What the World Was Watching: Royal Rumble 1999

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Anaheim, California.

Opening “Special Challenge” Non-Title Contest:  The Big Bossman defeats The Road Dogg (Hardcore Champion) with the Bossman Slam at 11:52:

The Road Dogg has been tearing it up in hardcore matches lately, so what does the WWF do?  They book him in a match with no shortcuts against an opponent that needs some shortcuts to put on a good bout.  To their credit, the announcers spin the lack of this as a Corporate conspiracy.  The Bossman works the back for much of the match, but that means little in the end as the Road Dogg loses by running into the Bossman Slam.  If this was only six minutes long it would not have been that bad, but its methodical pace was not a way to get the crowd showing at one of the big pay-per-view events of the year.  Rating:  ½*

Cole and Lawler discuss some of the events that led to the Intercontinental title match between Ken Shamrock and Billy Gunn.

Intercontinental Championship Match:  Ken Shamrock (Champion) defeats “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn via submission to the ankle lock at 14:22:

This may be the only case in WWF history when someone earned a title shot by mooning someone.  This is hardly a scientific encounter as it takes Shamrock nearly ten minutes to start targeting the ankle that he already injured on the previous RAW.  The booking up to this match would have logically produced a Gunn title win here and according to rumors that was the planned finish, but Gunn partied the night before and arrived late to the show so all he gets to do en route to losing is a visual pin after Val Venis runs in to give Shamrock a DDT.  One could say this was Gunn’s Lex Luger moment because although he went on to win the Intercontinental title later in his career, he was never as over as a singles as he was in this bout.  The WWF would not stop trying to push him as a singles after this, though, creating another puzzling case of why they bother giving a guy a significant loss if they really want to push him to the moon.  Rating:  **½

Shane McMahon gives his father a pep talk backstage, telling him that he is ready for the Rumble match.  Looking back, they should have done one of those classic Vince voiceovers for the Rumble roster and had him take digs at talent he hated, while putting himself over as the eventual winner.

European Championship Match:  X-Pac (Champion) pins Gangrel after an X-Factor at 5:55:

Gangrel must have some connections with the booking team because he gets a European title match despite losing a Hardcore title match on the previous RAW.  After a series of slow paced bouts tonight, this constitutes a refreshing change of pace, but the lack of a storyline hurts it.  Referee Teddy Long botches a near-fall, actually counting three when Gangrel turns over an X-Pac crossbody, so in kayfabe term Gangrel was screwed out of the title here.  It is little surprise that X-Pac goes over, building a small “fighting champion” gimmick while holding the European belt.  However, that would be for naught with regards to the belt’s reputation over the long-term.  Rating:  **

Kevin Kelly interviews D-Generation X, who say that the WWF title and $100,000 means that every single one of their members will be fighting for themselves tonight.

Shane McMahon comes out to a weird B-movie action film riff and teases that Sable will need to forfeit her Women’s title due to a back injury suffered at Luna Vachon’s hands on Sunday Night Heat.  However, Sable refuses to do so, giving us the scheduled title match after all.

Strap Match for the WWF Women’s Championship Match:  Sable (Champion) beats Luna Vachon at 4:43:

Shane does commentary for this match, continuing the weird McMahons-Sable storyline that the WWF touched on intermittently during the Attitude Era.  The WWF only knows how to book a strap match one way – where the heel carries the babyface around and they both touch turnbuckles at the same time until the babyface outmaneuvers the heel to get the fourth and final buckle – so it makes the match very predictable for new fans.  It appears Luna is headed for a clean win, but Sable’s “deranged fan” Tori hits Luna when the referee gets preoccupied with Shane and that allows Sable to retain.  They tried to overbook this to hide Sable’s deficiencies, but Luna could not carry this all by herself and the overbooking just made the match far sillier and illogical than it needed to be.  Rating:  DUD

Big Bossman tells Test and Ken Shamrock that he is going to do everything that he can to win the Rumble.

A video package hypes the Mankind-Rock “I Quit” match for the WWF title.

Dok Hendrix interviews the Rock, who says that he will prove himself as the “great one” when he makes Mankind submit tonight.

