Plan time.
The trouble here is that this is not Undertaker and Kane from 2001 onward They didn't like each other throughout 1998, and despite this new Alliance, there are more than hints its not going to be a lasting one. Kane has his entrance. Taker gets a few seconds of his before Austin attacks him on the entrance. Which sums up the match. Kane and Taker try to destroy Austin, and Austin does anything he can to survive. Lawler points out that Austin has double the chance to win the match, as he can pin either man. Vince's evil plans always had a loophole or two, didn't they?
Now we've seen this before. Triple threat, but the odds stacked against the hero. The heels both want the belt, dissension happens, and the face sneaks out the backdoor. And this is what threatens to happen all match, as Austin plays Taker and Kane off the other when hes not being murdered. Except in comes the swerve. And for a show Russo is booking, it's actually fairly neat. Both Undertaker and Kane pin Austin at the same time!
So the match is over, and Austin has been defeated.
But who's the Champion?
Austin races to the back to find Vince McMahon with his WWF Championship, yelling through the open window of a limo: "It's not yours anymore! It's mine!" Suddenly in the course of one night, the entire era has changed. No longer is it valiant champion vs evil boss. Now the champion is dethroned and the boss has the belt. The villain has won. Now the chase, to gain retribution, begins.
What we have is a trilogy. In Breakdown, Vince wins, and Austin loses the belt, while Rock beats Foley to number one contendership.. In Survivor Series, Austin nearly wins the belt back, but Vince and Rock screw him over and abandon Foley. At WrestleMania, not only Foley gets his revenge, but Austin gets the belt back which was rightfully his, and ends his feud with Vince McMahon with the final, decisive laugh. When wrestling follows this booking idea, I find it is at its most successful. Its why Hogan/Warrior, Bret/Yokozuna and Rock/Austin stand the test of time as Manias, as Star Wars and Harry Potter do.
All the same basic plot, tried and tested.
I love it.
Cewsh: This is the main event. I'm tipsy. Let's do this.
While the Russo era is basically a gigantic mixed bag in WWE, (which has been pretty well shown on this show thus far,) this match really represents a lot of what was done right in the company at the time. Without even having seen any of the television leading up to this and 14 years removed from the actual events, you can immediately sink into the McMahon/Austin storyline for one thing, and the heat that it has on it at this point is absolutely nuclear, and unlike anything else that I've ever seen anywhere else. A lot of things from this era don't live up to the ballyhooed rememberences of them, (Attitude Era Syndrome, remember?) but this feud is every bit as special as it is put about to be. Meanwhile, Undertaker and Kane are the perfect people to put up against Austin in this kind of match, because at the same time they represent an absolutely unbeatable combination, that is nonetheless incredibly volatile, and may give Austin a chance of winning somehow. Oh, and they're pretty popular too. Just a bit.
Now, Austin is pretty much boned here, and he's smart enough to know that, ass kicker that he is, he isn't nearly bad enough to take down both of these magical wizard giants at the same time. So he doesn't even bother waiting to his entrance, and just sneaks up on Taker Metal Gear style through the smoke and cracks him in the back with a chair.
Austin tries his best to isolate Kane and end this as quickly as he can while he has a real advantage, but Kane isn't someone you can just hurry past, and he only gets about a minute before the Undertaker finds his way back to ringside and this becomes a beating in earnest. And my god what a beating it is. For the next 16 minutes, the Undertaker and Kane beat Austin half to death, all over ringside and in every way they can think of. Austin tries his best to fight back and grab a quick pin whenever he gets the opportunity, but again and again he just gets dragged down by the absurd strength of the two men he is fighting.
Now, the factor that keeps rearing it's head in this match, is that McMahon made a rule before the match that he thought would force Taker and Kane to cooperate. Neither of them is allowed to beat the other to win the title, somebody HAS to beat Austin. But as you might expect, this results in quite a spirited debate about which one of them will actually be the one who gets to have the title, a question which McMahon never actually bothered to answer. So as the match winds down, and a battered and bruised Austin seems ripe for the pickings, a series of miscommunications and accidental blows turns brother against brother and sparks a big ol' clusterfuck. But even when it looks like Austin may finally have his chance, the brothers put aside their issues just long enough to chokeslam him to hell and pin him for the title. Both of them.
You may see the trouble here.
The second the bell rings, McMahon and his flunkies come flying down the entryway, and McMahon demands that the belt be brought to him. As soon as he gets it, he bolts away with it, as Austin gives chase, mowing through the Stooges, (not the band,) in order to get to the bastard who just stole his title in more ways than one. Austin makes his way through the backstage area to the parking lot as fast as he can, only to find an exuberant McMahon screaming that "You don't have it anymore! You don't have it anymore! It's mine!" in perhaps the happiest tone of voice we've ever heard come out of the man. Then he flips Austin the patented bird, and drives off into the night, leaving a dejected and angry Rattlesnake behind.
Now comes the complicated part. When we're talking about the Attitude Era, we're talking about a time where match quality, as we currently understand it, was not high on the list of priorities. Since it followed him elsewhere and the quality improved immediately upon his departure, it seems like a lot of this can be laid at the feet of, you guessed it, Vince Russo. But when I say the match quality was down, I don't mean that people did less cool looking spots or wrestled a more Japanese style or anything like that. They made a conscious decision to make matches as entertaining as they possibly could, while occasionally sacrificing the drama and competition aspect to further the storylines. When done properly, this can work just fine, and even be incredibly special, (Triple H/Taker from this year's Wrestlemania, for example.) But when it's done poorly, it makes the match feel like an unnecessary encumbrance to the storytelling they're trying to do.
What I'm trying to say with all of this, is that, while very strange for the Russo era, this match got somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 minutes, and everyone in it did what they generally do best, this match wasn't very good. The beatdown in the middle went on for a ridiculously long period of time, and the ending was so haphazard and sudden that you wonder why they didn't just do it 10 minutes earlier. Austin never actually got a comeback beyond some hope spots, and altogether it felt like a match that existed only to set up another match later on. For such a strong premise coming in, there just wasn't enough here to draw me into the match itself, which is a pretty common complaint about this era as a whole.
So come for the feud, leave for a sandwich, and mosey on back in for the ending. You won't have missed a thing.
70 out of 100
MichaelC: Oh and Cewsh?
Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo, Russo.
Cewsh: Oh no.
Cewsh: I...I think that was probably too...um...thing. Muts? Butts? Much! Too much! Of the stuff there. Rum stuff. Rum. Rum rum rummy rum rum.
Cewsh: WHAT ARE YOU LOOKIN AT YOU HORSE NIPPLE I'LL CHARGE YOU DOUBLE FOR THE SPARK PLUG GRAVYBOAT THAT DONT SINK IN THE SLIP SLAP. ARE YOU EYEING MY BANANA HAT? ILL GIVE YOU BANANA HAT TO RIDE ON AND JACKJAR THE MAYONNAISE GUMDROPS. BACK IN MY DAY ...
Well that'll do it for us this time, boys and girls. We hope you enjoyed seeing me be punished to the full extent of the betting law, and we hope you're good and liquored up by now as well. You may want to maintain that buzz as we roll on into next week, because we are going slightly forward in time to the mystical year of 2001 as we'll be traveling to the magical land of Australia, to review World Wrestling All-Star's very first ever pay per view WWA Inception 2001. And if you know anything about what WWA was, you will already be bracing for impact. For everyone else, just keep this in mind. This show will have a match named a Tits, Whips and Buff match, and that will involve literally none of the things you're hoping for. So until next time, remember to keep reading and be good to one another.