What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 18, 1999

-Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are taped from Beaumont, Texas.  This is the go home show for the Royal Rumble.

Cole is in the ring to interview Steve Austin, but Austin just turns it into a single man segment as he rips the microphone out of Cole’s hands.  This is just a generic “build promo” for the Rumble, with Austin recapping a month’s worth of storylines about how he will be the first entrant, Vince McMahon will be the second entrant, and that all twenty-nine men will want to throw him out so that they can receive $100,000 from Vince.

Hardcore Champion Road Dogg is shown looking for items to bring to the ring for his Hardcore title defense against Gangrel.

Opening Contest for the Hardcore Championship:  Road Dogg (Champion) defeats Gangrel after a flying chair shot at 5:54:

In a curious piece of booking, Road Dogg is booked to face the Big Bossman at the Rumble in a “special challenge” match, but the match is not for his Hardcore title.  Why would the Corporation set up such a match?  Do they not care about the Bossman’s title ambitions?  This bout has a backstory, with Road Dogg enduring a bloodbath at the hands of the Brood on the previous week’s show.  To illustrate some of the absurdity of Hardcore matches, why does Gangrel not enlist Edge and Christian to commence a three-on-one beatdown of Road Dogg, thereby allowing him to easily win the title?  This is a relatively entertaining garbage brawl that features multiple table spots – Gangrel powerbombs Road Dogg for a near fall and then a table refuses to break after the Road Dogg uses three aerial maneuvers on Gangrel in a desperate attempt to shatter it –  but the end comes when Road Dogg flies off the apron  and smashes a chair over Gangrel’s head.  This was probably Gangrel’s most entertaining bout in the WWF up to this point.  Rating:  **½

Steve Austin is shown drinking beer by the entrance to the arena.

Ken Shamrock is shown lacing up his shoes backstage, but he is not booked for the show so the announcers wonder what he is planning to do.

“Bad Ass” Billy Gunn beats Test via disqualification when Ken Shamrock interferes at 5:13:

Test lacks an identity at this point, having been in the company for less than two months, and all he is known for is being tall and affiliated with the Corporation.  This is one of those bouts that today’s smart crowds would not tolerate as the pace is methodical due to Test’s inexperience and soft offense.  Cole also keeps hyping the Rumble as “the most star studded Rumble match in history,” which is quite laughable when you look at the 1999 roster and the one that competed in the 1992 event.  Gunn escapes Test’s pumphandle slam and hits the Fameasser (not yet named), with Shamrock then making an expected run-in and doing a cursory beatdown prior to the Rumble.  To show how over Gunn was at this point, a loud “Shamrock sucks” chant breaks out over the assault.  Rating: ½*

The WWF hypes its Halftime Heat episode on January 31.

WWF medical personnel tend to Billy Gunn, who is in massive pain due to the ankelock that Ken Shamrock put him in during the previous segment.

Kevin Kelley interviews Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart, who are subsequently attacked by the WWF Tag Team Champions the Big Bossman and Ken Shamrock.  A big brawl takes place before WWF officials intervene.

Our final Vince McMahon training vignette sees Vince preparing in a WWF warehouse.  Vince promises to “get him some” at the Rumble and he beats up what appears to be Dr. Tom Pritchard, pulling out his own version of the Stone Cold Stunner in the process.  He also practices throwing some masked wrestlers over the top rope.

The Big Bossman launches a sneak attack on Mankind backstage.  They take out the cameraman during their brawl.  Both men are booked to face each other in a Hardcore bout later in the evening.

Steve Blackman beats Dan Severn by disqualification after a low blow at 2:30:

Severn has not been in action since a neck injury angle knocked him out of action several months ago.  However, that neck injury appears to have been a ruse as Severn interfered in a Lion’s Den Match on Sunday Night Heat between Blackman and Owen Hart, ripping off his neck brace in the process.  That just screams short-sighted Russo booking as it appeared that Severn had turned face and was being setup for a future program with Owen Hart.  Some piped in crowd noise makes it seem as if Blackman is over, but the crowd just sits on their hands for this bout.  The feud is doing very little for either guy, a problem compounded by the cop out finish.  Severn puts Blackman in a Dragon sleeper after the bell, which WWF officials have to break up (I hope those guys are getting overtime pay tonight).

Steve Austin is shown drinking more beer backstage.

Mankind and the Big Bossman are still fighting backstage.

A video package hypes the Mankind-Rock “I Quit” match for the WWF championship at the Royal Rumble.

Non-Title Hardcore Match:  Mankind (WWF Champion) beats The Big Bossman via disqualification after the Rock interferes at 5:17:

All of the fighting that the Big Bossman and Mankind have been doing backstage finally spills to the ring, where this match officially begins.  This is your typical “Heel partner works to soften up the babyface before the big match” booking and the Bossman does a decent job here, inflicting substantial head trauma on Mankind throughout the bout with the help of chairs and the stairs.  Mankind puts the Bossman in the Mandible Claw, but the Rock interferes with a vicious chair shot and somehow that causes a disqualification…in a no disqualification match.  Rating:  *

After the bell, the Rock delivers a Rock Bottom on a chair and tells the announcers that he will make Mankind quit at the Rumble.

