ECW Crossing The Line Again: February 1, 1997

This is our first ECW arena show together, you and I. I remember, roughly 15 years ago, spending far too much time, effort, and money, trying to amass an unrivalled VHS collection of every wrestling program that ever aired in the history of the universe. This particular show was my first eye opener that there were some slippery people in the tape trading world. I, man of my world, traded someone a money order for roughly $25. They, in turn, traded me the finger. I never did wind up with my copy of Crossing The Line Again; though if you’d asked me to be patient for a decade and a half, and that one day everything I ever dreamed of could be digitally sought out and placed on a hard drive the size of one VHS tape, I could have invested thousands of dollars into my future and … who am I kidding, I wasn’t waiting no 15 years.
We start with a passionate speech from PAUL HEYMAN, promoting their first ever pay-per-view in April. THE ENTIRE ECW LOCKER ROOM is with him, though some of the more heely heels are located in the upper bowels. Taz is booked against Sabu to no surprise (but gets a 2 litre pop regardless). Paul then thanks all the fans for having his back when the PPV companies didn’t want to carry them (ignoring the fact HE allowed a 16 year old kid to get maimed on his watch), and the place explodes. Nobody can ever deny the charisma of a fired up Paul Heyman, and it’s his Us vs The World stuff that had wrestlers literally willing to die for him in the name of keeping the ECW brand alive.
JOEY STYLES hosts, because OH MY GOD nobody else is willing to work for free.

