I had a small scare last week as I could not find my 1999 RAW DVD set to recap these shows. I eventually found it, so we trudge forth into another year of WWF action. One could argue that 1999 was a turning point in the Monday Night Wars as the WWF expanded its lead over WCW, although there were several times when WCW may have been able to capitalize on the WWF pushing some midcard talents up the card to regain the lead. This is also the height of Vince Russo’s power within the company as he will be booking RAWs until October.
-Michael Cole and Jerry “the King” Lawler are doing commentary and they are taped from Worchester, Massachusetts.
-A video package recaps Shawn Michaels getting fired on last week’s show and giving Sweet Chin Music to Vince McMahon. Kevin Kelly narrates a small tribute to his career, which Vince hilariously interrupts by shouting “Get that sentimental crap off the screen!” The Corporation walks out with him and Vince promises that Michaels will not be attending the show since he is not brave. As Vince talks, Brisco sneakily attaches a Brisco Brothers Body Shop sign to Kane’s back without him knowing, which is a great touch. The Titantron shows that Michaels has showed up backstage and quickly comes onto the stage with D-Generation X. Michael Cole screams about whether this means DX and Shawn Michaels are back together, a question that should obviously answer itself. We get some corporate speak as Michaels says that he has an ironclad contract as commissioner so Vince cannot fire him. After replaying the Royal Rumble drawing that Vince and Shane McMahon held several weeks ago where Vince received #30 after wishing he was #2, Michaels gives Vince his wish. I have to give them credit for justifying this with Michaels saying that when Vince entered the Rumble he became a wrestler and under Michaels power. Michaels also promises to give Vince a surprise before tonight’s show is over and that it will drive him “Stone Cold crazy.”
-Opening Non-Title Contest: Steve Blackman pins Ken Shamrock (Champion) after Billy Gunn gives Shamrock a Fameasser at 3:25:
The former mixed martial arts allies collide here and Dan Severn walks out a minute into the bout still sporting a neck brace. After a few brief minutes of action, Shamrock nails Severn when Severn gets on the apron and Billy Gunn uses that opportunity to interfere and cost Shamrock the match. How Severn fits into all of this, since he is feuding with Owen Hart, is not explained. Rating: *
-The Rock and Vince McMahon are on the cover of Southwest Spirit magazine!
-The camera catches Ken Shamrock and Billy Gunn brawling backstage before WWF officials separate them.
-Mankind comes out and says that he wants a WWF title shot against the Rock at the Royal Rumble since he beat him at Rock Bottom. He calls out Vince, who walks out and runs down how Mankind doing things to appease the people is pathetic. Vince says that Mankind does not deserve to be the number one contender because he has not paid his dues and that he will probably never wrestle for the title again. Instead, Vince books a match between Mankind and Triple H, with the winner getting to enter the Royal Rumble. A guest referee will officiate the match and that referee will be Shane McMahon. Austin-McMahon gets a lot of attention from 1998-1999, but the Vince-Mankind interactions were a close rival to that feud in terms of compelling and entertaining television.
-Chyna and her friend Sammi are shown talking backstage.
-Mark Henry beats Goldust via disqualification after Goldust hits Shattered Dreams at 3:40:
Henry really needs a new ring attire as he is still sporting his Nation of Domination-style gear. Cole makes sure that we know all about Henry’s “tree trunk size legs.” Word is that such a moniker was quite an honor before Big Show showed up the following month with his “frying pan size hands.” Henry has Goldust beat until Chyna and Sammi appear on the ramp and this distractions causes Henry to fall prey to Shattered Dreams. I never got the logic of the Shattered Dreams move. Why use something like that in clear view of the referee when you know it will get you disqualified? Rating: ¾*
-After the match, Chyna and Sammi come to the ring, with Chyna confessing to Henry that he is too much man for her, and that she and Sammi want to take a load off of his mind. Henry faints at this offer.
-Congratulations to Jesse Ventura, who was inaugurated as Minnesota’s governor earlier in the day. You see, all of this was due to the WWF giving him an opportunity years ago! What is interesting is that Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the inauguration and would become California’s governor four years later.
-Dennis Knight is shown chained in a cellar at an undisclosed location.
-Test and The Godfather (w/the Hos) wrestle to a double disqualification at 1:59:
This is before Test got the theme that repeated his name over and over again so he has this weird country-style tune that is not fitting for a former Metallica bodyguard. The Godfather does not offer Test the hos, so you know that he means business. Cole also lets us know that Test has “amazing athletic ability” for – get this – stepping over the top rope! Test and the Godfather brawl on the floor as the referee loses control of the match and Val Venis runs down to fight with Test before WWF officials break them up. If you recall, Test and Venis have a lingering issue from the last show where Test cost Venis his Hardcore title shot.
-Shawn Michaels is shown having a fun conversation with DX backstage. Cole is still shocked that they are back together!