Mark Henry begs Chyna to talk to him backstage, but she refuses to give him the time of day.  She has told Henry that he needs to “come clean” by the end of tonight’s show.

Chyna winning the Corporate Rumble (including the near decapitation of Vince via the bottom rope when he is thrown out) is the Crunch Slam of the Week.

Vince gets in Kane’s face and tells him to follow orders and forget last week where the Rock cost him the WWF title.  The Rock ties to provoke Kane in some humorous, yet un-PC bits where he questions Kane’s intellectual acumen.

Chyna calls Mark Henry out to the ring, demanding that he come clean or he will be embarrassed in front of his mother that is sitting at ringside.  Henry promises that he did not do anything with someone, but that is not enough for Chyna, who runs footage from last week where Sammy seduced Henry until he found out that she was a transvestite.  Chyna tells Henry that she would never sleep with him and then gives him a low blow.  Henry’s mother also softly spanks him to close the segment.  As is common knowledge now, this was all booked to try to get Henry to quit, thereby relieving the WWF of their obligations in the ten year contract that they signed Henry to in 1996.  However, Henry was a trooper and refused to do so, steadily improving until he found ways to get over by the time that contract ran out.

Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco discuss strategy for their handicap match against Chyna.  Brisco hypes his amateur career in Oklahoma, while Patterson talks about his accolades as the first Intercontinental Champion.  The stooges are a very underrated part of the Attitude Era.

Winner of the Match Gets Head:  Al Snow defeats Goldust (w/Head) with a La Magistral Cradle at 3:33:

Get your mind out of the gutter!  These two have been fighting over Head for the last few weeks, with their feud largely relegated to Sunday Night Heat.  I am not sure why this was not given a slot at the Rumble so fewer of the main guys had to do double duty, but small angles like this were blown off on RAW episodes all the time during this era.  This is a quick TV match, with Snow pulling the finish out of nowhere after a few minutes of sloppy, uninspired action.  After the bout, Goldust delivers Shattered Dreams and keeps Head anyway, thereby negating the stipulation of the match.  Rating:  ½*

Patterson and Brisco continue to argue over who should pin Chyna in the handicap match.  Brisco makes up a funny story of how McMahon told him to get the pin after he sent Patterson to go fetch some coffee.

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Dennis Knight (a.k.a. Mideon), dressed in red garb, comes out and asks Lawler is “he can feel it.”  This triggers the Ministry’s music to play and the Acolytes, druids, Paul Bearer, and the Undertaker to come out.  The Undertaker cuts another cryptic promo about how Mideon was overlooked in the “politics of the corruption” of our world and he announces that another sacrifice has been scheduled for the Royal Rumble.  Surely this means that the Undertaker will be sacrificing the Ultimate Warrior or Randy Savage, right?  I would have settled for zombie Yokozuna over what we ended up getting.

Handicap Match:  Chyna defeats Pat Patterson & Gerald Brisco after pinning both men after a pair of DDTs at 6:24:

Patterson and Brisco are well past their prime, but they do a good job working the crowd here and making this match better than it had any right to be.  For example, Patterson does an airplane spin (although I wanted him to do an Attitude Adjustment when facing the hard camera), but is too winded to follow up so a frustrated Brisco knocks him out of the ring.  Patterson tries to give Chyna a low blow, which does not work, but when he does get the upper hand, Sable walks out, only to be attacked by Luna Vachon.  That is a clear ripoff of ECW booking.  Chyna overcomes powder to the eyes and groping from both men (which is blurred out) and she coasts to victory from there.  This took every booking shortcut you can think of, but it kept this match out of the “awful/bad” range.  Rating:  **

Steve Austin paces backstage.

The McMahons talk with the Rock, with Vince promising the Rock that he will make sure that nothing will happen to him.

The Rock’s interference in last week’s Mankind-Kane WWF title match is the 10-10-220 Rewind segment.

Kane beats the Rock (w/The Corporation) via disqualification at 4:50:

This match was ordered by Commissioner Shawn Michaels on Sunday Night Heat, so the story here is that Vince is trying to use the threat of sending Kane to an insane asylum to have him lay down for the Rock.  I wonder if this was a rib on WCW’s “fingerpoke of doom” as that is what Vince tells the Rock and Kane to do before the bell.  However, Kane refuses to go along with the program and gets a Corporation beatdown before the match becomes official.  The Rock spends much of the match in control, but when Kane makes his comeback the Corporation runs in, leading to a schmoz finish where Mankind clears the ring with a chair and Steve Austin flips off the Rock.  Rating:  ¾*

The Final Report Card:  This was just the company going through the motions so that they can get to the Rumble and accelerate the drive toward WrestleMania.  The opening Hardcore match was fun and the handicap match was good for what it was, but everything else fell well short of the mark.  For example, a disqualification in a Hardcore match?  Still, you can see the power of the WWF machine at this point as this show destroyed Nitro in the ratings after a few weeks of 5.0+ outings for both sides.

Monday Night War Rating:  5.6 (vs. 4.4 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down