This seems to be joined in progress, but it’s not far along because Balls isn’t sweaty. Balls no sells a lot of the early offense, but a spinning heel kick takes him off his feet. Balls tries one of his own, but Storm sidesteps and he twists his knee up between the ropes and the fall to the floor. A slingshot senton from Storm keeps Balls down, but back in, Mahoney turns the tables with a gutshot to stop a flying attack. A legdrop gets 2, while a t-bone gets nothing but probably hurt like hell. The Vaderbomb connects, and Balls grins sheepishly about his impending victory, but Storm kicks out. Balls whips Lance to the corner, by a springboard back elbow knocks the big guy down, and Storm gets back on the attack with his speed. A beautiful missile dropkick, with Storm’s rattail flowing like a beautiful golden sunset over a pristine lake setting gets 2. Balls recovers fast, and piledrives the small guy and goes for an elbowdrop off the second rope. It misses, and Storm quickly finishes with the spinning heel kick off the top at 5:22. This was a fun small man / big man clash, and probably about as good as anything you’ll get out of Mahoney. **
RICKY MORTON (with his Girlfriend) vs. BIG STEVIE COOL (with Hollywood Nova and The Blue Guy)
Wrestling, being the spectator sport that it is, relies on a specific criteria for its lady managers. Unfortunately, Ricky Morton does not understand this, bringing his very real girlfriend to the ring for god knows what reason. She looks like one of the rejected girls who didn’t make it to TV from last week’s Cedar Rapids Miss nWo contest. Thankfully, the Blue Guy knows exactly how to handle the “SHOW YOUR TITS” chants.
Morton takes a lot of heat, not getting anywhere near the old school respect that Terry Funk commands. And it’s for that reason Morton tells them to kiss his ass, and starts in with his antiquated offense. Stevie hits a clothesline, which kicks off a loud “BWO” chant. Morton plays possum and tosses Stevie outside, but Meanie was waiting for him and slams Morton’s face into the ring post. Back in, the Emerald City Slam gets 2. Stevie tries a cross arm breaker, but Morton wriggles out and stomps on his face. Morton punches Richards in the pooter, but Stevie only sells for a second before mounting Ricky in the corner and playing the 10-punch count-a-long, complete with face-fucking on 9. The Jackknife Powerbomb only gets 2, so Stevie warms up the band and finishes with the Stevie Kick at 5:35. Morton’s girlfriend joins the bWo after the match, wearing the t-shirt like a diaper thong. Totally one-sided, exactly as it should have been en-route to establishing Stevie as a legit challenger to Raven. *1/2
Blink and you’ll miss this one. Axl starts in with the kick punch crap, but Williams has no time for amateur hour. 3 Point Stance sets up the Oklahoma Stampede for 2, and a backdrop driver finishes at 1:49.
JOEY STYLES heads down for an interview with Williams, and he wants a title shot. RAVEN arrives, and tells him if he wants the belt, then he’s gonna have to take it. I wouldn’t exactly encourage that, Raven just spent the last month chasing around The Sandman trying to get it back from the drunken klepto. The pair starts to brawl, so TOD GORDON shrugs and makes it a title match.
RAVEN vs. “DR. DEATH” STEVE WILLIAMS (for the ECW world heavyweight title)
Raven wastes no time in throwing Williams face-first to the ring post, and smashes a chair over the Doc’s back. Styles does a fantastic job selling Williams as the most dominant North American wrestler of the last decade, even though the only reason he hasn’t been pinned since the late 80’s on US soil is because he’s been hanging out in Japan and doing minimal high profile work in the States. Raven sets Williams on a table by the guardrail, but he rolls away as Raven flies in with a legdrop off the top and through the table. Williams grabs the chair, and gives Raven a shot to the face that would draw the ire of every medical professional in America today. Both guys are busted open, but Williams refuses to sell the pain, tossing Raven back into the middle of the ring. A powerslam gets 2, and a couple of fans were gasping there thinking that was it. Doc throws a series of clotheslines, and just as Raven escapes the third and looks to be on the move, Williams throws him halfway across the ring with a release German for 2. Raven staggers around, completely lost, and Williams nails a top rope shoulderblock for 2. He goes up again, and Raven throws a bunch of desperation haymakers to stop the attack. Williams is stunned just enough for Raven to jump up and hit the superplex. Charged with momentum, Raven jumps up in his pose to a massive reception … and passes out. THE BLUE WORLD ORDER, complete with TYLER and LORI FULLINGTON, make their way down to the ring. A confused Raven asks Stevie what the deal is, and the next thing you know they’re throwing punches at each other. He forgets all about Richards, who punches Raven in the back of the head, and he falls forward, noggin to noggin with Richards, knocking both men out. The Doc gorilla presses Raven into the entire bWo at ringside, except for Richards who’s still in the ring and offering his shirt to Williams. Williams tears it apart, so Richards gives him the Steviekick, but Williams pops up! A second one yields the same, and Death tells him to bring it on. The fans chant “ONE MORE TIME”, but this one’s blocked. Williams spins him around, and Stevie manages to snap off that third Steviekick. Williams isn’t getting up this time. A bloodied Raven sees his opportunity, hits the Evenflow, and retains the title at 8:27. A shame this was a one shot deal, Williams was put over like the birth of a hardcore Hulk Hogan, and he easily could have done a series with Raven. ***
D-Von manages to sit through Sandman’s entrance for roughly 45 minutes before he grows bored and jumps over the top to attack. I figure that was just to get the damn match started before his next birthday. D-Von grabs the stick, and smashes it over Sandman’s face repeatedly, and he’s already bleeding. D-Von sticks to the basics of punching Sandman in the face and jawing with the fans, but Sandman eventually figures to have had enough and kicks a field goal. The fans chant their rallying cry of “FUCK HIM UP SANDMAN, FUCK HIM UP!”, and Sandman obliges with a hotshot onto the guardrail, followed by a spinning heel kick off the apron. A table has been helpfully left at ringside, so Sandman smashes it over D-Von’s head and retrieves his Singapore cane. Repeated shots wind up breaking his toy, so Sandman whips him in the face with the splintered cane and DDT’s him. Bored, Sandman grabs a chair, drapes it across D-Von’s face, and drops a leg onto it from the top to score the easy win at 5:31. Sandman stares on, looking completely lifeless following the loss of his family, and doesn’t seem to particularly care that he won. The Sandman is probably one of the most tragic characters in wrestling history, because clearly feeds off of, and lives for the adulation of a group of fans who only love him because he’s a violent miserable drunk. But once that bell rings, he returns to his broken home, where you KNOW his fridge is stocked with about 400 cans of beer, and a half empty squeeze bottle of mustard. He’ll eventually pass out in his arm-chair, to the quiet flicker of late night infomercials from spirit-healing priests just begging you to send them money in exchange for miracle spring water, before he wakes up in a fog and returns to do it all again tomorrow. He’s the wrestling embodiment of an award winning short-film director who once said “don’t cry for me, I’m already dead”. *
JOEL GERTNER makes his way into the ring in the aftermath of this mess, and has the audacity to announce D-Von as the winner by a final score of 4-2, so Sandman knocks him out cold with a shot to the head with the cane. D-Von’s awake again though, and steals the cane, beating down the Sandman until BUBBA RAY and SPIKE DUDLEY come to knock it off. Face to face with their estranged brother … Bubba grabs a chair and smashes it into Sandman’s face! Spike can’t understand what the hell is going on, as both Dudleys break into grins. Spike attacks his brothers, dropkicking the chair into the face of Bubba, but two-on-one is far too much, and Spike gets nailed with a “double Bubba Cutter” which would in fact be the first appearance of the 3-D. Sandman takes a half dozen more chair shots and cane shots to the head until DA GANGSTAS clean house with a household worth of weapons. D-Von nearly gets killed with a messed up backdrop/Samoan drop thing which sends him face first into a chair via New Jack. Still, the Dudleys are the new hot team of the hour, and they come back, beating the former champs down and standing tall.
So, that was a lot of stuff for one segment. Far too much actually, Da Gangsta’s stuff could have been saved for a future show easily, instead of dragging that segment out for another 5 minutes.
THE ELIMINATORS vs. SABU and ROB VAN DAM (for the ECW world tag-team titles)
A freshly shorn Saturn starts with RVD, who struts around looking far too comfortable in his own skin right now. A spin kick knocks down Saturn, but he comes right back with a gorgeous dropkick to the face for 1. Kronus tags in and shows off, but he’s in there with the biggest show-off of them all, and Kronus is taken down with a bunch of martial arts kicks. A double-team slingshot splash introduces Sabu to the match, but Kronus hits a spinning heel kick to keep him at bay. A pumphandle suplex gets 2. Sabu hits a springboard back elbow off an Irish whip and turns matters back to Van Dam. Kronus rakes the eyes, and Saturn joins the fray as they hit stereo spinning heel kicks for 2! Sabu quickly holds Saturn hostage in a camel clutch, allowing RVD to hit a baseball slide dropkick to the face. Gory special is applied mid-ring, and Sabu flies off the top with an elbow to Saturn’s ribs. Kronus barely saves at 2, but it’s enough for Saturn to come back with a dropkick to the face. Saturn tries to block a tag by throwing a knee to Van Dam’s ear, but he manages to get there and Sabu heads in … right into a Saturnbomb for 2! Kronus and RVD throw down outside the ring, while Saturn drops Sabu with a Diamond Cutter. Everything breaks down now, and guys wind up in all parts of the outside area. Sabu dives at Saturn in the front row, drawing an “ECW” chant when he clears the guardrail. They head back in, and Sabu works a single leg crab while RVD drops a leg for 2. Rolling Thunder is complimented with a legdrop, and that gets 2. Saturn tags in his buddy, and Kronus greets Van Dam with a pump kick. Top rope splash gets 1 before Sabu saves, but he doesn’t see Saturn flying in next with a splash, and THAT gets 2. The show gets stopped with a quick scoop slam, and the challengers hit a top rope legdrop/splash combo for 2. Kronus tries to DDT Sabu, but it’s reversed into a hammerlock. Saturn breaks it up, Kronus hits an enzuigiri, and Saturn drops a leg for 2. Another enzuigiri sets up a superkick, and Kronus gets 2. A second rope senton backsplash has Kronus fired up and saying Bad Words, but he’s a little too full of pip and zip, getting backdropped to the outside by Sabu. Sabu sets up a table with Kronus on it, gets in, and goes for the triple jump legdrop; except Saturn’s too close and trips Sabu up while going for the top rope springboard. Sabu uses a leg lariat to fight off Saturn, while Van Dam brings the table into the ring. The Eliminators clean house before anything comes of it, but it remains in the ring, lurking like a bad dream. Saturn adds to the mess by getting a short painter’s ladder, but when he heads up to attack Van Dam, Sabu dropkicks it from behind and he falls on his partner instead! Both guys are wiped out with ladder shots, and they try for a dual pin. Both guys kick out, so the challengers climb each side of the ladder, giving the champs just enough time to get up and nail the ladder with Total Elimination to bring them crashing back down to reality. The fans are on their feet chanting “ECW” as Styles fills with company pride, while Saturn sets the ladder up ON the table. The table doesn’t look too sturdy, and as Saturn slowly makes his way up for whatever the hell he has planned, Van Dam kicks him off and nails him with the Van Daminator! Kronus barely saves the day, and once Sabu tosses Saturn, he’s left alone with the challengers. With nowhere to go, he fights as best he can, but succumbs to the numbers. The Triple Jump Moonsault misses, because Saturn just barely returns to shove Van Dam in the way, and Total Elimination finishes RVD off at 20:03. So, this match has been heralded a classic in some circles, but it didn’t do it for me. There were a lot of nice spots, but it literally felt like “ok, I did my move, now it’s your turn”, with very little selling of any kind, and absolutely no storytelling at all. Where Sabu’s concerned, you either love him or you don’t, and you can find me in the Don’t section. **
So after Sabu eats Total Elimination, cuz why not, TAZ shows up with BILL ALPHONSO. This is probably bad news for the fallen challengers. True to his word, Taz beats down RVD with a chair in retaliation for Van Dam’s previous assault, and locks on the Tazmission to prove that his hands are even MORE lethal than the steel. The Eliminations hold Sabu hostage, and Taz readies to strike with the chair … but he drops it and just spits in his face instead. Sabu tries to wiggle loose, but he’s dropped with the Total Elimination again. Taz tells him he doesn’t actually need the tag-team champs to do his bidding, because what he REALLY wants is for Sabu to grow a pair of balls and show up at the pay-per-view.
Really? This needs to be paid off? The fans use a surprisingly witty “YOU SUCK COCK” chant which gets a laugh out of me. Funk soaks in the love while Rich heads into the crowd to feed it to the locals, instead of getting fed as was the style in 1981. Terry busts him open with his left hands all of 3 seconds into the match, and Rich is on weak legs. They head outside, where Rich tries a kneelift, but he hits the guardrail instead of Terry. Funk smashes a chair into Tommy’s leg a dozen times or so, and Rich hobbles around like Zack Gowen. Back in the ring, Terry takes a seat on the chair, and starts lecturing Rich about respect while bitch slapping him over and over. Then he tosses the chair away cuz that’s not how Funk do; but that turns out to be a mistake because Tommy finds his wild fire and gives it to Terry. Funk is introduced face to face with the ring post, and dropped into the front row. Rich gives Terry a couple of REALLY weak chair shots to the head, and they head back in. Rich works a half crab across the top rope, while the fans give him the love via a “YOU FAT FUCK” chant. Tommy uses it for inspiration, and clotheslines Funk until he starts to bleed. A DDT looks to finish, but Funk won’t stay down. A second DDT gets another 2, and Rich finally has enough of the ref’s “slow” counts and DDTs HIM too – twice! Terry rolls to the “safety” of the table set up at ringside, but Rich grabs a chair and drives it into Funk’s knee. Rich gives himself a standing ovation, but Funk’s not down til he’s down, and starts throwing his desperation windmill punches. Rich sweeps Funk’s legs, and tries to finish Terry with the spinning toe hold – how heelish! Terry escapes and drops a knee to Rich’s junk, and now HE works the spinning toe hold until Rich gives it up (again?) at 10:51. Funk celebrates with another kick to the plums, and stands victorious with the fans. **1/2
The babyfaces are stupid enough to stand on the buckles and pose when the heels are standing in the ring, in THIS company, and they wind up getting attacked. Brilliant work, boneheads. Douglas destroys #2 with chairshots to the head, and they make their way back in to celebrate. Of course, now THEY’RE the morons with any kind of premature celebration, and everyone spills back out to the floor and pair off. #2 winds up back in the ring with Lee and Douglas, but he successfully beats them both down until Dreamer’s able to join him with a bent piece of the guardrail. Lee is tossed into the railing, and Candido’s dumped, leaving Douglas alone with all his biggest enemies. “BREAK HIS NECK” scream the ever human fans, and lord do they try, press slamming Douglas into the guardrail, causing it to fold up on itself. On the floor, Dreamer grabs the Pitbulls chain and drives it into Candido’s face. They wind up back in the ring, and Candido crotches Dreamer across the broken guardrail piece. Tommy eats a spike piledriver while Douglas threatens to throw the guardrail at the fans. The Pitbulls wind up completely incapacitated, and the Triple Threat converge to work over Tommy with a bunch of chairs. A vertical suplex THROUGH a couple of chairs make it so that those won’t ever be used again, while Candido catches Pitbull #2 with the chain, and ties him up by the neck around the ringpost, trying to choke him to death. He’s a bloody mess, and probably not getting involved again for awhile. Candido gives Dreamer a snap suplex, and a kneedrop from Lee gets 2. The Bulldozer launches Candido off the top, right onto Dreamer for a super splash. Candido wants to finish now, and goes for the top rope powerbomb. Dreamer blocks it with a backdrop, and nails the DDT for 2. CLOUDY (?!?!) shows up now, but BEULAH’s right behind the nasty creature, upending it with a chairshot and dragging it back to the locker room. Really, Cloudy? Dreamer is held hostage by Lee with a chair, but he squirms loose JUST as Douglas and Candido come flying in with dropkicks, and the Bulldozer is down! The distraction lets the Pitbulls FINALLY re-enter the match, and they dump Candido to get their hands on Douglas. He’s tied up in the ropes, but Candido saves before anything happens. #1 is alone with Douglas now, and cracks him with a chair – but Candido dives back in to save his buddy from more. Everyone winds up back in, and the heels hit a trio of Rude Awakenings and start wiggling their hips, drawing a “you have GOT to be SHITTIN’ me” from THE MASKED MAN, who makes his way to ringside.. He tells the “fuckin’ assholes” that not only do they have no idea who he is, but they don’t know how to do the Rude Awakening. “Look behind you, assholes.” Too late, of course, with Lee and Candido dumped and Douglas tied up in the ropes, unable to do anything. #2 gives Douglas a press slam, and #1 hits the Rude Awakening while the Masked Man hangs Francine over the top rope and spanks her to the mother of all pops. Once she runs off to safety, Masked Man helps them set up a table and the fans want a Superbomb. In ECW, you want, you get, and #1 is powerbombed off the top through Douglas and the table to win the match at 16:23. This was a little better structurally than the tag-team match, but it was still disjointed mess, with all the emphasis on the weapons instead of the wrestling. **
Both Douglas and Pitbull #1 need to be stretchered, but this is ECW and there’s only 1 stretcher available, and Dreamer makes damn sure it’s HIS partner that gets it. Lee carries Douglas to the locker room while Styles signs us off.
So much for the hot streak! There was so much missed opportunity here, as evidenced by the fact that the best matches of the night were all put on by the older guys. The fact is, guys like Williams and Funk understand how to make a match violent, without resorting to all the stupid props and tricks. Hell, Terry managed to tell a fantastic story with a completely washed up Tommy Rich.
The young guys need to take something away from this. The locals will always pop huge for chair-shots and bloody messes, so it’s not like anyone’s going to be hurting for adulation; but longevity is brought on by making the fans want to see more instead of repeating the same spots week after week. This applies not only to ECW, but the nWo – and while hindsight is always 20/20, it’s not a wonder that the only group who successfully adapted was also the only one left standing at the end of the war.

Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line Review (Disc 3 and 4)

Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line on the Most Popular Superstar of All Time:

Three – Austin On Top of the Wrestling World
WWF Heavyweight Title: Stone Cold
Steve Austin (c) vs. Dude Love (05/31/98).

Vince McMahon is the referee, Patterson is the ring announcer, and Briscoe is the timekeeper. Surprisingly, Undertaker comes out to make sure there is not any foul play going on. Dude knocks Austin down a few times, as McMahon tries to perform a couple of fast counts. Dude tries to put in the mandible claw, but Austin throws Dude into the ropes where he hangs (similar to how he lost his ear against Vader). They brawl on the outside, where McMahon adds in a no count out stipulation. Austin now cannot retain the belt via count out. Dude throws Austin over the Spanish announce table and proceeds to choke Austin with a cord. Vince McMahon adds in “No DQ” stipulation as a result. On commentary, Jim Ross flips his lid because of this. Austin fights back and sends Dude over the guardrail with a clothesline. Back inside, Austin accidentally crotches himself. Dude hits a baseball slide that sends Austin to the outside. Dude hits a neckbreaker on the floor and Patterson announces that is it now a Falls Count Anywhere match. Ross is pissed! Dude backslides Austin outside for two. Austin fights back with a lariat that almost takes Dude’s head off. Dude backdrops Austin onto one of the cars used as scenery. They make their way onto the roof of the car. Dude counters a Stunner and sends Austin flying off the car. Austin is now busted open. Dude picks up an exhaust pipe, but he softly hits it over the back of Austin’s head. Either Dude thought better of it or Austin wasn’t ready. Austin mounts a little comeback, but Dude reverses a piledriver attempt. Dude hits a suplex and heads up to the roof of the car.

Austin ducks out of the way from an elbow drop, though. They fight back near ringside. Back inside, Patterson trips Austin’s leg, allowing Dude to regain control. Dude takes off the turnbuckle and rams Austin’s bloody head into it. Dude grabs a chair and hits a double-arm DDT on it that picks up a two count. Dude charges Austin with the chair, but Austin gets a foot up. Austin then SMASHES Dude with an exposed chair shot to the head. Austin pins Dude, but Vince does not count and gives him the bird. Jim Ross cries, “Count ‘em, count ‘em!” Dude goes to hit Austin with a chair. Austin ducks, which causes Dude to hit McMahon with the chair. Austin hits the Stunner, but there is no referee. A referee runs in to make the count, but Patterson pulls him out of the ring. Mick sinks in the Mandible Claw and forces Austin’s shoulders down to the mat. Patterson jumps in to count to three, but Undertaker pulls him out and chokeslams him through the announce table. Briscoe tries to make a three count, only to be chokeslammed through the other announce table. Austin tells Dude not to fuck with Da Jesus and hits him with a Stunner. There is no referee, though, so Austin uses McMahon’s hand to count to three @ 24:40. This ferocious brawl immeasurably stacked the deck against the fan favorite champion, causing Austin to become an enormous face-in-peril. Not only did he have to fight the psychotic Dude Love, but he also had to overcome Vince McMahon being a partial referee and his Stooges being near ringside. Come hell or high water, Austin succeeded and gave the heels their comeuppance they deserved. Concisely, they found a creative way to stack the deck against the fan favorite, and then found a creative way for him to overcome the odds. This was epic Attitude Era booking at its best.
Above all, business became rather simple for WWF after this. They realized how effective this template was. So for that reason, they kept stacking the deck against Austin to a point where it seemed impossible for him to overcome. That caused tons of people to pay and see if their idol could vanquish over all the obstacles. **** ½

WWF Heavyweight Title: Steve Austin (c) vs. The Undertaker (08/30/98).

It was rumored that Vince Russo wanted to turn Undertaker on Austin, but he was overruled in favor of a ‘‘babyfaces who do not trust each other’’ story. The build for this was very captivating, especially the “Highway to Hell” video packages. Austin unexpectedly starts off with some technical wrestling. Some miscommunication between the two occurs when Undertaker puts his head down for a back body drop, but he lifts his head up too quickly. This causes his head to crash into Austin’s face. Taker suplexes Austin and then hits him with an elbow drop. Austin still looks dazed from that botched spot. Austin yanks Taker down by his leg and goes outside to smash Taker’s left leg into the ring post. Back in, Taker fights back and hits the flying clothesline. Taker tries to go for Old School, but Austin pulls him off the ropes. Kane slowly walks down to the ring. But whose side is he on!? Austin and Taker trade some blows. The exchange ends when Taker chokeslams Austin. Austin fights back and clotheslines Taker over the top rope. They brawl outside and then make their way into the crowd. Back near ringside, Taker throws Austin into the ring post. Austin tries to mount a comeback inside, but Taker throws him to the outside. Taker places him on the announce table. He hits a leg drop onto Austin all the way from the top-rope. A very sick looking spot.

