So after being away for several months due to some work obligations, “What the World Was Watching” returns by picking up where we left off in 1999. The Steve Austin-Vince McMahon rivalry is continuing and they are set to do battle in a steel cage match where if Austin loses then he surrenders his WrestleMania title shot. The Undertaker is busy with his Ministry of Darkness nonsense and Mankind is keeping the Rock busy before WrestleMania.
–Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are doing commentary and they are live from Memphis, Tennessee.
–Opening Contest: Goldust defeats Bluedust with a Curtail Call at 3:08:
This confusing feud, premised on the Blue Meanie imitating Goldust’s mannerisms, culminates here. Goldust was supposed to the heel, but the Blue Meanie’s character was not very likable so you just had a feud for the sake of things and it did nothing for anyone. Bluedust gets virtually no offense in this one, with Goldust hitting a weak Curtain Call for the win. After this Bluedust would partner with Goldust for a while in a managerial role, but that led to nothing significant. Rating: ½*
–Footage from Sunday Night Heat where Vince McMahon spat in Steve Austin’s face in an attempt to goad him into a physical altercation, thereby nullifying tonight’s main event (since Austin was contractually forbidden to touch McMahon), but Austin refused to take the bait.
–Hardcore Championship Match: Bob Holly pins Al Snow to win the title at 9:56:
Hardcore Champion Road Dogg was injured on the previous episode of RAW, ruining the best-of-three series that Snow and he and were recently having, so we get this match instead for the vacated Hardcore championship. Bob Holly was an afterthought before this match, serving as a member of the JOB Squad and rehabilitating himself from the “Sparky Plugg” gimmick of the mid-1990s. This is a typical garbage brawl, one where so many objects are used that it desensitizes you to violence, a problem made worse by the complete lack of psychology here. One fun footnote about the match is that it ends near the Mississippi River, with Snow eventually rolled up in fence meshing as part of the finish. Holly went to new heights about this bout, eventually becoming “Hardcore” Holly, a gimmick change that gave him another seven years of life in the company. Rating: **
–The Undertaker addresses the Ministry and tells Mideon that he will take the Big Bossman’s soul in their encounter tonight.
–The Big Bossman beats Mideon with the Bossman Slam at 6:20:
Of all the things wrong with the Ministry, I would really like to know who in the WWF thought that making Dennis Knight the in-ring face of the group from December 1998 through March 1999 was a good idea. This feud was before the Ministry and Corporation had problems, but it did serve as a bridge to get there as this match is meant to build up the Big Bossman before WrestleMania so he can be viewed as a credible opponent for the Undertaker. The crowd gets really restless after four minutes of slow, plodding action – working up a loud “Boring!” chant – and the Bossman thankfully ends things shortly thereafter with his finisher (completely missed by Cole). Rating: ¼*
–After the match, the Ministry runs out and surrounds the ring. The lights go out as the Undertaker’s theme plays and when they come back on the Bossman is beaten down, becoming the victim of three Viscera splashes. The Ministry then drags the Bossman to the back as the Undertaker looks on approvingly. All of this begs the question of where the Corporation was/is during all of this.
–Kevin Kelly interviews Mark Henry, D-Lo Brown, and Ivory. D-Lo says that Ivory will counteract Debra during tonight’s tag team championship match.
–WWF Tag Team Championship Match: “Double J” Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart (Champions w/Debra) defeat Mark Henry & D-Lo Brown when Jarrett makes Henry submit to the figure-four at 9:33:
D-Lo and Henry are one of the uncelebrated tag teams of the Attitude Era. They had a great combination of power and agility and were on a trajectory to win the titles, but Henry’s susceptibility to injury eventually scuttled those plans. The same could be said of Jarrett and Owen, who are underrated in their own right. Cole’s rough night of calling moves continues as he calls the running powerbomb a Sky High, which prevents him from calling it right once Jarrett gets caught with it. We get out inevitable Debra-Ivory confrontation, allowing the heels to blast Henry in the knee with a guitar and retain the titles. After the bout, Ivory strips some of Debra’s clothes off since this is the Attitude Era and all. Rating: **½
–Kelly interviews Mankind, who is ready to face the Rock for the WWF title in a Last Man Standing match.
–Cole tells us that if we send in our pay-per-view bill we can get a free WWF superstars photo-magnet.
–A video package recaps the Ken Shamrock-Val Venis feud.
–Intercontinental Championship Match with Billy Gunn as Guest Referee: Val Venis (w/Ryan Shamrock) pins Ken Shamrock with a small package to win the title at 15:52:
So to quickly recap this feud (since it has been several months since this column was posted): Venis was sleeping with Ryan Shamrock, Ken’s sister, so Ken took matters into his own hands and went after Venis. Once things got too physical some WWF referees were assaulted and no one wanted to referee the bout, so Billy Gunn, who had a past history with Shamrock, decided to don the zebra shirt so that a title match could take place at this show. A bevy of restholds keep this from building any momentum, a problem made worse by the crowd waiting for Billy to screw someone, which he does when Shamrock has Venis pinned after a DDT. Ryan helps Venis escape the ankle lock and when Shamrock takes his anger out on Gunn, he punches him back and counts a quick fall to give Venis his first title in the company. Rating: **
–After the bout, Gunn brawls with Shamrock and then interrupts Venis’s title celebration. This would logically produce a triple threat at WrestleMania, but Vince Russo had other ideas (as we will see in future reviews).