“I Quit” Match for the WWF Championship:  The Rock defeats Mankind (Champion) to win the title at 21:51:

On Sunday Night Heat, Mabel returned and splashed Mankind to make him vulnerable to the Rock here.  The Rock has some funny rebuttals when Mankind asks him to quit early in the match so Mankind just decides to use the microphone as a weapon instead.  The match features the debut of track suit Rock as he disguises some recent surgery to remove fat from his chest.  He “rocks” it well, though.  The bout would be much better if Jim Ross was commentating as Cole has to tell us every few minutes that someone has to quit for the match to end and he peaks the call of the match too early when Mankind goes though an electrical circuit board (and at least in that time they really played that up by making the entire arena go dark for a few minutes).  In a piece of booking that makes little sense, heel authority figure Shane McMahon comes out to try to stop the match after the electrical spot, but the Rock refuses out of a desire to make Mankind quit.  And really, the match should have ended around that time because the next series is really uncomfortable to watch (and has become even more over time with what is now known about the effect of head trauma and concussions) where the Rock handcuffs Mankind and smashes him over the head with a chair eleven times and a pre-recorded sound bite gives the Rock the win.  I am divided in terms of rating the match as the Rock was put over as a killer here, the WWF title was elevated, and the match was memorable.  It was also one of the most brutal submission matches ever, but the finish shows that you can take the violent element of the sports too far.  Rating:  ****

A video package recaps the last several months of the Steve Austin-Vince McMahon feud that will continue in tonight’s Royal Rumble match.

Vince McMahon wins the 1999 Royal Rumble by eliminating “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at 56:39:

McMahon does not look natural here at all, with his head seemingly glued on the oiled body of Brakkus or something like that.  This held the title of the worst booked Rumble in history for a long time, at least until the crowd revolts of 2014 and 2015, and for good reason.  Instead of booking McMahon as the #30 entrant and having him come down to ringside, commentate the Rumble, and then being forced to fight when Austin eliminates everyone else, the WWF decided that they needed to draw even more buys by guaranteeing Austin-McMahon as #1 and #2.  However, there was no way that either guy was going to go long to the end (well at least in McMahon’s case) so we get this convoluted bit where Austin tears up McMahon to start, is attacked in the women’s restroom when he chases after a fleeing McMahon about three minutes into the match, is supposedly taken to the hospital before returning (having hijacked an ambulance of course), and then re-enters the match to eliminate everyone before going after McMahon, who only wins due to the interference of the Rock.  See how they could have skipped all of those unnecessary steps?   Another problem with this Rumble is that it exposes the company’s lack of depth – the Oddities, Tiger Ali Singh, the Blue Meanie, LOD member Droz – although some acts like Gillberg get a bigger reaction than most of the talent at the present time.  Finally, there is too much dead time where the Rumble is background noise for larger, more ridiculous issues.  For example, we get several sequences when there is only one wrestler in the ring due to Austin-McMahon fleeing, the Undertaker deciding to initiate Mabel into the Ministry (evidently changing your gimmick puts the bad blood of crushing your one time rival’s orbital bone behind them and who decided to give MABEL a call in 1999 anyway?), and Kane forced to flee by orderlies that want to take him to the funny farm.  If there is a silver lining, Vince’s desperation at Austin’s late rally is fun (his chemistry with Lawler gives me flashbacks to the New Generation Era), Owen Hart ends his Rumble career with a fifth place finish (his best ever), and I did win $5 from a friend of mine since I picked McMahon to win the day before the show.  Still, that does not compensate for how bad this Rumble was.  Rating:  *½

The Final Report Card:  Well, 1999 is not off to the best start on pay-per-view, which gave us a bad omen for most of the rest of the Russo booked year.  It is a valid question whether 1999 is still the worst Rumble because although the crowd did not revolt, the match seems unimportant for three-fourths of its existence.  Everyone knew Austin-McMahon would happen again by the end so everything else was just passing the time.  The company was so white hot at this time, though, that even this could not derail their momentum short of turning Austin heel (which they made the mistake of doing in 2001) and this show earned the biggest Rumble buyrate since 1991.  By the way, how did all of those guys feel when Austin left for a while knowing they could not get $100,000?  That could have sparked a few feuds.

Attendance:  14,816

Buyrate:  1.88 (+0.91 over previous year) 

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down