Taker throws him back in the ring, but he only gets a near-fall out of it. They collide with each other, causing them to both be knocked out. Austin fights back with some rights and then hits a Thesz Press. Taker fights back and locks in a waistlock for whatever reason. Austin counters it with a half-assed Stunner that gets a two. Taker recuperates and hits a chokeslam. He goes for a Tombstone, but Austin wiggles out of it. Austin goes for the Stunner, but Taker blocks it. Taker crotches him and goes for Old School. On his way down, Austin catches him with a boot to the midsection followed by a Stunner. That picks up the win @ 20:30. Given all the hype, this was a disappointment. Both wrestlers shoehorned some technical moves into this, and they extracted some of the buzz out of the building in the midst of doing them. Their chemistry was also not all that sharp, resulting in some awkward moments and blown spots. This would have been better if it was just one of those wild and crazy Attitude Era slugfests. However, this did have an enormous vibe to it. It was one of those monumental showdowns that only happen once in a blue moon. With that in mind, I will be generous by calling it just barely above-average, but this should have been a lot better. ***

Steve Austin vs. The Big Show (w/Vince McMahon – 3/22/99)

Rock is on commentary, which is always fun. Mankind is the special guest referee. Show methodically dominates early on. Austin fights back, but Big Show catches him in a bear hug. Austin breaks out of the hold with some rights. Austin ducks a few clotheslines and then hits a Thesz Press. Austin tries to pin Big Show, but he kicks out with authority. Austin is done playing games, so he grabs a chair and whacks Big Show with it several of times. Rock tries to interfere, but Austin hits him with the chair too. Austin finishes Big Show off with a Stunner @ 10:34. I do not understand why this was on here. It was a rather bland David vs. Goliath story and had no historical importance. * ¼

WWF Heavyweight Title, No DQ: The Rock (c) vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (3/28/99)

Jim Ross figuratively tells Michael Cole to take a hike and replaces him on commentary. Vince McMahon comes out as the special guest referee, but Commissioner Shawn Michaels sends him packing. Rock and Austin talk trash to each other and then trade right hands. The brawl breaks out into the crowd. They fight up to the staging area, where Austin tosses Rock into the railing. Austin goes for a piledriver, but Rock backdrops him into the lighting track. Austin fights back by hitting him where the sun doesn’t shine. Austin strangles him with an extension cord and tosses Rock into the Wrestlemania sign. They fight back down to the arena. Rock picks up a bottle of water and spits in Austin’s face. Austin fights back and picks him up and drops him on the Spanish announce table. He jumps on Rock with an elbow, causing the table to collapse. Austin spits some water in Rock’s face. A spit-for-a-spit. Back in, Rock hits a Rock Bottom out of nowhere, but it only picks up a two-count. Rock finds a chair and brings it in the ring. He goes to hit Austin with it, but Austin takes it from his hands. Rock ducks a chair shot, causing the chair to hit the referee.

Rock picks up the chair and rocks Austin with it. Tim White comes out to make the pinfall, but Austin kicks out at two. Rock hits a Samoan Drop, but Austin kicks out again. The Rock thinks Tim White is not counting fast enough, so he gives him a Rock Bottom for his troubles. As the Rock turns around, Austin hits him with a Stunner. Earl Hebner runs out to make the count, but Rock kicks out at two. McMahon distracts Austin, allowing Rock to blindside him. McMahon attacks Hebner, and both McMahon and Rock stomp on Austin. Mankind hits the ring to attack McMahon and to replace Hebner as the referee. Austin rolls Rock up, but only gets a two. Austin hits the Thesz Press. Rock hits another Rock Bottom out of nowhere. Rock goes for the People’s Elbow, but he misses. Austin gets back up and hits a Stunner that ends this one. New Champion @ 16:50. Wow, Russo’s fingerprints were all over this. Because of how successful Survivor Series 1998 was, McMahon gave Russo more control. To no surprise, the booking started to mar matches instead of enhancing them. Henceforth why WWF ’99 was one of the company’s weakest years when it came to an in-ring product. The story that surrounded this played out decently, but some matches are better off left alone. I vehemently believe Rock vs. Austin is one of them, but Russo, you know, never believed people watched wrestling for the wrestling. Fortunately, though, Austin and Rock were perfect foils to one another and their chemistry was dynamite. So, this was still very good. *** ½

WWF Heavyweight Title, No DQ: The Rock (c) vs. Steve Austin (04/01/01).

Granted, Austin’s heel turn did not work out in the end for a variety of reasons, but what happened in the aftermath does not change a thing about how outstanding the rising action leading up to their encounter was. After being hit by a car, Stone Cold was just not the same ass-kicker that he had been before the accident. This was clearly communicated when failed to put Triple H away once and for all in a losing effort at No Way Out. Austin’s heel turn came as a total shock to many, but with the benefit of hindsight, the WWF writing staff brilliantly left a trail of breadcrumbs for anybody who had paid close attention. In a sound bite that was replayed repeatedly in promos leading up to the match, Austin told the champion “I need to beat you, Rock. I need it more than anything.” What seemed like traditional fare for a pre-match build took on new meaning after the match. Austin knew he lacked the killer instinct he once had, but he desperately wanted to become champion, so he sold his soul to the devil himself… Mr. McMahon. 

Austin receives a nuclear pop from the Texas audience, while Rock receives a 50-50 one at best. Not wasting any time, Austin hits a Thesz Press followed by some right hands. Rock goes for a Rock Bottom, but Austin fights out of it. Austin goes for a Stunner, but Rock gets out of it. They start to brawl and it breaks out into the crowd. Back in, Austin hits a superplex for two. Austin tears off the turnbuckle, foreshadowing his heel turn. Rock fights back and hits a clothesline. He follows up with a belly-to-belly suplex that picks up a two count. Austin battles back and hits a neckbreaker that picks up a two. Austin stomps a mud hole in Rock. Austin takes his eyes off Rock, though, which allows Rock to hit him with a clothesline. Austin goes to the outside and Rock follows him. Rock goes behind Austin, who turns around and clocks him with the ringbell. Back in, Austin delivers a neckbreaker that picks up two. He throws Rock into the corner and stomps a mud hole into him. Rock recovers and drills Austin with a clothesline (These two prove that it is not what moves you do or bumps you take. It is all about how you do them. They execute practically every move charismatically and with so much exuberance, and they make bumps look vicious).

They trade some blows, ending with Rock throwing Austin into the exposed turnbuckle. Austin is now bleeding. Outside, they slug it out. Austin gets the better of the Rock by propelling him right into the turnbuckle. The Rock sells it like a million bucks. Austin hits Rock with a monitor and sends Rock back in the ring. He tries to pin him, but he can only pick up a two. Austin sets Rock up for the Stunner, but he insists on giving the Rock two middle fingers. This allows the Rock to take him down and lock in the Sharpshooter. I would have thought someone would’ve taught him how to do that move by now. Anyway, this ends up being a playback spot to Austin/Hart, as Austin covered in blood screams in agony from the hold. This time, however, Austin manages to fight out of the hold. Back on their feet, Rock goes for a Stunner, but Austin dishes out some comeuppance by putting Rock in the Sharpshooter. Rock powers out, though. Austin locks in the Cobra Clutch, but Rock pushes his feet off the ropes right into a pinning attempt that gets two (a playback spot to the finish of Austin vs. Hart Survivor Series ’96). Rock still has not recovered from the beating, so Austin continues to work him over. All of a sudden, Rock hits Austin with his own finishing move, but Austin kicks out! Vince McMahon starts to walk towards ringside. Rock hits a spinebuster and the People’s Elbow. McMahon pulls Rock off Austin before a count of three, though. Rock chases McMahon all around ringside. McMahon runs into the ring, and Rock runs into a Rock Bottom from Austin. Rock kicks out, though. Austin goes to hit the Rock, but he hits the referee instead. Austin hits Rock with a low blow.

