WWE WrestleMania XV
March 28, 1999
By John Canton (@johnreport)
The fifteenth WrestleMania came at a time when the Attitude Era was in full swing. It was a time when Raw (and later Smackdown) was a must see TV show while PPVs were usually a big deal too. Steve Austin was firmly in place as the top guy who was drawing a lot of money on top while the roster was full of other young talent such as The Rock and Triple H plus The Undertaker was still around as a constant main eventer too. Bret Hart was gone to WCW, Shawn Michaels was forced to retire due to injury and Vince McMahon went from announcer to top heel character. The war with WCW was being won by WWE, but they hadn't put the nail in the coffin yet. <!--more-->
Looking back at 1999, it was an interesting year. WWE was doing incredible business in terms of TV ratings, PPV buyrates and house show attendance, but when it came to match quality the year was pretty rough. It was a year that lacked in terms of truly elite matches although we'd get one of them at No Mercy 1999 in the double ladder match. The promos, angles and moments were more memorable than the actual matches. For example, I'm sure most of you remember Austin's beer bath on Rock, Vince & Shane more than you remember specifics of any one match. That's just how the year was. The term most commonly used during this time period was "Crash TV," which was a way of saying there was a lot action going on every show. At times it was too much action, though. They did a good job of utilizing the midcard talent, but it came at the expense of the longer matches. As you'll see below, this was a ten match card crammed into a three hour PPV. It felt a little rushed.
I don't think I've watched this show more than once since its original airing and there will be a lot of things on it that I've forgotten, so it will be interesting to see what WrestleMania 15 has in store for us.
After I write about WM15, I'll have some stats compiled by a reader of mine featuring some interesting facts relating to the first 14 writeups. Why 14? Because that's the halfway point in terms of WrestleMania events.
By the way, the "Ragin' Climax" was the advertised tag line of this show. So creative huh?
The show opened with Philadelphia's own Boyz II Men singing America The Beautiful.
They aired a video package with Freddie Blassie talking over historical WrestleMania clips. They showed clips of the current stars, telling us it was their night and moment of ultimate sacrifice. "Welcome to WrestleMania: The Showcase of the Immortals."
To the arena, the crowd went wild as the pyro went off. Lots of signs in the crowd as you would see at a show today. The announcers were Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler. Jim Ross was out for a few months due to his Bell's Pallsy illness, but he'd return later in this show and be entrenched as the main play by play guy for many years into the future.
The first match was for the Hardcore Title, which was introduced in late 1998. Billy Gunn won the title from Hardcore Holly a few weeks before this. Al Snow was also in the match. Gunn was a babyface as a part of Degeneration X while Snow was also a babyface that carried around his mannequin named Head and Holly was the heel.
Hardcore Title: Billy Gunn vs. Hardcore Holly vs. Al Snow
I guess I could be calling Billy "Mr. Ass" like it said on his shirt and tights, but I'm choosing not to. Hardcore rules meant anything goes of course. Snow attacked Holly outside the ring, ramming him into the announce table. Snow whipped Gunn into the ring steps. Holly attacked Snow from behind and gave him a suplex outside the ring. They fought on the floor. Snow grabbed a hockey stick from under the ring as the crowd chanted "Let's Go Flyers" in support of the local hockey team. Gunn broke the stick over Holly's back and he attacked Snow with it. Snow hit Gunn with a low blow. He broke a broomstick over Gunn's back. Snow clotheslined Holly with the broomstick while Gunn grabbed a chair, but Snow prevented him from using it. Snow grabbed the chair and hit each guy in the ribs with it. He hit a nice running heel kick on Gunn. He missed an attack on Holly, though. Snow went crashing down while Gunn knocked Holly outside the ring. Snow grabbed Head and smashed each guy in the…head…with it. What does everybody want? Such a genius gimmick, really. Snow set up a table in the corner. He wanted to put Holly through it, but that didn't work and Gunn drilled Holly in the head with a hard chair shot. Then he slammed Snow through the table. Gunn did a bunch of crotch chops to excite the crowd even more. This was 1999, when every show had a hot crowd. Gunn hit a Fameasser on Snow on the chair. He covered, Holly hit Gunn in the back and then Holly covered Snow himself. That was enough for the pinfall win at 7:06.
Winner and New Hardcore Champion: Hardcore Holly
Analysis: *1/2 All three guys took some good punishment, but the match lacked any sort of psychology. The finish could have been done better too although that "steal the pin" finish was fairly new at this point in WWE history.
