Last week we looked at the 14/02/99 episode of Sunday Night HeAT, which was essentially a pre-game show for this pay per view, so this week we’ll go and review the event itself seeing as we’re a day away from Valentine’s Day in real life anyway. I hope you have as enjoyable a Valentine’s Day as possible, especially if you can share it with a special someone.
This show was notable for being the first proper pay per view singles match between long-time enemies Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. They’d met one another in the Royal Rumble, but this time it was scheduled to be one on one, with a cage being set up to ensure no one would be able to help Vince out.
Surprisingly it didn’t do as big a buy rate as expected when you consider how hot the feud was, but it was sandwiched between the Rumble and WrestleMania XV, so that might have had an effect on whether people wanted to purchase it or not.
I didn’t have satellite TV at the time, which was the only way to watch the WWF in the UK until Channel 4 started showing HeAT in 2000, so I didn’t see this show live at the time but I did eventually get the VHS and watched it quite a bit. We’ll see if that nostalgia gives the show a bit of a boost for me or not.
The event is emanating from Memphis, Tennessee on the 14th of February 1999
Calling the action are Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler
We open up with a fun video which recaps the Austin and McMahon feud set to wacky Valentine’s Day themed music. This is one of the better video packages the WWF has ever done.
Bluedust Vs Goldust
Bluedust would be better known as Blue Meanie. He had actually played Bluedust before in ECW during his time in Raven’s Nest. It’s still kind of amazing to me that Meanie, with his look and physique, actually got anything even close to some semblance of a push in the WWF during one of its most cosmetically obsessed era’s. I think Vince Russo really liked him, and one thing you can give Russo credit for is that he always tried to make sure the guys in the mid-card had something going on, even if it was stupid. Bluedust cost Goldust a match with Gillberg and then gave him a blue bath to really get him riled, which I guess would make Goldust the babyface here? This match is really short, as Bluedust gets some token offence and then shrugged aside by Goldust with a Curtain Call for the three count.
Odd choice for the opener, but Goldust was over with the crowd at least. Meanie reminded me a bit of Danny DeVito in Batman Return’s almost in his Bluedust get up. He would eventually get in pretty good shape by the time 2000 rolled around, but he was back in ECW by that stage
Goldust gives Meanie The Shattered Dreams following the match, but by WrestleMania they’d be a wacky tandem so I guess Meanie won him over in the end somehow.
We get a recap from HeAT earlier tonight, as Vince McMahon spat at Stone Cold in an effort to get Austin to attack him and forfeit the match later. It didn’t work though.
WWF Hardcore Title
Al Snow w/ Head Vs Bob Holly
Both of these guys were in the J.O.B Squad but had a misunderstanding when Holly tried to stop Snow from fighting himself (Yes, Al Snow had a match with himself. Rumour has it that if you listened carefully you could hear Jim Cornette screaming all the way in Kentucky) so now they don’t like each other anymore. This was supposed to be a rematch of a very good Road Dogg Vs Al Snow match from an episode of Raw, but Dogg is injured so Holly is filling in for him.
This match was quite well known back in the day for a particular spot that happens in it, mainly because the Hardcore Title was still a relatively new thing and they hadn’t run the concept into the ground yet. They have a pretty fun brawl around the building (With Snow hitting Holly right in the head with a chair as the very first weapon shot of the match, which is frankly ludicrous as Holly is up seconds later. I mean, even ECW was smart enough to protect that a bit more unless it was a Masato Tanaka match, and even then that was part of his gimmick).