Austin holds The Rock, allowing McMahon to smash a chair over his head. McMahon throws the referee into the ring. He starts to count, but Rock kicks out just in time. Austin attempts to smash a chair right over Rock’s head, but Rock counters it with a Rock Bottom. McMahon goes up to the apron to distract the referee. The Rock pulls McMahon into the ring and lays the smackdown on him. The Rock turns right into a Stunner, but he kicks out just in time! Austin’s facial expressions describe just how in disbelief he is. Austin smashes Rock with a thunderous chair shot. Austin keeps hitting the Rock again and again with the chair. He is then finally able to beat the Rock @ 28:01. Afterwards, Vince McMahon and Austin shake hands and drink beer as Jim Ross flips his lid on commentary. This had unparalleled vehemence, drama, psychology, and storytelling. Every spot they did had a heavy dose of electricity and snap behind it, and it was structured and paced in a manner where every spot was significant. They sold moves, moments, and exhaustion like champions, and bumped around like pinball machines. When you add up the fact that these were the two were at their apex, the fact that the atmosphere was off the charts, the fact that one of the greatest announce teams called it, the fact that both wrestler did a fabulous job of selling the notion of how much they wanted to win, and the fact that there was months and months of foreshadowing that led to the huge swerve – this was easily one of the greatest matches ever. *****

Final Verdict on Disc Three: Aside from the Big Show match, this disc totally makes perfect sense . A big thumbs up.

Blue Ray Extras:

WWF Heavyweight Title: Steve Austin (c) vs. The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) vs. Triple H (w/Chyna) (5.16.99)

They all brawl down the aisle. Austin manages to fight off both Undertaker and HHH. They keep brawling all over the place until they go back near the ring. Austin tries to piledrive Undertaker, but he backdrops him on the floor. Hunter grabs a chair, but Earl Hebner takes it away from him. Austin picks up the chair and smashes it over HHH and Undertaker’s heads. Back in, the heels regain control. Taker and HHH argue over who is going to beat up Austin. Paul Bearer and Chyna argue outside as well. Strangely, Helmsley and Austin work together to eliminate the Undertaker. Vintage Russo! HHH turns on Austin and tries to pin him, but Taker pulls him off. Taker goes for a Tombstone on Austin, but Helmsley saves Austin. HHH tries to hit a Pedigree on Austin, but Austin shoots HHH right into a chokeslam. 

Austin hits a Stunner on Taker, but HHH makes the save. Stone Cold hits a Stunner on HHH. All of a sudden, the whole Corporate Ministry runs down to the ring and beat up Austin. A bunch random babyface wrestlers come in to make the save, though. In the midst of chaos, HHH holds Austin to let China hit him, but Austin ends up giving her a Stunner. Austin then gives HHH a Stunner and picks up the victory @ 24:58. Afterwards, Stone Cold stuns Shane McMahon. X-Pac then gives Shane and Chyna the Bronco Buster. For the most part, all three wrestlers phoned it in, and nothing is duller than a phoned-in match consisting of mostly kicks and punches. Undertaker and HHH’s beatdowns on Austin were plodding and seemingly endless, too. Bleh. **

WWF Title Match: Kurt Angle © vs. Steve Austin (10.08.01)
Debra walks out, but William Regal comes out and pulls her by the ear to the back. Regal comes down and takes a seat at ringside. This starts off as an intense back-and-forth brawl. Angle gains the advantage of the exchange. Austin comes back with a Thesz Press. Angle retaliates by hitting one of his own. Angle goes for a Stunner, but Austin blocks it. Angle locks in the Ankle Lock, but Austin escapes it and bails to the outside. Back in, Austin goes to work on Angle’s leg. Austin goes for a Stunner, but Angle counters it with a backslide. That picks up a two. Austin hits a sunset flip, but Angle sits down on him and starts punching him. Austin mounts a comeback. On the outside, he tries to piledrive Angle onto exposed concrete, but Angle counters with a backbody drop. Back in, Austin fights back and hits a spinebuster. He locks in a Boston Crab, but Angle is able to make it to the ropes. Austin misses a Bossman Straddle, but Angle gets out of the way. Angle fights back with some clotheslines. He hits a belly-to-belly suplex and then some rolling German suxplexes. Angle goes for his third German, but Austin lowblows him while the referee is not looking. 

Austin goes for the Stunner, but Angle counters it. Angle goes for the Angle Slam, but Austin counters it and pushes him right into the referee. Austin grabs his title and brings it in the ring. Regal jumps in the ring and takes the belt away from him. Regal ends up smashing Angle with the title! Regal throws the referee back in the ring to make the cover, but Angle kicks out just in time. Austin throws a hissy fit. Austin picks Angle up and delivers a Stunner that ends it @ 23:30 Phew. This had some accelerating back-and-forth action. Both wrestlers also added more fortitude to all of their spots than usual, which emphasized just how imperative winning was for the both of them. They developed some great chemistry together, which helped the counter-for-counter sequences to be on-point and executed at a blistering pace. And, they really sent the crowd into a frenzy down the stretch by doing a great job of selling the drama; especially Austin, who had some penetrating body language and urgency during the go-home stretch. One of the best Raw matches ever. **** ¼

WWF Heavyweight Title, No DQ Triple Threat: Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle vs. Rob Van Dam (10.21.01)

RVD and Austin argue, allowing Angle to German Suplex the both of them. They both regain the advantage and stomp on Angle. Both RVD and Austin have a stare down, but Angle attacks RVD from behind. Austin attacks both Angle and RVD, which kills the suspense for the Austin/RVD showdown. He goes for the Stunner, but Angle reverses to the Anklelock. RVD breaks the hold with a dropkick. Austin throws Angle to the outside and attacks Van Dam’s leg. Austin locks in a STF on RVD, but Angle breaks it up. Angle and Austin brawl out to the floor. RVD hits a rolling plancha from the top on both of them. Back in, Angle hits RVD with a Capture Suplex and hits a top-rope moonsault. Austin picks up Angle for a Stunner, but Angle counters it. Angle goes for a Stunner of his own, but Austin blocks it as well. They both clothesline each other. RVD goes for the Five-Star Frogsplash. But whose side is he on!? Both wrestlers move out of the way, so we don’t know who he was trying to hit. Austin hits Angle with Stunner. RVD attacks Austin and then hits the split-legged moonsault. Angle breaks up the pin and hits the Angleslam on RVD.
Outside, Angle and Austin brawl. Austin goes for the piledriver on the announce table, but Angle backdrops him. Vince McMahon makes his way down ringside. Back in, Angle punches a mudhole in RVD, but he runs into a spinning heel kick. Van Dam goes to the top, but Angle runs up and superplexes him off. Austin sneaks back in and gives Angle a Stunner that sends him to the floor. Austin sets up RVD up for the Stunner, Vince nails Austin in the back of the head with a chair. That allows RVD to hit the Five-Star Frogsplash, but Angle makes the save! Kurt delivers some Rolling Germans and the Angleslam on Angle. Shane McMahon makes the save, but Vince clobbers him. Austin pulls RVD up and finishes him off with the Stunner @ 15:30. I thought they mishandled the RVD and Austin trappings. They had their  stare down spot and the crowd was just eagerly anticipating them to slug it out. Smartly, they had Angle attack RVD from behind to build the tension and anticipation for the RVD/Austin showdown. However, Austin abruptly started to stomp on RVD while he was down. It was very anti-climactic, to say in the least. It also was transparent that the crowd was disappointed, as the arena went silent for a moment. In sum, they should have kept building the moment where they fight each other up to a prodigious crescendo. Fortunately, this was up-tempo and had some creative three-way spots, prompting the crowd to become reinvested into the action. More importantly, this felt like a triple threat match, in contrast to one of those so-called triple threats, wherein they switch off on what two wrestlers wrestle inside the ring while the other wrestler is outside selling as if a gun shot him. *** 1/2

One Last Time: The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (3.30.03)

This starts off as a slugest. Austin wins the exchange. He goes for Stunner, but Rock fights it out and bails. Outside, Austin picks up the Rock and drops him on the railing and then he throws him into the stairs. In the ring, Austin hits a backdrop suplex for two. Austin follows up with a lariat and chokes Rock with the ropes. Rock fights back and clips Austin’s knee. The Rock keeps going after Austin’s knee. Austin tries to fight back, but Rock whiplashes his neck into the mat. Rock locks in for the Sharpshooter, but Austin manages to make it to the ropes. Rock viciously smashes Austin’s knee into the post. He mocks Stone Cold by putting on his vest. They both go for a clothesline, which takes both of them out. Austin hits the Thesz Press and then elbows Rock in the face. Austin hits a Rock Bottom on Rock that gets a two. Austin goes for the Stunner, but Rock blocks it. 