They aired a clip from Sunday Night Heat earlier in the night when D-Lo Brown & Test won a battle royal to get a title shot at the tag team champions Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart. D-Lo & Test weren't allies. The deal was the final two got the title shot because the tag division was lacking at this time. D-Lo Brown entered along with Ivory with Test coming out after. D-Lo was a face while Test was a heel as part of the Corporation stable. The champs came out next. I was a huge fan of Debra in these days. Lots of cleavage showing plus some very short skirts. At this show she was showing off even more. No "Puppies" chant yet. That would start up after a Road Dogg promo on Raw in April. This was also before she was married to Stone Cold although they could have been dating by this point. I have no idea. Anyway, I liked the Owen & Jeff team despite the fact that there really weren't a lot of babyface opponents for them to go up against.
Tag Team Titles: Owen Hart & Jeff Jarrett w/Debra vs. Test & D-Lo Brown w/Ivory
It was a weird dynamic for the champs because Owen & Jeff were heels while Debra was always cheered by the crowd. Jeff would typically get heat by telling her to cover up, but her revealing cleavage did win him a lot of matches. Test gave Owen a clothesline to knock him to the floor while D-Lo worked over Jarrett in the ring. Nice forearm to the head by D-Lo. Cole mentioned it was Owen's tenth WrestleMania appearance. Test hit a nice gutwrench powerbomb, but Owen came back with an enziguiri. D-Lo saved a pinfall attempt and then he tagged in. Jeff hit a knee to the back leading to a spinning heel kick by Owen, who had tagged in, and then a gutwrench suplex. Tag to Jarrett as the champs double teamed with a clothesline. Jeff tagged Owen back in, but D-Lo hit a clothesline on them followed by body slams. Nice job by D-Lo countering a Jarrett attack with his Sky High Powerbomb for two because Owen made the save. Test knocked him out of the ring. Debra jumped on the apron, which was what she always did. Not that I was complaining. Before she could distract the guys, Ivory knocked her off the apron. The women argued on the floor while Jacqueline & Terri also showed up because this match needed more distractions apparently. The ref turned his attention to them. D-Lo went for a powerbomb, but Owen hit him with a missle dropkick, Jarrett covered and the champs retained their titles at 3:58.
Winners: Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart
After the loss, D-Lo and Test fought outside the ring.
Analysis: 1/2* Bad match that was brutally rushed. Owen's missile dropkick was nice. Otherwise there was far too much going on for anybody to really care about anything in the ring. As I'm sure most are aware, this was Owen's last WrestleMania. He would die two months later. It's sad just typing that.
The Brawl For All winner Bart Gunn was next up in a boxing match against Butterbean. They aired a video package on Bart Gunn with his trainers predicting that he would win. They set up the ring so it was boxing style. We saw Isaac Hayes and also the Mean Street Posse sitting ringside. They had boxer Vinny Pazienza as the ref of the match. There were three judges at ringside with one of them being Gorilla Monsoon, who died later in 1999. Gorilla was the voice of the first 8 WrestleManias, so it was nice to see him get such a big pop here. Butterbean made his way out first. Bart Gunn was second.
Boxing Match: Butterbean vs. Bart Gunn
This was a shoot if you're wondering. Butterbean was a pro. Gunn was not. Needless to say, Butterbean destroyed him right off the bat and knocked him down early. Gunn got back up after 30 seconds and then Buttberbean knocked him out as soon as he got up. Huge punch to the face. Ref rang the bell. Fight went 35 seconds.
Analysis: NR The Brawl For All idea was a total disaster. I remember reading that the idea was that they wanted Dr. Death Steve Williams to win it to build him up as an opponent for Stone Cold. When that didn't happen due to Bart's winning, they set this up and perhaps if Bart won this he'd get a push. Instead, he got crushed and became an afterthought. That's why you don't book shoot boxing fights on a wrestling show. Lesson learned.
As the boxers left the ring, the San Diego Chicken ran to the ring. Vinny wanted to shake his hand. The chicken didn't want it, so Vinny decked him with a punch.
They showed clips from earlier in the night as Big Show (who debuted about a month before this) brawled with Mankind. They would have a match to determine the referee of the Rock/Austin main event match.
Big Show vs. Mankind
They were calling the big guy "Big Show Paul Wight" as his full name, but obviously they cut that down to just Big Show. He was a heel as part of the Corporation that entered with Vince McMahon's music while Mankind was a face of course. Foley attacked early. Show gave him a boot to the face followed by a headbutt that sent Foley to the floor. They brawled outside the ring with Mankind throwing Show's head into the steps. Show drove Mankind knee first into the steps causing Mankind to flip backwards on his head. What a bumping freak he was. In the ring, Show hit him with some big chops to the chest. Show missed a clothesline. Mankind knocked him out of the ring. Mankind took out "Mr. Socko" and applied it three times as Show tried to fight it off. Mankind hit a low blow while it was applied. Ref didn't do anything about it even though he saw it. Nice "We Want Hitman Back" sign in the crowd. After having the Mandible Claw on for a while, Show countered it by falling on his back and crushing Mankind. Show knocked him out to the floor by the announce table. Show grabbed a steel chair. He jabbed him in the ribs with a chair followed by a chair to the back. Cole said if he wasn't careful he'd be disqualified. He just hit him twice with chairs. That's not enough for a DQ? Odd "logic" in this match. In the ring, Show folded open the chairs and then he gave Mankind a chokeslam on the chairs. That's a lot of pain on the ribs. That's enough for a DQ at 6:50.