The big spot everyone remembers though is that they fight outside of the building and eventually end up fighting in the Mississippi River. This was kind of revolutionary at the time, so much so that people still remembered it many months later, which in an era where something crazy happened nearly every week is pretty impressive. They smartly take it home pretty soon after that, as you’re not following fighting in the river, when Holly wraps Snow up in some fencing to hold him down for three. Thankfully neither man was bleeding or they could have ended up hospitalised like Onita was when he jumped in a river after a hardcore match with cuts all over his body and essentially poisoned himself.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: BOB HOLLY
Famous big spot aside, this was just a generic hardcore brawl, but it was entertaining enough for what it was
Holly celebrates with the belt whilst a trapped Snow yells. This would lead to Holly taking the name Hardcore Holly. Road Dogg coming back to take on both men at WrestleMania XV for the belt would have been the logical pay off for all of this, but that didn’t happen and we’ll get into why later on in the review.
The Undertaker is with his Ministry of Darkness (Mideon, Viscera, Bradshaw, Faarooq, Paul Bearer, Edge, Gangrel and Christian). He gives Mideon the mission of beating up The Big Boss Man in his match tonight.
The Big Boss Man Vs Mideon
Boss Man is part of The Corporation, whilst Mideon is in the Ministry. Both factions are ostensibly heels, but they are also feuding, because SHADES OF GREY BRO! Thus this match is flatter than a crepe that’s been run over by a jeep because the crowd doesn’t have a clue who to cheer for. The only highlight of the match is that Mideon has an eyeball in a jar and asks the commentators to “keep an eye” on it for him. When that’s the peak of your match then it probably means you haven’t had a very good one.
If you’re not sure who Mideon actually is, he’s Dennis Knight/Phineas I. Godwinn following a gothic repackaging. I’m guessing he was thrown this bone of being in Taker’s faction due to being a member of the “BSK” backstage crew rather than any appreciable wrestling ability or overness? I mean, the actual wrestling here isn’t terrible or anything, but it’s dull as dishwater and the only time the crowd even remotely seems to care is when they occasionally chant that Boss Man sucks.
Boss Man takes most of the match, whilst the crowd starts chanting that they think the match is boring. I can’t say I really disagree to be honest. Again, mechanically I can’t really find too much wrong with it, but there’s nothing particularly exciting about it either and there isn’t really much of a story being told. It’s just two mid-card heels slugging one another to silence from the crowd. Mideon gets a bit of a rally going but then gets caught with the Boss Man Slam and that’s enough for the flash pin.
WINNER: THE BIG BOSS MAN
Work was okay, but the match itself was a real plodder
Boss Man gets battered by The Ministry post-match, as Mideon was there more to occupy him for a bit rather than actually defeat him. If you look at this on paper then it makes sense as “Guy gets beaten down by a faction at the orders of its leader and then goes after the leader as revenge” is a standard wrestling story, but it makes less sense when you realise the payoff to all this was heel Boss Man against heel Undertaker at WrestleMania in a Hell in a Cell match. I mean, who in their right mind is even going to begin to want to watch that? That’s not saying that you can’t do the heel faction war of course, but it helps if both groups are really over and the crowd already kind of likes one of them.
Kevin Kelly is with D’Lo Brown, Mark Henry and Ivory. Kelly asks D’Lo if Ivory is going to be able to counteract Debra tonight. D’Lo says Ivory will rip off Debra’s clothes if she tries to get involved tonight.
WWF Tag Team Titles
Champs: Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett w/ Debra Vs D’Lo Brown and Mark Henry w/ Ivory
Ivory had only recently debuted as Mark Henry’s bird so that Debra had another chick to feud with. Henry’s whole thing was that he was a sex addict who had loads of women on the go, so he gives Ivory some chocolates and flowers as a Valentine’s Day gift prior to the bout. Hart and Jarrett were a solid tag team and always benefitted from the “Debra Pop” thanks to her having some notable assets during the raunchiest period in the WWF’s history. Hart was of course in The Nation of Domination with Brown and Henry in 1998, but the commentators don’t even mention it and it’s like they were never allies.