Rock hits the Stunner on Austin, but Austin kicks out. Austin blocks one of Rock’s punches and hits a Stunner that picks up a near-fall. Rock nails Austin with a lowblow, but he misses the People’s Elbow. Austin goes for another Stunner, but the Rock hits a spinebuster. He hits People’s Elbow, but Austin kicks out. Rock hits a Rock Bottom that picks up only a two. He hits another one, but it only picks up a two. Finally, a third Rock Bottom in a row picks up the win @ 17:53. The best analogy I can come up with to describe this is it is like going to see a Rolling Stones concert in 2014. Surely, they are not as good as they once were, but that does not change the fact that they are the Rolling Stones. I could also look past the fact this is mostly an amalgamation of kick outs from finishers, because Austin was in no condition to wrestle this match, yet he did for the sake of the fans and business. And he deserves a lot of commendation for doing that. *** ½

Final Verdict on the Blu-Ray Matches: People can say what they want about Austin’s heel turn, and I’d probably agree with most of their views on it. There is no denying, though, that Austin’s ring-work then was at its highest point post-neck injury. Unfortunately, however, some of Austin’s greatest work in ’01 is missing because of the Chris Benoit debacle. He had a few great bouts with Benoit on Raw and Smackdown, and a Raw tag match (Triple H/Austin vs. Jericho/Benoit) that was incredible. Also, I think they could have substituted the Austin/Undertaker/HHH match with either Austin/HHH from No Mercy ’99 or their classical 3 stages of hell brawl at No Way Out ’01. Nit-picking aside, this was another great disc.

The Special Extras: Austin was just as good when it came to portraying a gimmick or talking on the microphone as he was wrestling. There is no question about it: the Stone Cold Steve Austin gimmick is one of the best gimmicks ever, if not the greatest. No gimmick/wrestler revolutionized the business more than that gimmick since Hulk Hogan. It came a good time too, as the fans were becoming sick and tired of the cartoonish content and the invincible, goody-goody gimmicks. They wanted something more suitable for the times, because WWF and WCW were stuck in the rear-view mirror in the early 90s. 

Austin had to work hard for his spot. He was constantly mistreated in WCW. Even though many of the boys saw his talent, the higher-ups just did not want to acknowledge it. Although, no matter how poorly he was being utilized, Austin always gave his utmost effort to make everything he did worthwhile. He was hungry, driven, and determined to be on top of the world. With his mind completely invested in pursuing his goal, he ended up accomplishing exactly what he wanted to do.

The extras are awesome, because they show how much range Austin had as a performer. He wasn’t just the Rattlesnake. He portrayed a variety of different personas, and performed them all with tons of believability .

Final Verdict: This does an exceptional job of summing up Austin’s unparalleled career in a condensed amount of time. When you add up all the intangibles that make a wrestler be considered as one of the all-time greats – popularity, marketability, influence, longevity, charisma, work rate, promo skills, and so on – Austin has to be at the top of the list, if the greatest of all time. Two thumbs way up.

A special thanks to Extant1979 for taking the time to look over this entire review for me.

Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line Review (Disc 1 and 2)

I had this DVD
shipped to me free of charge (yay me!). I was rather enthusiastic about it,
because I have only seen the documentary. When I find
the time, the next DVD I will review is either CM Punk or Bret Hart, depending
on which one arrives here first.