Winner via DQ: Mankind
Post match, Show attacked him with the chair one more time while Earl Hebner ran away almost as fast as he ran away after the Survivor Series 1997 main event. Vince McMahon walked out. He was angry at Show for being disqualified. Vince was mad because he could have cost him the World Title. He called him a nobody. Big Show almost gave Vince a chokeslam. "I'm Vince McMahon dammit!" Then he slapped him. Big Show decked him with a punch. He really protected Vince because he put his left hand on Vince's head before he threw the punch. That's called being careful. Meanwhile, Mankind was being stretchered out of the arena so we didn't know if he'd be able to referee the main event.
Analysis: * It's amazing how many crazy bumps Foley was willing to do even in a match so short. It didn't result in a very good match, though. The post match angle with Show decking Vince drew a big pop at least.
Behind the curtain, Vince said he wanted Big Show arrested for assault. His stooges Pat Patterson & Gerald Brisco said they'd take care of it.
Oh you didn't know? Intercontinental Title time. Road Dogg was the champion for about two weeks going into this match. He did his full intro with the crowd chanting along with everything. Val Venis was also a babyface. He was the former champion that lost the title to Dogg. Goldust was next, accompanied by the Blue Meanie and Ryan Shamrock, who was the storyline little sister of Ken Shamrock. She didn't have much of a gimmick although I guess the story was that she got around. Goldust was a face and his main rivalry was with Ken Shamrock, who entered last and he was a heel as part of the Corporation.
Intercontinental Title: Road Dogg vs. Goldust vs. Val Venis vs. Ken Shamrock
The rules for the match were that two guys started and you could tag out. If you lost you had to go to the back. Shamrock started with Dogg, whipping him hard into the turnbuckle. Road Dogg came back with a dropkick and then he tagged in Goldust. Clothesline for Goldust as Shamrock tagged in Venis. Goldust went for the Curtain Call, but Val countered with a spinebuster for two. Goldust hit a clothesline for two. Val countered a superplex with a bulldog off the top. Fisherman's suplex by Val got two. Crowd was pretty dead during this match. They collided and Val did the accidental drop to Goldust's head. Shamrock hit a DDT on Goldust while Road Dogg hit a DDT on Val. Crowd woke up for Dogg's offense. Val overpowered him with a couple of clotheslines. Dogg hit his shake, rattle & roll on all three guys. Val gave him a back suplex. The Meanie story was that he was jealous of Ryan being around Goldust. Pumphandle Slam by Dogg on Venis. Shamrock tagged in and put Val in the ankle lock, but Val made the ropes and dumped him to the floor. Baseball slide dropkick on Shamrock. Then they fought up the aisle for the double countout to eliminate those two leaving Goldust & Road Dogg. Shamrock ran in the ring and gave each guy belly to belly suplexes to set up the double KO spot. Road Dogg whipped Goldust in and Ryan Shamrock accidentally tripped up Goldust. Meanie was freaking out because he didn't like her around. Goldust hit a powerslam, but Road Dogg rolled through and covered for the win at 9:47.
Winner: Road Dogg
Post match, Goldust told Ryan to leave so the story was she got dumped first by Val Venis and then by Goldust.
Analysis: *1/4 The work in the ring was pretty good. The booking was suspect. The win didn't mean a whole lot because Road Dogg lost the title the next night to Goldust. There were a lot of title changes in 1999.
They cut backstage where Big Show was being arrested by about a dozen cops. This was during their faze where they liked to have people arrested every other week on Raw it seemed.
We got clips of the Triple H/Kane feud. It was a confusing one. As Kane made his way to the ring, the San Diego Chicken ran out and attacked Kane from behind. Kane took the top of the costume to reveal that it was Pete Rose, who had an issue with Kane at the previous result. What happened here? Another Tombstone for Pete Rose. That was funny. Hunter entered the ring through the crowd, attacking Kane from behind.