Brown and Henry get the babyface shine to start, which leads to Debra trying to distract Henry by flirting with him. Brown manages to hold Henry back, but that leads to Jarrett getting him with the Divorce Court leading to the cut off. Hart and Jarrett work some heat following that, showing some good chemistry, and Brown sells it all well. Brown gets the odd hope spot, but the crowd reactions aren’t really there for this as Attitude Era crowds didn’t really come to events to watch wrestling. Jarrett smartly slows it down and goes to a chin lock, which finally gets the crowd to chant for D’Lo, but Hart cuts Brown off before he can tag.
Brown has been really good in this match and you can see why he got more of a singles push as the year wore on. Brown eventually manages to get a powerbomb to counter a Hart 10 punch attempt and makes the hot tag to Henry. Henry’s right leg is heavily braced here and he moves about as well as 1996 Giant Haystacks as a result, so his hot tag segment essentially comes down to a few ropey looking clotheslines before Brown comes in to get some near falls.
Debra and Ivory have our contractually mandated cat fight with one another, which distracts the ref and allows Hart to hit Henry in the knee with a guitar, which leads to Jarrett locking in a Figure Four Leg Lock to give the Champs the submission victory. That was a pretty clever finish actually, especially as Henry seemed to be legitimately injured there and this gave him a good excuse to take some time off.
WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: HART & JARRETT
This was standard tag action, with good heel antics from the Champs and some good babyface in peril work from D’Lo. Henry is the human root canal, but his injury at least meant they kept his involvement to a minimum, which improved the match to no end.
Henry sells his leg big following that, which leads to Ivory ripping off Debra’s top, giving us one of the biggest pops of the night thus far. D’Lo would get another crack at the Champs at Mania, although that was in a throwaway match with Test as his partner.
WWF Champ Mankind is with Kevin Kelly. Mankind is facing The Rock later for the WWF Title in a Last Man Standing match, so Rock smartly attacked Mankind’s leg earlier on HeAT. Mankind gives Rock’s props for having a good game plan, but that it will take more than that to stop him.
WWF Intercontinental Title
Guest Referee: Billy Gunn
Champ: Ken Shamrock Vs Val Venis w/ Ryan Shamrock
The story here was that Shamrock and Venis had a feud going on, so Venis decided to pull Ken’s sister Ryan in order to get him good and nettled. Ryan was played by Alicia Webb and she would actually end up dating Shamrock in real life at one stage. Gunn actually had kind of an issue with both guys, and he’d even lost to Ken Shamrock at the Royal Rumble in a match where Val Venis had done a run-in. However, he seems to dislike both men equally, so there likely won’t be a bias. The reason he’s reffing is that the regular refs are worried that Ken Shamrock might kill them so they’ve backed out of this one as a result.
Venis is ostensibly the face here, but it’s kind of hard to cheer for such a sleazy guy (Even during the Attitude Era) whilst Ken Shamrock is a core member of The Corporation and is also a psychotic mad man likely to snap at any moment, so neither of them are especially likable. SHADES OF GREY BRO! The two guys work a pretty quick clip to start and the action is decent, but the crowd isn’t really that bothered, which has been a trend during this show. Ken Shamrock’s head clearly isn’t fully in the game due to Ryan being at ringside, which means she’s doing her job I guess.
They make sure to do a few spots where Gunn argues with both men, to make sure it’s clear that he doesn’t like either of them. Ken Shamrock works some heat on Venis, with the work being okay but Venis is such a scummy character that it’s pretty impossible to get the crowd to feel any sympathy for him, so it’s kind of pointless. Venis survives that though and works some heat of his own, as this match is so heatless you could apply it to an injury to reduce the swelling. You can hear the guys talking to one another in the ring it’s that quiet.
Venis applies a chin lock at one stage, which is the last thing this absolute snooze-fest needed. Some of the fans are so bored that they start chanting for Jerry Lawler. Ken eventually makes a comeback and has it won with a DDT, but Gunn refuses to count the three, but I think that might have been a botch and Venis was supposed to kick out. Oh well, it works with the gimmick they’re doing at least. He at least gives Venis a crappy count following an Imperfect Plex not soon after, which allows Ken to kick out. This match has been a real mess and I’ve really disliked it.