Stone Cold Steve Austin:
The Bottom Line on the Most Popular Superstar of All Time 
Disc One – Documentary
This documentary is
articulated generally through Steve Austin’s point of view, and it is a
comprehensive look at his entire career. Austin augments in some interesting
and distinctive insights of his greatest and poorest moments. The others who
were involved provided a fine effort as well. They all supplement their
assessments on specific moments in Austin’s journey, which makes the DVD feel
more balanced. Austin pulls no punches, as he tells stories exactly
how he witnessed it (although he is less angry towards with those who
mistreated him this time around). 
It is, however,
still visible that he has a lot of passion for the business, as
his emotions come forth when he talks about moments in
his career. I personally appreciated the early parts of the DVD more
than anything else. That is because I was not fully educated on all of small
details from that era, thus I found the backstories from that time more
There is no question
about it: WWE know how to impressively format and edit their documentaries, but
this one just exceeds essentially every documentary they have ever produced.
That is merely because of Austin’s capabilities to narrate his
journey in an exhaustive manner.
Disc Two—USWA, WCW, and WWF
These are all handpicked
from Stone Cold Steve Austin. Three of them include alternative commentary done
by Jim Ross.
Chris Adams vs. Steve
Austin (w/Jeannie – 5/90)
This is from USWA.
Austin was frustrated with Adams holding him back, so he turned on him. To add
insult to injury, Austin stole his wife. Even though it is tempting, I’ll take
the high road by skipping over a Chris Benoit joke. Adams attacks Austin from
behind, although Austin powers him and puts a beat down on him. Adams fights
back with a superkick. He goes for a suplex, but Jeannie grabs his legs. That
drops Austin on top for the win @ 4:25. Afterwards,
Jeannie sprays her hairspray in Adams eyes. They try to beat him down, but
Adams fights back and then chases them off. Not much to say about this
one. * 
Sting & Ricky
Steamboat vs. Ric Flair & Steve Austin (w/Sensuous Sherri – 07/30/94).
Flair and Steamboat
start this off. Ricky smacks and tosses him around. Sting comes in and beats
Flair up some more. Outside, Flair cowardly hides behind Sherri. Sting doesn’t
want to hit a woman, and that allows Flair to rake his eyes. Flair was just the
best at portraying a coward. Back in, Austin and Sting are now
the legal men. Sting tosses Austin around and locks in an armbar. Steamboat
tags in and hits Austin with a crossbody off the top. Everyone jumps in the
ring, forcing the referee to establish some law and order. Back from
commercial, Austin hits Steamboat with the Stunner to get out of a chinlock,
although it’s not even a signature move yet. Steamboat blocks a hiptoss into a
backslide. He cannot fully execute it, though, so he pushes off the turnbuckles
to flip back over Austin. He gives Austin a superplex for a two count. Sting
receives a tag and goes up to the top splash, but Austin gets his knees up.
Flair tags in and hits a suplex, but Sting is a no-selling bastard. 
Sting grabs Flair in
an inside cradle that picks up a two. Flair retreats and heads to the floor to
regroup. Back in, Sting ducks a double-team clothesline and comes back with one
of his own. Austin tries to pick up a quick win with a few rollups, but Sting
gives Austin a press slam. He goes for another, but Austin gives him a low blow
behind the referee’s back. Flair comes in and tosses Sting over the top.
Sherri puts a beat down on him outside. Back from commercial, Flair and Austin
work over Sting. Austin tries a forearm smash off the second rope, but Sting
gets his knees up. Sting makes the hot-tag to Steamboat. He hits both Austin
and Flair with a ton of chops. Austin catches him with a back body drop and
kicks him in the mouth.
Austin locks in
abdominal stretch and cheats by grabbing the ropes. Flair comes in and corners
Steamboat with some right hands and chops. Steamboat attempts to squirm out of
the heel corner to make the tag to Sting, but Austin cuts off the tag just in
time. It was a smart time to do a false tag. Austin locks in a chinlock.
Steamboat fights out and hits a chop that sends him to the floor. Sting comes
in the ring and goes crazy on Flair. He hits a Stinger Splash and then locks in
the Scorpion Deathlock, but neither man is legal. Sherri jumps on Sting from
the top to break up the hold. Sting catches her and tosses her on top of Flair.
Elsewhere in the ring, Austin rolls Sting up with a handful of tights for the
win @ 23:40. This awesome match had wall-to-wall action throughout.
They worked from the base and built this akin to a pyramid. They did this
by putting the correct layers conjointly in place until it reaches
its crescendo, with most of it being built on the crowd’s
reactions. Kindred to most critically acclaimed matches, the
wrestlers brought the fans on a dramatic roller coaster excursion.
What honestly made the old WCW tag matches a cut above the rest was that they
would build to a variety of sub-climaxes. In simpler terms, the action
didn’t repeatedly build without any letup; they knew when to turn
up the action and when to turn it back down. **** 1/4
King of the Ring
Finals: Steve Austin vs. Jake Roberts (06/23/96).
Stone Cold had to go
to the hospital to get his lip stitched from his semifinal match with Marc
Mero. Austin never had the best of luck wrestling Mero. Soon after this, they
worked together again and the arena’s lights went out. Meanwhile, Roberts was
still selling his internal injuries not from drinking, but instead because of
Vader. Austin attacks Jake’s ribs with no mercy. Gorilla Monsoon threatens to
stop this for Jake’s health. Jake waves him off and then sucker punches Austin.
Jake goes for the DDT, but Austin throws him into the corner. He proceeds to
ram his ribs into the corner repeatedly. Austin picks him up and hits the Stunner @
. The purpose was to get Austin over as a callous son of a bitch, and
this was rather successful in doing so. From a workrate perspective, this
wasn’t very good, and that was mostly a result of Jake being past his prime.
His reaction time was delayed, especially when it came to selling
some of Austin’s offense. The most important part of this whole
thing occurred afterwards, though. Austin cut his famous improvised
promo that commenced the 3:16 era. 
It is one of the greatest promos ever,
as everything he said was heartfelt, assertive and defiant.
Needless to say, this would not have come across as realistic if a writer
composed it for him. * for the match, ***** for the promo.
Submission Match: Bret
Hart vs. Steve Austin (03/23/97).
These two were both
incredibly gifted wrestlers that just clicked with each other. On an otherwise
uninspiring WrestleMania card, both of these ring magicians defined the
suspension of disbelief. This had nuclear heat, giving off a notion that
they sincerely wanted to annihilate each other. Right off the bat, this turns into
a vehement brawl. Bret hits Austin with a swinging neckbreaker.
Bret tries to lock in the Sharpshooter, but Austin fights it off and gets back
on his feet. Austin hits Bret with a Stone Cold Stunner. Austin cannot
capitalize, though, so Bret kicks him in the leg and then debuts the Ringpost
Figure-Four Lock. Bret goes to work on Austin’s leg, although Austin fights
back and crushes Bret with a chair shot. Austin hits a suplex and then hits the
Vertical Flying Elbow. Austin hits a Russian legsweep and then locks in the
Koji Clutch. Bret tries to fight out, causing Austin to lock in a Boston Crab
instead. Bret makes it to the ropes, though. Austin tries to lock in the
Sharpshooter, but Bret rakes his eyes. Bret tries to mount a comeback, but
Austin tosses him to the outside.
Outside, Bret reverses
an Irish whip and it sends Austin over the timekeeper’s table. Austin is
bleeding from hitting his head on the guardrail. Bret smashes his face off
everything around ringside, causing Austin to bleed like a stuck pig. Back
inside, Bret hits a backbreaker and then the Vertical Elbow drop. He grabs
a chair and goes to work on Austin’s knee. Hart tries to lock in the
Sharpshooter, but Austin kicks him in the nuts. Austin starts stomping a
mudhole into Hart. He hits a superplex and then goes outside to grab an
extension cord from ringside. He tries to lynch Bret on the apron, but Bret
knocks Austin in the face with the ringbell. Awesome, stiff spot that came out
of nowhere. Bret locks in the Sharpshooter. Austin will not quit, though, but
he ends up passing out because of the pain @ 22:05. Afterwards,
Hart keeps attacking Austin, causing Shamrock to pick Bret up and slam him to
get him to stop. This had everything you could want in brawl:
intensity, abhorrence, psychology, storytelling, color, conceivable selling,
facial expressions that help articulate the narrative, an incredible
atmosphere, and some truly elegant booking. They pulled off exactly
what McMahon wanted them to do: a double-turn. Hart turned into a narcissist
heel that only was concerned about winning, and Austin turned into a
venerated babyface.  
Even though Austin wasn’t a conventional babyface,
this ended up revealing some of his inner face-like qualities,
like his resiliency and perseverance. The finish exemplified
those two exact things, since he refused to tap out to the Sharpshooter,
causing him to pass out from the pain. This was significant, historic, and just flat-out tremendous. I cannot
think of a match that was better than this one in WWE’s history. *****
Intercontinental Title:
Steve Austin vs. The Rock (w/the Nation – 12/06/97).
Austin drives in with
his black 3:16 truck. He jumps off and lands right on Rock. The Nation jumps in
ring and tries to put a beatdown on him, but Austin fights them all off. D-Lo
takes a backdrop on the windshield of the truck and then takes a Stunner on the
top. The bell finally rings. Austin hits the Thesz Press and starts punching
Rocky in the face. Rock fights back and sends Austin to the floor. Kama tries
to hit Austin with a chair shot, but he ends up knocking Faarooq out cold with
it. Rock hits Austin with a low blow when the referee was distracted. The
Rock hits the People’s Elbow, but it only gets a two. He goes for it again, but
Austin avoids it. Austin goes for the Stunner, but Kama jumps on the apron. He
goes to attack him, but the referee stops him. Austin ends up giving the
referee a Stunner. Rock grabs some brass knuckles, but is met with a Stunner. A
new referee comes in and counts to three. Austin retains the IC championship @
5:34. This was a brief illustration of things to come in WWF’s main event
scene: a lot of all over the arena bar-fight brawling, although a complete lack
of application of the rules, with kudos to Vince Russo.** ½
WWF Heavyweight Title:
Shawn Michaels (w/DX) vs. Steve Austin (3/29/98).
This reminds me of Miz
vs. John Cena from Wrestlemania 27, because everyone was more concern about
what would happen with Tyson and Austin. And that ended up causing Shawn
Michaels’ and Austin’s saga to take a back seat. Obviously, HBK desperately
needed surgery and time off to repair his back due to the bump he took on the
casket when he was working with Undertaker. Rumor has it that he still did not
want to job to Austin, but Undertaker sat him down and told him that he had to
do what was right for business. Take it for what it’s worth. Austin pulls down
HBK’s tights, exposing his buttocks to the crowd. I bet that is HBK’s favorite spot.
Austin backdrops Shawn right on DX. Outside, Hunter tosses Austin into the
barricade, although that gets Hunter and Chyna thrown out from ringside. Back
in, Austin goes for a Stunner, but Shawn ducks to the apron and is knocked face
first into the announce table. Ouch. 
They brawl outside,
where Shawn takes over. He beats Austin down and then taunts the crowd. The
pace slows down when Shawn works over Austin’s knee. HBK locks in the
figure-four. Austin fights out and shoots Michaels into the buckle for a
nearfall. HBK puts in a sleeper, but Austin backs him right into the referee.
Austin stomps a mudhole into HBK’s chest. Shawn fights back with a
“flying” forearm. That sets up Sweet Chin Music, but Austin catches
Shawn’s boot and goes for the Stunner. Shawn counters and goes for another
attempt at Sweet Chin Music. Austin spins him around and gives him the Stunner.
There is no referee, though, so Tyson jumps in and makes a quick three
count @ 20:01.  I’d assume Tyson was just a bit overzealous
and that’s why he did a fast count. It’s surprising to me that not many people
bring up the fast count, though. Afterwards, HBK shoves Tyson, who retaliates
by delivering a knockout punch. Both Tyson and Austin celebrate. There is
nothing wrong with this. It had solid pacing and timing throughout, although it
was disappointing due to the amount of talent they both had. They
honestly could have wrestled a better match in their sleep if HBK was
healthy. After all, their contest at King of the Ring ’97 was better, in spite
of having minimal build. The counter-for-counter ending was a gut-wrenching
sequence, though. *** ¼
Final Verdict on Disc
This was a very good
disc, although I believe some
of his significant work was missing. He noted that he was able to handpick
everything, even if they were on other DVDs. With that in mind, where is the
Austin/Pillman vs. Ricky Steamboat/Shane Douglas contest that displayed the
Hollywood Blondes as a dynamic and cohesive tag team? Where is one of the
Steamboat ones that proved he could hang with one the greatest in-ring workers
ever without missing a beat? And where is his outing with Bret Hart from
Survivor Series ’96 that displayed how impeccably scientific and mechanical he
was at his peak? I fully understand that all these matches were important to
him, but I just wish that at least one of those were on this disc, if not all
of them.
Although, there is no
question that there was some great content on this disc. From his big win over
the icon Sting, to his five-star brawl with Bret Hart that ended up redefining
the business, all the way to his world title win that propelled him as the biggest
commodity in wrestling since Hulk Hogan. And there is more to come. Disc 3 is
all about Austin’s career on top of the wrestling world.