Triple H vs. Kane
Hunter was the face, Chyna left Hunter to join the Corporation where she developed a friendship with Kane. The ref of this match was Teddy Long, by the way. Hunter attacked Kane at the start, dominating the action out on the floor. Back in the ring, Kane slowed Hunter down with a kick and then tossed him out to the floor. Kane grabbed Hunter by the throat and crotched him on the top of the padded guard rail. Then Hunter landed in the laps of the Mean Street Posse and their wonderful sweater vests. Kane rammed Hunter back first into the ring post twice. In the ring, Kane whipped Hunter into the turnbuckle while the crowd cheered for Hunter to come back. Hunter was still in his thin days at this point. Six months later he looked a lot different, hence the "HHH diet" joke that circulated around the internet in those days. Kane hit a throat punch followed by a leg drop. Kane with a clothesline. Then he tossed Hunter to the floor again. Lots of throwing out to the floor in this match. Kane ran the ropes and jumped over the top to knock Hunter down with a crossbody. You'd think a 330 pounder going over the top would generate a reaction, but the crowd didn't care too much. Maybe that's because the execution was sloppy. Sometimes it's the thought that counts. Hunter countered a top rope attack by yanking Kane down with an arm drag. Knee smash by Hunter and then the running knee attack to the face knocked Kane down. Chyna made her way out. She looked much different here than she did a year earlier thanks to an operation on her face. Some would say she was attractive. I was never a fan. Hunter was distracted. Hunter went for a Pedigree, but Kane countered it and both guys were down while Chyna put the steel steps in the ring. Hunter countered the steps attack with a boot to the gut. Kane charged and Hunter gave him a drop toe hold on the steps that were in the ring. Not a disqualification for that? Apparently not. Now Teddy Long kicks the steps out of the ring. They brawled on the floor again where Kane hit a back drop on the floor. In the ring, Kane gave him a chokeslam. Chyna got on the apron with a steel chair. She told Kane that she wanted to hit Hunter with it. Meanwhile, I marked out a bit for the Greek flag in the crowd. Teddy Long was the worst ref ever for allowing this stuff to happen. He should at least pretend like he's not seeing things. Chyna went in the ring and hit Kane in the back with the chair. Teddy long rang the bell so Kane won by DQ at 11:33.
Winner: Kane via DQ
Post match, Kane was all sad so Hunter hit him in the back with the chair followed by a stiff chair shot to the head. Hunter followed it up with a Pedigree on the chair. Chyna jumped into Hunter's arms as Cole was selling the idea that she was back in DX. It wasn't exactly the Macho/Elizabeth reunion at WrestleMania 7, but the crowd did pop huge for it. Poor Kane walked away alone.
Analysis: *1/2 What a mess. If ever there was a match that needed a ref bump or two it was this one. The match should have been much shorter because nobody cared about the match. It was more about the angle.
Backstage, Kevin Kelly was talking about the guest ref of the main event. Big Show was taken away to the police station while Mankind was taken to the hospital. Vince McMahon showed up. He used his evil voice to say that he would be the special referee for the Rock/Austin match in the main event.
The Women's Title match was next. Sable was morphing into an arrogant heel although she wasn't there yet. She was on the cover of Playboy, which they said was the Hottest Selling Playboy in 15 years. Congrats to the future Mrs. Brock Lesnar for that. She did her grind dance. Her opponent was Tori, who was an accomplished wrestler although she was lacking in terms of personality.
Women's Title: Sable vs. Tori
Sable was getting pops although like I said she turned heel. Tori was a Sable fan who Sable didn't accept, so that led to this match. I guess the idea was to make Tori a face although Sable was so over that the fans didn't want to boo Sable. Sable threw her out of the ring on multiple occasions. Tori rammed her face into the barricade. Sable reversed her into the barricade and followed it up with a knee to the ribs. Sable hit a crossbody off the apron onto the floor. Cole called her a tremendous in-ring wrestler. She was improved, but calling her tremendous would be like calling Cole tremendous too. That's not true. In the ring, Sable showboated and Tori came back with a clothesline. Tori hit successive clotheslines in the corner and then got an impressive rollup for two. Sable went for a bridging pin, Tori tried to power out and messed it up a bit. Backslide for Tori got two. They ran the ropes, Sable ducked and Tori hit a crossbody on ref Jimmy Korderas, who grabbed his nuts because that's a good way to sell an attack by a woman. Sable went for the Sable Bomb, but Tori reversed. All of a sudden, Nicole Bass showed up. She was a bigger woman than even Chyna. She picked up Tori and dropped her with a Gorilla Press. Sable smiled at Bass. Sable Bomb by the champ and the ref recovered to count the pin at 5:06.
Analysis: DUD Awful match. There was no chemistry between them. They botched some easy moves. It should have been about two or three minutes long, not five minutes. Cole calling Sable a tremendous in-ring performer was brutal too. Bass ended up being Sable's bodyguard although it didn’t last too long. Sable left the company a couple of months after this before surprisingly returning in 2003.
Backstage, Kevin Kelly talked to X-Pack along with HHH, Gunn, Road Dogg and Chyna, who was back. Hunter talked for most of it. X-Pac just told Kane to get ready for some pain.