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–A video package recaps the Triple H-Chyna feud that will manifest itself in a tag team match tonight.
–Kane & Chyna (w/Shane McMahon) beat Triple H & X-Pac when Chyna pins Triple H after a Kane chokeslam at 14:45:
Looking back, his match should have eventually lead to a Triple H-Chyna contest at WrestleMania, but again, you have Russo booking so you have to throw logical storyline progression out of the window. Shane does commentary and makes David Crockett look like the second coming of Gorilla Monsoon, annoying me quickly with observations such as “Get him, baby! BAM! BAM! BAM!” X-Pac becomes my hero by taking him out after halfway through the match during an outside brawl with Kane. Unfortunately, though, Shane returns. The match does a good job masking Chyna’s deficiencies, but that requires that Kane do the heavy lifting and that slows down the pace. The four-way brawl gets crazy, with X-Pac chasing Shane back to the locker room, thereby setting up their WrestleMania bout, but that leaves Triple H two-on-one and he quickly succumbs. If Jim Ross was on commentary (or someone better than the Cole-Shane team that we got for most of the match) this would have gotten a higher rating. Rating: **¾
–A video package recaps the Rock-Mankind feud that has been taking place since Survivor Series.
–Last Man Standing Match for the WWF Championship: Mankind (Champion) wrestles The Rock to a no contest at 21:52:
This was the first Last Man Standing match in WWF history, long before the concept was rendered a joke by Smilin’ John and duct tape. And this bout really exposes a shortcoming of Cole’s announcing where he seems to be reading from a script than building the drama for the match. Case in point: the Rock dumps Mankind on his head on the concrete near the entrance and instead of focusing on how that can help the Rock win the match, Cole goes through some talking points about how the Rock is the “greatest pure athlete in the WWF” and how he’s “the greatest sports entertainer in the world today.” What the Rock’s assault on Mankind’s cranium was at the Royal Rumble, this match is an encore on Mankind’s knee, which the Rock had targeted in a sneak attack on Sunday Night Heat. Unfortunately, they do not have enough sequences where Mankind struggles to get to his feet due to the attack on his lower extremities. All of that really just plays into a spot where the Rock sings about the Smackdown Hotel (eventually interrupted by a Mandible Claw). The end comes with a simultaneous chair shot, producing a no contest, and rendering the build of “there must be a winner” useless. This match had the brutality one would expect, but it was hindered by being the lead-in for the main event as McMahon-Austin would get the overbooking treatment (including the blood one would expect to see in a grudge match of this caliber). The outcome was a bit puzzling at the time as well since an Austin-Rock main event was expected for WrestleMania and this kept the title on Mankind for the time being. Rating: ***
–A video package recaps the Steve Austin-Vince McMahon feud.
–Steel Cage Match: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeats Vince McMahon at 7:54:
A few stipulations for this match were that Austin would forfeit his WrestleMania title shot if he lost and that no Corporation members would interfere in the match. Aside from the Royal Rumble, this was the first time that McMahon would actually wrestle, so it was one of the few times that a February pay-per-view had a decent hook. Although the fence-type cage was in use by this point, this match goes back to the bar-style design, with black as the color design since that was supposedly more edgy than blue. It takes forever for the match to get into the ring as Austin lures McMahon into a trap with a knee injury (a nice wink at his Hollywood Blonde days) and they brawl around the ring and into the crowd. All of this leads to McMahon flying off the cage and through the Spanish announce table, legitimately causing him to break his tailbone, but Austin refuses to take the forfeit win as McMahon is stretchered to the back. When things do get in the ring, Austin pulverizes McMahon, but is tempted from leaving by McMahon’s goading. This makes sense when Paul Wight, who is not yet referred to as the Big Show (and who has just arrived from WCW), comes from underneath the ring and attacks Austin. You see, he is not a Corporation member and fits within the existing stipulations. Unfortunately for McMahon, though, Wight does not realize his own strength and he tosses Austin through the cage and sends the Rattlesnake to WrestleMania. Definitely not a five-star classic, but this was about as good as one could expect. Rating: **½
The Final Report Card: If one was devoid of any understanding about what happened at WrestleMania XV they would not yet know the disappointment that awaited them. It appeared that the Road Dogg would want to go after Holly for the Hardcore title, Billy Gunn would want another Intercontinental title match, Triple H would want revenge on Chyna, and some confrontation was brewing between the Steve Austin and Paul Wight. However, none of these things came to pass on a big stage. As we will see in later reviews, Vince Russo decided to alter the booking in really puzzling ways, making 1999 a year of “what could have been.” As far as this show goes, it was more like a three-hour RAW, but it was a financial windfall for the company since the buyrate was more than double the previous year’s effort. This makes the company 0-for-2 in pay-per-view for 1999, but the WWF was on such a hot streak that none of that mattered.
Buyrate: 1.21 (+0.69 from previous year)
Show Evaluation: Thumbs Down