Venis heads up for The Money Shot to seemingly put us all out of our misery, but Ken throws him back down to the mat and goes to the ankle lock. Venis looks set to tap, but Ryan helps him to the ropes, which leads to Ken heading outside to argue with her. She’s supposed to slap him at that stage, but she forgets, so Ken has to loudly remind her to do it. Oh man, if this match isn’t on Botchamania then someone has to notify Maffew because that’s prime material. Ken is of course furious about this and takes it out on Gunn with a shove, which leads to Gunn waking up the crowd by fighting back and then throwing Ken in for a fast count to give Venis the belt.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: VAL VENIS
A miserably dull match with Ryan missing her cue on the most important part of it to boot
Gunn attacks Venis post-match too, because he still doesn’t like him he was just annoyed that Ken Shamrock shoved him. The logical payoff to this would have been Gunn winning the belt (And possibly Ryan) at WrestleMania XV, but they ended up flushing away all of the build by having Road Dogg randomly win the IC Title and Gunn randomly winning the Hardcore Title, thus robbing both of the Mania storylines of their logical endings and leaving us with two multi-man matches that no one cared about after already building them up for three months. Ah, that Vince Russo, he’s a card isn’t he?
Triple H and WWF European Champ X-Pac Vs Kane and Chyna
This one came about because Chyna screwed D-X and joined The Corporation, beginning a strange pseudo-romantic relationship with Kane that ultimately led to her betraying him as well, because that’s just what people did to Kane during the Attitude Era. Triple H calling Chyna a “big jacked up b*tch” in his pre-match promo gets by far the biggest pop of the show thus far from the misogynistic Attitude Era crowd. Cole pushes heavily that this is the first time a woman has ever been involved in a match with men, which I guess means he’s already forgotten her stint in the Royal Rumble less than a month before this. Either that or he’s just a robot who says whatever he’s programmed to say whether it makes sense or not. I’ll let you be the judge on that front.
Triple H reveals that he’s wearing a Chyna shirt before the match starts, but he symbolically rips it up and then wipes his bum with it in a pretty cool visual. Sadly Shane McMahon decides to join us on commentary, which mostly comes down to him yelling “Come on Kane/Chyna” or just “Yeah!” depending on what’s happening. It’s the most 90’s thing I’ve ever heard, and not in a good way. D-X gets a quick shine on Kane but he manages to clobber X-Pac and then tags in Chyna. This almost leads to her taking the Bronco Buster to a big pop, but she bails before it happens and Kane blind tags himself back in.
They’ve put this together smartly, as the crowd really wants to see D-X give Chyna a kicking as revenge for her turning on the group, but then keep pulling it away just as it’s about to happen. It’s classic booking and it works a treat, especially as they’ll have Kane clobber the two faces and then bring Chyna in to pick the bones with the occasional power move, which not only makes her look impressive but also riles up the crowd even more. This match has had the best heat of anything so far and the work hasn’t been bad either, so it’s an entertaining watch as a result. X-Pac even gets to attack Shane at one stage to shut him up for a bit, getting another big pop in the process.
One of the more impressive moments sees Chyna give X-Pac a British Bulldog styled running powerslam. Sure, X-Pac goes up for her, but it still looks cool and is a decent display of power on her part as well. The heels eventually cut X-Pac off and work some proper heat on him, which is good because he’s an excellent face in peril and this was before the fans started hating the sight of him. I do like how Cole always referred to X-Pac as a “martial arts expert”, but never actually took the time to mention what martial art he mastered in. Dork-fu maybe?
Triple H eventually gets the hot tag to a big pop and we get the Triple H/Chyna collision, with Triple H showing no restraint in sending his bird flying with punches. However, Kane drags him out before we can see the Pedigree, but that does allow X-Pac to get her with the Bronco Buster to send the crowd wild. Shane breaks that up, so X-Pac stupidly chases him to the back to leave his buddy alone with the two heels. Triple H looks to have it all well in hand, but Kane catches him with a choke slam and then drapes Chyna over him to give us the pretty rare sight of a clean Triple H job, as by 1999 he was getting pretty heavily protected.