Shane McMahon was the heel European Champion part of the Corporation, who was accompanied by Test. The Mean Street Posse cheered him on at ringside. Shane was 29 at the time and hadn't wrestled that many matches to this point, but we would find out he was a pretty good athlete. X-Pac made his entrance alone to a good pop from the crowd. As X-Pac walked out, Patterson & Brisco attacked him. He knocked them both down. Oh Stooges you can't do anything right.
European Title: Shane McMahon vs. X-Pac
The story as told by Cole was that X-Pac was a product of the streets while Shane grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth. Shane celebrated a leap frog and X-Pac nailed him with a spinning heel kick. No Bronco Buster because Test pulled Shane out of the way. Shane ran away until X-Pac caught him and threw him back in the ring. Test attacked X-Pac from behind, throwing X-Pac's nuts into the ring post while the ref was tending to Shane. With X-Pac weakened, Shane worked him over in the ring with knees followed by a body slam. Shane went for his version of the People's Elbow, but it missed. Test jumped on the apron, so Shane hit Test in the nuts. Shane used Test's leather belt to attack X-Pac in the back with multiple belt whips. Shane charged in, so X-Pac gave him a back body drop over the top and then a cross body over the top. X-Pac decked the Mean Street Posse guys because they attacked him. When he rolled Shane back in, the ref tended to Shane and then Test attacked X-Pac again. Mike Chioda is great being distracted. Back in the ring, Shane hit an elbow off the middle rope that was Steve Austin style. Shane to the top, X-Pack dropkicked him off and then hit a superplex to a nice pop. X-Pac covered for two because Test pulled him out. Test charged in, but X-Pac moved out of the way. Now X-Pac beat on Shane with the leather belt. Back kick to the head led to the Bronco Buster in the corner, much to the delight of the crowd. With the ref tending to Shane again, Test ran in the ring and hit X-Pac in the head with the European Title. Shane crawled over for a two count. Nice nearfall there. Shane missed a Bronco Buster while X-Pac finally neutralized Test with a spin kick to the face. Bronco Buster by X-Pac to Test. Meanwhile, Triple H and Chyna made their way to the ring. Hunter pulled Test out of the ring while Chyna distracted Chioda and X-Pac hit his X-Factor finishing move on Shane. Hunter slid in the ring and gave X-Pac the Pedigree. You would think people would boo that, but they mostly cheered the heel turn. Shane covered X-Pac to win at 8:41.
Winner: Shane McMahon
Post match, Hunter continued to attack X-Pac while Test held them up. Billy Gunn and Road Dogg came in for the save. Test and Hunter ended up saving them. The crowd was chanting for Kane. They knew. The lights went out. Because Kane walks so slowly, the heels walked away rather easily. Worst chase ever.
Analysis: *** A fun match here, even with all of the outside interference. They put the match together nicely to make up for Shane's limitations. Even though I know some people dislike X-Pac, he was good as a babyface worker and was the right opponent for a guy like Shane, who lacked experience. I was okay with Test's interference because it made sense with the story they were trying to tell. The Hunter heel turn led to his main event run later in the year (and also more muscles). Hunter was such a skinny fat ass huh? Had to.
They aired a video package showcasing the Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness heel run. Through most of the 90s he was a babyface, but he turned heel in late 1998. He played mind games with Vince McMahon, telling him he'd take out every member of the Corporation. Undertaker got arrested too. Like I said, lots of people got arrested. There was a segment where Undertaker was outside Vince's home. He kept talking about torturing "her." We'd later find out that it was a reference to Stephanie McMahon, who had not been a regular TV character yet. Undertaker said: "Remember this; I will own the World Wrestling Federation."
The Hell in a Cell match was Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man. They were both heels. Boss Man came out to no heat. Undertaker entered along with Paul Bearer to his Ministry of Darkness theme song, which was different than the classic Undertaker song. Undertaker's heel look had changed with an evil goatee. I am dreading the review of this match. One of those matches you don't want to relive because of how bad it is.