The Line Has Been Crossed

The thread about TNA beginning to panic was getting a little long, and it gave me a lot to think about. For years now it seems like people have kept saying the same things about what TNA needs to do to stay alive or start to challenge WWE, and TNA has tried all sorts of tricks: Bringing in Russo. Bringing in Bischoff and Hogan. Trying to go head to head on Monday nights. Bringing in Bruce Pritchard. Pushing established stars. Pushing new stars. Trying to make the show all about wrestling. Trying to make the show about crazy soap opera angles. Pushing old school wrestling. Pushing the X division. So what is the answer? What is it that TNA can do to break out of their static position as a distant second to WWE?


Am I suggesting that TNA has no hope of ever being serious competition to WWE? Yes I am. At no point in their history have they ever really been close to competing with Raw or Smackdown in the ratings, and only occasionally have they been a viable alternative to serious wrestling fans. There are no casual TNA viewers. Now, let’s be fair. There will always be a secondary wrestling company in this country. There will always be guys who aren’t working for WWE who need a place to work, and eventually that company will always find its audience somehow. So if TNA is okay with filling that niche and being Vince’s overstock bin, they can probably ride that out for a while even if they take a budget cut. But it didn’t always have to be that way.

One of the most common things people are saying about TNA is that they need to attract bigger stars. When it comes to this fantasy booking, there’s always one more name that could save everything for them. If only they could get Cena! If they’d gotten Brock they’d be number one! Imagine if Rock joined TNA instead of WWE! The thing is, of course, all of those guys have made it clear that that will never happen. Anyone big enough to save TNA is big enough not to be desperate. Even if by some chance Cena or Punk did end up on the outs with WWE, one needs only to look at what happened with Angle and Hardy. Both were current, main event WWE stars in their primes when they went to TNA; both were dragged down to TNA’s level rather than elevating them. The same could happen to Punk or especially Cena. They will always be seen as WWE’s leftovers once WWE is done with them. Its like in Moneyball: “If we try to beat the Yankees without Yankees money, we will lose.”

It’s one of the things that I hate so much about Bischoff. “Established stars” means “stars established by Vince”. No wrestling promoter since Heyman has had enough faith in their own talent to push their own stars harder than the ones with the glamour of WWE on them. TNA has always been playing from behind in this respect. In the early days (besides Jarrett, who did a lot to sink TNA out of the gate but that’s a whole other debate) you had these guys competing against Jarrett for the title: Raven, who had been a big star half a decade earlier in ECW but had only been as high as the Sunday Night Heat C-team before leaving WWE. D-Lo Brown, who had already disappeared and come back to WWE once and who had been a low midcarder and had previously been second fiddle to friggin’ Tiger Ali Singh. And Rhyno, who had only been a main event guy in ECW’s dying days and had run the WWE treadmill for years. Later, they bring in Christian and literally treat it as the biggest thing to ever happen in TNA. Now, I love Christian, and I can certainly see the benefit of pushing someone who actively chose to leave for TNA rather than settling on them. But he was, if we’re being honest, a midcard act with a definite ceiling in WWE, and he was also sort of seen as the Jannetty in his team with Edge. By pushing him as hard as they did and sending him right to the main event with basically the same Captain Charisma act he was using in WWE, they sent the clear message “our best is as good as WWE’s midcard.” It made matters worse when Sting, washed up and inactive for half a decade, joined up and was immediately about at that level. And then later that year Angle signed. That was the one big, main event level, current day signing who had goodwill with the fans that could’ve been that savior for TNA. But it was too late. After years of pushing guys to the top that were at the middle of WWE, Angle seemed like he was demoted to the middle rather than making TNA seem like they were on top. The same was said for Hogan, Hardy, Anderson, RVD, Foley, Flair, et cetera et cetera……

Meanwhile, of course, TNA had all the homegrown talent they could ask for. Any time during the mid-00s, you had some of the best wrestlers in a generation coming out of the indies and ROH in particular. The times when TNA and ROH openly exchanged talent were some of the best for either company. Now of course, members of the ROH “class” are the toast of wrestling: Punk, Bryan, Aries, Cesaro, Joe, Daniels, AJ, and more. TNA went halfway by attempting to push Joe and Daniels, and certainly its hard to argue they didn’t do right by Styles. But they always tried to pound their style into one that could work with the ex-WWEers’, and when panic set in they’d always fall back on “established stars”. They had a chance to set themselves apart by offering something that WWE didn’t. They could’ve built their company around those guys and gone further by signing Bryan, Colt, Nigel, the Briscoes, and more. They could’ve used the “established stars” to put over the new guys and ensure the future of their company. So, as many people suggest, the answer is to just push those guys to the top now to save the company, right? Nope.

Unfortunately, the damage has been done. If AJ, Aries, Daniels, or Joe could save TNA, they’d have saved TNA. Its been six or seven years since those halcyon days of great talent. To a young kid, those guys are older than dirt. To a longtime viewer, they’re old news. It kills me to say it, because that group of wrestlers is a lot of what kept me watching wrestling as an adult and I’ll always remember the days of being blown away by their amazing matches, but the bloom is off the rose on those guys. Within a few years, they’ll all be a little too old to be hanging on. So what the hell do they do now?

Two choices. Either try to say that the rut they’re in is really a groove and continue to be the distant second until Spike and Dixie’s parents change their minds, or try to get up from the bottom yet again. There is no magic bullet or easy answer to say how TNA could wash the stink of Vince’s sloppy seconds off. What I would do, though, if I were in charge? The nuclear option. Build to one last big show for a few months so everyone can say their goodbyes, and start from scratch. The TNA name has very little equity left in it at this point. Look at two of their more successful characters at this point: Abyss changed his gimmick to Joseph Park, and Bully Ray is not exactly the same as Bubba Ray Dudley. Even Daniels and Kazarian had to radically change from their previous states to get over as Bad Influence. In Dixie’s shoes, i’d lay it on the line. Everything old is out, even the guys I love and would regret seeing go. For the good of the company, I bring in a small cheap crew of guys who are not established. Anyone who is a little bit younger and looking for their shot can, if not fully overhaul their gimmick, at least find something new to try to make stick (here I think of guys like Magnus, Jesse, Gunner, Kenny King, etc.), but even then i’d be more worried about pushing new names first. If these guys are never seen as having been relative on the card to WWE’s midcard, then they can’t be considered not as good. Yeah, you’ll have your people crowing about “you can’t take some nobody and tell people they’re as good as Cena!” But that kind of thinking got TNA in the spot they’re in, and its certainly better than taking someone the fans already don’t think is as good as Cena and trying to put them in that spot. Would my plan work? I dunno. It all depends on what guys have the star power and charisma and determination to connect with a crowd. But its a start..

…but then again, I’m not Dixie. My imagination doesn’t have money on the line, and my fantasy booking doesn’t account for the friendships and politics of people who aren’t going to be so willing to give up their spot. So that’s why I think there’s basically nothing TNA can do. They’ve continued to bear the weight of the mistakes they’ve made, and every attempt to dig themselves out of the creative hole they’re in has resulted in less and less viewers. Even WWE is facing the hard reality that wrestling might not appeal to as many people or be the moneymaker it used to. TNA’s ratings will sink until Spike pulls the plug, and while they could still continue to keep plugging along as that second place company. But they will never again, pardon the pun, make a real Impact.

Line in the sand for WWE


Is there a line in the sand that you have drawn for WWE? Is there a point at which you would ever stop watching RAW or WWE PPV's again? It seems now that the product is much worse than it was when you stopped watching in the early 2000's. The dance contests, the pizza ordering, the tug-of-war contests, the five or so 2-minute matches per episode of RAW, the fact that Triple H beat up a former UFC Heavyweight Champion inside of a steel cage, the burying of Cesaro, the non-progression of the midcard, Christian's return being delayed constantly even though he is healthy, the weekly dose of Hustle, Loyaly, and Respect, stars stuck in purgatory (i.e. Orton, Henry, Sheamus, etc), the tag team division being re-created then destroyed again, the US/IC titles being ignored with their champions being squashed each week, I could go on fr hours….


Yeah, but the blog does pretty well, and car payments won't make themselves, so no, I'm not likely to stop at this point.  Everyone's concern for my well-being is much appreciated, though.