WINNERS: CHYNA & KANE
Good match that featured some fun action and was booked really well. They got the absolute most out of Chyna there and it’s no surprise that they gave her more matches going forward as she was super effective here
Kane helps Chyna to the back. This would again have a surprisingly logical payoff of Kane Vs Triple H at Mania with Chyna being in Kane’s corner, and the resulting double turn gave both guys a shot in the arm.
We see that they have ambulances ready for the next match.
Last Man Standing
Champ: Mankind Vs The Rock
Rock had defeated Mankind to win the WWF Title at Survivor Series 98 in the final of The Deadly Game (Cause it’s a Deadly Game!) Tournament, going Corporate in the process. The two had traded the belt a few times since and this match was supposed to be the final blow off. Rock realised that he probably wasn’t going to be able to actually knock Mankind out for a count of 10, due to him being Mankind and all, so his game plan is to work over Mankind’s leg instead so that he can’t physically hold himself up, which is actually a really neat bit of psychology.
I recall from reading one of Mick Foley’s books that he did have a legitimate leg injury at the time, so he reasoned that they might as well just work it into the story of the match. This is of course meant that they were adding even more damage onto an already injured limb, but at least it made it easy for Mankind to sell realistically I guess. There’s a Bill Apter sighting as they brawl early on, with it not taking long before they head outside and over to the entrance way. It’s pretty fun brawling actually, as they destroy anything they can get their hands on. The intensity is diminished somewhat due to Snow and Holly already doing this in an under card match where they weren’t selling things anywhere near as much, but that’s not the fault of these two.
Mankind of course takes a back suplex on the concrete at one stage, because Mick Foley is an absolute nutter, but he manages to make it back up and the two eventually brawl back down the ringside area. Mankind actually tries stealing The People’s Elbow at one stage, but Rock manages to move out of the way. You just know that Mankind was getting a kick out of trying to steal that move as he always thought it was stupid and regularly complained about it. Rock gives Mankind some suplexes on the floor following that and then steals Cole’s headset to do some funny commentary, which leads to Mankind punching him whilst he still has the headset on.
Rock was really getting into a groove of doing fun character work like that in wild Attitude Era brawls. I remember he stole a camera in one of the matches with Stone Cold and filmed himself beating Austin up. This match has been a lot of fun actually, as they’ve mixed some comedy in with some really effective heavy brawling moments and it’s been a good watch as a result. Rock does finally start honing in on the leg with some chair shots and then gets even more vicious by using the steps as well. I don’t think it gets remembered that often, but this Mankind feud gave Rock a pronounced vicious streak that his character was kind of lacking and allowed him to take that next step into being a top guy.
Cole does get one very good sell in when Rock drops the stairs from inside the ring out on to Mankind on the floor, which really gets it over as being a dangerous attack. It did look horrible actually, as it’s kind of hard to protect yourself with that and you kind of just have to lie there whilst someone drops something heavy on you from a tall height. Rock seems pretty confident in his impending victory, so he grabs the mic and starts singing Smackdown Hotel, only for Mankind to counter it into a Mandible Claw. That entire segment of the match was fabulous, with Rock selling the move great and Mankind’s timing being spot on.
Earl Hebner took a bump whilst Rock was in the claw, meaning that he’s slow to count, which allows Rock to get up in time to beat the count and then bonk Mankind right in his boiler room to buy himself some time. Last Man Standing matches are difficult sometimes as having to wait for the count out teases can kill the momentum a bit, but they do it well here and the crowd is super into it. This show was on its way to being a bit of a disaster, but that last tag match gave it a real shot in the arm and this match has been great. Sadly we don’t get the promised blow off to the feud though, as both men clock one another with a chair and that’s enough for the double KO.