Hell in a Cell: The Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man
Why book a heel vs. heel match in the Cell? I didn't understand the logic then. I don't get it now. Boss Man was Vince's enforcer in the Corporation, but a Hell in a Cell without a proper story was not going to elicit the kind of crowd reaction you'd like to see. Undertaker started with control early, but BBM got a swinging neckbreaker. Undertaker overpowered him, throwing him into the cage outside the ring and then Boss Man tossed Undertaker face first into the cell. No reaction from the crowd. Boss Man had handcuffs and he cuffed Undertaker to the cell. Then he got his nightstick. He hit Undertaker in the head with it. Undertaker fell down so he was uncuffed. I guess they were really cheap handcuffs. Undertaker bladed after the nightstick shot. What on the nightstick would cut him open? Didn't make sense to me. It wasn't a lot of blood. Undertaker came back with a choke and then he whipped Boss Man into the steel cage. The crowd was so dead that all we could hear was Bearer talking trash to Boss Man. Undertaker hit Boss Man with a chair to the back. Undertaker rammed Boss Man face first into the cage. Crowd continued to not care. I didn't care either. In the ring, Undertaker hit a leaping clothesline for two. Boss Man countered the Old School clothesline with a kick to the ropes, which crotched Undertaker on the top rope. Back in the ring, they had a slugfest and Undertaker won it by punching him in the balls because there was no DQ in this match of course. Boss Man reversed a Tombstone, nobody cared and then Undertaker hit a Tombstone. First pop of the match. Undertaker covered for the win at 9:48. The Undertaker is 8-0 at WrestleMania.
Winner: The Undertaker
Undertaker signaled to the top. That led to Gangrel, Edge & Christian (the three members of the Brood) dropping down from the roof. They tried to rip their way into the top of the cell. They passed Undertaker a noose and then they raised up to the top of the building again. Undertaker put the noose on Boss Man's neck. Bearer pushed the button so the cell would rise up. As the cell went up, Boss Man tried to fight it and he ended up being hung from the cell. What a stupid thing to do. His body went limp. The lights went out. Cole was wondering if it was symbolic.
Analysis: -* Terrible match. The negative star means it is worse than the DUD rating, in case you're wondering. There's a reason it's constantly ignored when they talk about great HIAC matches because it sucked so much. There was very little in the way of psychology, the crowd didn't care about it and I would hope that people avoid watching this one because it was ten minutes of my life I wish I could have back. By the way, the whole Undertaker/Vince story was a big swerve as we would find out in May with Vince doing his infamous: "It was me all along" promo. It led to a stable called the Corporate Ministry that had far too many members in it.
Then, as a man was still HANGING in the ring they cut to a video package showcasing the WrestleMania Rage Party. Because the best thing to do after cutting away from a man hanging by a noose is to show people having fun at a party! It's fun! A raging climax!
After the video package, Michael Cole welcomed back Jim Ross to call the main event. That's a great thing. Apparently Boss Man was rescued by somebody. Nobody cared to tell us about it.
Main event time. Vince McMahon was introduced as the special referee. Suddenly, the music of Shawn Michaels music started playing. He was the commissioner at the time that was a heel until the Corporation turned on him. He drew a huge pop because his return was a surprise. Loud "HBK" chants. At least the crowd woke up. Shawn: "We can't have a WrestleMania without the Heartbreak Kid, can we?" Michaels said he had to buy a ticket to get in the place. If you buy a ticket you can also get your theme music played apparently. Now you know. Shawn said that Vince had to read the rule book. Shawn said that only one man can appoint an official at a WrestleMania and that one man was himself. Shawn told him to get the hell out of the there and don't let the door hit him in the ass on the way out. What kind of rule book states that a commissioner has more power than the owner? The WWF rulebook in 1999 apparently. Shawn barred the Corporation from ringside although he said Vince could come out. I guess that's a spoiler. The crowd enjoyed that surprise. The ref of the main event ended up being Mike Chioda, who was appointed by Shawn Michaels.
The Rock entered first. I prefer it when the champion enters last, but I guess it's understandable that they would put Austin last because the anticipation of his arrival was so great. As soon as Austin's music hit he got the biggest pop of the night, which wasn't a surprise.
No DQ Match for the World Wrestling Federation Title: The Rock vs. Steve Austin
They threw punches early, which led to Rock giving Austin a back drop over the top. That sent Austin into the announce table. Rock choked Austin with his own shirt. Since it was no DQ they could fight out on the floor all they wanted. JR was feeling the energy after being out of action for three months. In the ring, Rock charged, Austin avoided it and tossed Rock over the top to the floor. They went brawling into the crowd. It's so adorable seeing all the kids with those foam Austin 3:16 middle fingers. Even though the product was TV14 rather than PG, there were still kids in the crowd. Austin won the fight in the crowd and they brawled around ringside. Then Austin threw Rock into another area of the crowd. Rock gave him a clothesline, sending Austin back to the ringside area. Rock choked him with a cable and then they brawled up the aisle. Austin rammed him into the hockey boards as well as a steel railing. JR was really yelling loud. Rock gave Austin a back body drop with Austin's left leg hitting a spotlight/steel area. Dangerous bump, but Austin was okay. The brawl continued. Austin whipped Rock back first into the steel part of the WrestleMania XV logo. Austin dragged Rock towards the ring and Rock gave him a suplex on the floor. Ouch. Around the ringside area, Rock rammed Austin into the steps, took a sip of water and then spit it in Austin's face. Austin came back by dropping Rock throat first onto the barrier around the ring and then an elbow on the Spanish table. The table didn't break. Austin did it again. The table broke. See ya Spanish table.
Austin rolled Rock back into the ring, but Rock tripped him up and wrapped Austin's left knee around the post. Austin came back by whipping Rock into the steel steps. The first ten minutes were incredibly fast with all of the brawling outside the ring. Back in the center, Rock hit a Rock Bottom of nowhere for two. Crowd thought that was it. Good nearfall. Rock got a chair, Austin stole it and Rock threw the ref in front of him so Austin's chair shot hit Mike Chioda right in the head. Ouch. Rock was wild with those chair shots over the years. Rock hit a neckbreaker followed by a back elbow. Rock used the chair to attack Austin's left knee three times followed by a shot to the stomach. Rock hit Austin in the head with the chair although Austin did use his hands to block it, which was a good thing. Ref Tim White went into the ring to count the pinfall. It was a two count. Nice sign in the crowd that said "I bet Austin wins." Never bet on wrestling, unless you're betting an idiot. Chinlock by Rock that only lasted about twenty seconds as the crowd chanted for Austin. Rock hit a clothesline. Rock gave him another chinlock. It would have been nice if Rock was working on the left knee with a submission since that's what he targeted early. Rock would get better in the next year or two after this. I know it's picky on my part, but little things like that help a match. Austin fought back with punches only for Austin to hit a Samoan Drop for two. Rock was frustrated so he gave Tim White a Rock Bottom. Austin came back with a Stone Cold Stunner, which Rock sold by bouncing upside down. Huge pop with Austin covering and ref Earl Hebner ran out for a count of two. It was a delayed pin so it was okay for Rock to kick out. I would have liked to see Austin sell the left knee injury a bit more. Vince McMahon came out as Austin got a steel chair. Rock hit a low blow. Vince went in the ring. He decked Hebner with a punch to the head. It was not a good punch. They stomped on Austin in the corner as the crowd came alive at the sight of Mankind in his referee shirt. He decked Vince with a punch. Austin rolled up Rock for two. Great nearfall. JR was losing his voice. Austin with the Thesz Press followed by the elbow drop, but Rock came back with a clothesline. Rock Bottom. No cover. People's Elbow. It didn't connect because Austin moved out of the way. Rock blocked the kick, went for the Rock Bottom and Austin countered that for another Stone Cold Stunner for the win at 16:52. JR: "Austin wins! Austin wins! Austin wins!" He was very excited to say the least.
Winner and New WWF Champion: Steve Austin
Analysis: ***1/2 Typical Austin brawl from this time period. Lots of standup fighting without too many rest holds to slow the action down. I loved the pace of the match. Four referees were a little much, but it played up the idea that Vince was trying to screw Austin out of the win as best he could. I hadn't watched this match in a long time. It was pretty good, though. I remember their match at Backlash a month later being better and also their WrestleMania match two years later (so looking forward to that one), but it was a good showing for Rock in his first WrestleMania main event. Austin was terrific as always. He had an amazing amount of energy. The story behind the match was that Austin had to overcome the odds to win. The end result satisfied the fans.
Post match, Foley handed Austin the title while McMahon hung his head in shame out on the floor. Austin celebrated with a couple of beers. The beer bash would improve over the years. Everything takes practice kids, even beer baths. The celebration continued much to the delight of the fans, who had no problem cheering loudly for the new champion. Austin toasted referee Earl Hebner, who celebrated with a beer on the turnbuckle. I guess they must have got the cue that they had a few minutes left to celebrate. JR did an amazing job of putting over the win. Out on the floor, Vince berated Austin, telling him it was his belt and Steve didn't deserve it. Steve threw Vince into the ring and gave him a Stone Cold Stunner that Vince sold pretty well. The video package highlighting the key moments ended the show.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
- It's the WrestleMania that I'll always remember as the one with the most run-ins in history. The problem with doing so many run-ins is they lose their appeal when they happen in nearly every match. It was the influence of Vince Russo. He had become the right hand man of Vince McMahon at this point. Later in 1999 he left to be in charge of WCW, where he did an amazing job of putting the final nails into their coffin. Due to wrestler's influence, most PPVs in 1999 were like this. Lots of matches, lots of run-ins and no true classics because of the "crash TV" philosophy previously mentioned.
- Rock's heel run didn't last that much longer after this. After failing to get the title from Austin, he ended up being a babyface and as he showed over the years that was the best role for him. Of course he did have a lot of good heel moments, but fans liked Rock so much that it was smarter for him to be a babyface. His chemistry with Austin was very good. You can tell that Stone Cold brought out the best in him.