DOUBLE COUNT OUT
Great match with a bit of a cheap finish, but the brawl up to that point was all kinds of fun
Mankind and Rock are both taken out on stretchers following that. According to one of Mick Foley’s books they ended the match this way because there was consideration of doing a triple threat match at Mania between Mankind, Rock and Stone Cold, with this finish leaving that option on the table if they wanted to do it. They ended up not going in that direction though (Supposedly because Shawn Michaels felt that the Main Event of WrestleMania should be a singles match and campaigned for the triple threat idea to be dropped) and Rock would defeat Mankind for the Title on Raw. Mankind would get some involvement in the match though, as he would end up being the guest referee.
WrestleMania Title Shot On The Line
Vince McMahon Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin
Vince won the Royal Rumble last eliminating Austin thanks to The Rock, but then decided he would give up the Title shot. This led to Shawn Michaels just inserting Austin back into the match as the runner up, but Austin agreed to put the shot up provided Vince faced him in a cage. Vince agreed and had The Corporation beat up Austin on the go-home Raw, so Stone Cold is even more ticked off than he’d usually be. This is the proper old school blue bar cage as well, with them having to set it up prior to the bout, although they have painted it black at least in order to make it look more ominous. Vince has barred The Corporation from interfering under threat of the sack, but what if there was someone who wasn’t technically in The Corporation…
Austin actually enters first, but that’s so Vince can come out second and then stall about getting into the cage. Eventually Austin gets sick of waiting and we have our big chase, which ends with Vince clambering up the cage and then getting knocked off through a table in a super impressive bump for a guy of Vince’s age and lack of in-ring experience. They sell that Vince is done after that and he starts getting carted away, but Austin debuts the Family Feud/Family Fortunes wrong answer noise and says that Vince isn’t going to lose so easily, which leads to Vince getting dragged back into the cage so the match proper can start.
Austin of course dominates inside the ring, because this was before they actually let Vince get any semblance of proper offence in on the wrestlers, and draws blood like he promised in the build-up. Vince is soon battered like a fillet of hake on a Friday night and ready to be wrapped in some newspaper with chips and mushy peas, so Austin decides he’s made his point and gets ready to leave. Vince desperately flips Austin off for want of anything else to actually do, and this succeeds in tempting Austin back in to wallop him some more.
Austin continues to give Vince an absolute kicking, but every time he tries to leave Vince keeps doing the middle finger trick to stop him from leaving. This is all part of Vince’s masterplan though, as it allows Big Show to make his WWF debut after jumping from WCW. All looks to be lost for Austin, but Big Show begins a trend of screwing things up for The Corporation by flinging Austin into the cage so hard that it breaks off and Austin clings on to hit the floor and win the match. Austin has a great shocked look on his face following that, whilst Vince is understandably crestfallen.
WINNER: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
It wasn’t much of an actual wrestling match, but it told a good story and worked well as a way for Austin to finally give Vince the battering the fans had wanted to see him dish out for nearly a year. The bump Vince took from the top of the cage was crazy as well and it’s amazing that he agreed to do that
Big Show seethes in the ring following that and they could have teased him Vs Austin all the way up to WrestleMania 2000 if they’d wanted to, but they ended up having Austin beat him semi-clean during the build to Mania XV, which remains one of the stupidest booking decisions of the whole Attitude Era. Big Show wasn’t officially in The Corporation yet either, which is how he got around the loophole that they were banned.
This show had a pretty rough first half, but the last three matches were good and rescued it somewhat. Sadly the build for WrestleMania XV was a bit of a disaster and the actual show itself was one of the worst Mania’s ever, but this show did a pretty good job of setting up some of the main matches for the show itself, and it would have been a good base to build from if they hadn’t gone totally off the deep end with it all as the weeks rolled on.
Mild thumbs up, but to be honest you’re pretty safe you just skipping to the last three matches and bypassing the undercard entirely.