- The heel turn of Triple H worked out well in the long run obviously, but the way they turned Chyna twice during the show was a little confusing. The crowd was so happy when she reunited with Hunter that when Hunter turned during the X-Pac/Shane match they didn't boo him very much. That's what I mean about there being too many turns. It was the right time for Hunter, though, so long term it was the right call to push Hunter as a main event heel. It got a bit awkward a few months later as the crotch chopping suck it guy was buddies with the Lord of Darkness Undertaker.
- Undertaker's first decade was the 1990s. Of his first eight WrestleManias, I'd say only his match with Diesel at WrestleMania 12 was above average. Everything else was pretty bad to downright terrible such as this match and the WM9 match versus Giant Gonzalez. I'm not ripping on Undertaker at all. It's just that he was booked with so many bad opponents during this first eight WrestleManias. I feel bad for the guy. As we'll see over the years, he had some amazing matches with a number of different types of opponent for his next 11 wins. I often wonder, though, what he really thought about his WrestleMania matches in the 90s. They're not exactly career highlights.
- The difference between Michael Cole and Jim Ross was so obvious during this show. JR was incredible in the main event. He showed the proper kind of emotion in the main event. Cole's effort was okay. He has improved a lot over the years, but he can't show the same kind of passion of Ross. That opinion holds true today too.
Best Match: Steve Austin vs. The Rock - Only that match plus Shane/X-Pac were anywhere close to good. They'd have better matches down the road, of course.
Worst Match: Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man - One of the worst ten minute matches you will ever see. I hate that I had to re-watch it. As bad as I remembered.
Most Memorable Moment: Austin's title win - Nothing comes close to topping that.
1. Steve Austin - Second straight good main event match. He'd miss WrestleMania a year later.
2. The Rock - Good performance in his first WM main event.
3. Mankind - That bump on the chairs looked so painful. Too bad he didn't have a longer match.
4. X-Pac - Nice job carrying a green Shane-O-Mac to a watchable match.
5. Triple H - Turning heel was a good thing for him despite the fact that the crowd cheered when he Pedigree'd his best buddy.
Show rating (out of 10): 5
It was an entertaining show for some of the angles, but in terms of matches it was lacking a bit. It gets the very average grade of 5 from me. If you ever come across the show on DVD or television somehow, I'd recommend watching Austin/Rock because it's an entertaining match as is X-Pac/Shane. I'd recommend that you avoid Undertaker/Boss Man. Don't put yourself through that kind of pain.
The matches that have received ratings of ****+ on the five star scale:
1. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin @ WM13: *****
2. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM10: *****
3. Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart @ WM10: *****
4. Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage @ WM3: *****
5. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart @ WM12: ****1/2
6. Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage @ WM7: ****1/2
7. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair @ WM8: ****1/2
8. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper @ WM8: ****
STATS FROM THE FIRST 14 WRESTLEMANIAS
Here are some stats based on the first 14 WrestleManias courtesy of TJR reader John Harper. Remember it doesn't include info from the 15th WrestleMania that you just read about.
- For the 5 stars of the show, he has tabulated the results so that the #1 star earned 5 points, the #2 star earned 4 points, the #3 star earned 3 points and so on. Here's a look at them:
1. Randy Savage - 29 (#1 ranking 5 times)
2. Bret Hart - 24 (1)
3. Shawn Michaels - 24 (4)
4. Hulk Hogan - 21 (2)
5. (tie) Steve Austin - 9 (1)
5. (tie) Owen Hart - 9
I think that's a pretty good group. Savage was the standout in the early years. Hogan had a good showing because he usually had the longest matches, but to his credit he performed well in most of them.
- The average rating for the shows on the 10 point scale is 5.3. I think that's a fair number. Looking back, the only change I'd make to my rankings would be to WrestleMania 2, which was probably worth a rating of 3 instead of 4. Other than that, I think my rankings are fair. In the second half of these reviews, I think you'll see the average rating of these shows will go up. I doubt I'm surprising anybody when I say that in its later years WrestleMania was a better show than it was in its earlier years.
- I gave 21 matches a rating of *** or above out of five. That number will go up in the later years too.
- I gave 73 matches a rating of * or below. Lots of bad matches! Usually the problem was that these were matches getting less than five minutes. When a match is so short it's often difficult to tell a good story. That's something they got better at over the years.
- The worst match so far is Undertaker vs. Gonzalez from WM9, which I rated at -**. It might not be beat in terms of the worst match. The other matches that earned negative star ratings were The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers vs. The Bushwhackers (WM5), The Fabulous Moolah vs. Velvet McIntyre (WM2) and Crush vs. Doink the Clown (WM9). Simply put, I hope to never see these matches ever again. That goes for the 16 matches that earned a DUD rating too. Think of DUD like a F letter grade in school while the ones worse than a DUD would get you kicked out of school because it sucked so much.
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John Canton firstname.lastname@example.org