-Royal Rumble Qualifying Match with Shane McMahon as the Special Guest Referee: Triple H (w/Chyna) defeats Mankind with a sunset flip at 2:55:
This is a pretty mediocre match, but there’s a reason behind all of it. Mankind dominates much of the action until Triple H hits a sunset flip from the apron and Shane McMahon, after kicking Mankind’s hands away from the ropes, registers a quick three count. Triple H gets on the mic to tell Mankind that he does not regret winning in such a fashion as it gets him closer to the WWF title, but he also wishes him a “Happy New Year!” by Pedigreeing Shane. Mankind proceeds to put Shane in a submission hold and threatens to break his shoulder unless Vince gives him a title shot later in the evening. Vince agrees to that and also agrees to make it no disqualification under duress. This was such a great piece of storytelling as the McMahons master plan backfired and babyface elements that shared a common hatred of the McMahons worked together to make that happen.
-After the segment, WWF Champion The Rock angrily walks out and complains to Vince about being booked to defend the title.
-D-Lo Brown wrestles Edge to a no contest at 4:30:
This match does not have a story, but it serves as a small trial run for two guys that the company had high hopes for at the time. Only one of them eventually made it to main event status, but that is the way things go sometimes. D-Lo hits a nice Sky High when Edge dives off the top rope, but PMS walks out to take all of the attention away from that. Terri Runnels, who is showing her “pregnancy,” distracts D-Lo and when D-Lo goes after her, Terri falls off the steps. This is the infamous “miscarriage angle” that Jim Cornette still gets hot about in shoot interviews and with good reason as this served little purpose and probably bothered some viewers who may have gone through such an awful experience in their lives. And of course, the whole thing also ruined this match. Rating: *½
-Shane McMahon, Gerald Brisco, Pat Patterson, and Kane walk out, with Kane still sporting the sign on his back from earlier in the show. I love how Kane is such an outcast that not a single person backstage bothered to tell him about it for the last ninety minutes. Shane gets on the mic and books an impromptu handicap match that pits the stooges against Kane since they were “remotely responsible” for Mankind’s attack him a few weeks ago. Patterson hilariously offers Kane a cigarette, which is rebuffed, and the stooges eat some chokeslams. Kane also teases chokeslamming Shane, but is convinced not to do so under threat of going back to the insane asylum.
-Dennis Knight begs for help as the Acolytes tell him that “It’s time.” I would be begging for mercy if someone tried to get me to watch that pay-per-view again too!
-Hardcore Championship Match: The Road Dogg (Champion) beats Al Snow (w/Head) 8:35 with a piledriver on some wooden crates:
Snow has still not gotten over his bloodbath at the hands of the Brood, sporting his blood drenched shirt from several weeks ago. Snow kills himself to get over here, going through a table on a moonsault off the ringside barrier and taking chairshots and cookie sheet shots to the head. Speaking of cookie sheets, Road Dogg adds a small touch by unbending a cookie sheet after he smacks Snow with it, which in wrestling terms makes his blows pack more power or something like that. What the match is notable for is that spills out of the arena where a snow shower is taking place. Referee Jack Doan cannot even maintain his footing as he keeps sliding on black ice. Road Dogg ends the match with a piledriver, continuing his run of entertaining title defenses. Rating: ***
-The Acolytes toss Dennis Knight into a smoky room where screams can be heard and close the door behind him.
-Shawn Michaels leaves the arena to get the “Stone Cold surprise” and wishes DX well. After Michaels leaves, Triple H suggests to the camera that things may not turn out well and sure enough, Michaels cannot get into his car because he has the wrong key. He is locked out of the arena and a voice calls his name as we head to commercial. When we return, he is a bloody mess on the hood of his car and is attended to by medical personnel. A replay shows that the Corporation was responsible for the assault.
-No Disqualification Match for the WWF Championship Match: Mankind (w/D-Generation X) pins The Rock (Champion w/The Corporation) to win the title after Steve Austin hits the Rock with a chair at 8:48:
The Rock is recovering from his gyno surgery, so he is wrestling his track outfit here. An entertaining sequence takes place when the Rock rips off Cole’s headset to give some comments and then Mankind beats up the Rock, takes the headset, and announces to the world that he has “testicular fortitude” in a really corny way. They make full use of the no disqualification stipulation, with the Rock putting Mankind through the announce table with a Rock Bottom and punishing him with the stairs and ring bell. Lawler makes sure to take a dig at WCW too by saying that this “is not a title match that begins two minutes before the show ends.” Despite being no disqualification, the Rock feels that he has to hide hitting Mankind with the title and the same is true for the return of Steve Austin to arguably the loudest pop in the history of the company – interference that gives Mankind an improbabe WWF championship run. It never gets old seeing Austin return here as people jump up and down in the front row and lose their mind at the title change. Another great part of the end sequence is Billy Gunn moving at 100 miles per hour to knock Shamrock for a loop after Shamrock blasts Mankind with a chair. The match was not good, but the heat for the closing sequence was incredible. Rating: **¼
The Final Report: This is a notable show in the company’s history because WCW famously had Tony Schiavone spoil Mankind’s victory by saying that “Cactus Jack” would be winning the title and sarcastically saying “that’ll put butts in the seats!” The spoiler did not cause RAW to lose the ratings battle that night, but it is a myth that viewers immediately turned off Nitro when they heard Schiavone’s words and flocked over to RAW. Still, that idea has acquired its own place in WWF lore like the DX “tank” turning the Monday Night Wars around. The title change and the build up to it is what makes this RAW fun and it overshadows the offensive stuff such as the Terri miscarriage angle and the other silly booking related to Mark Henry and Sammi. Unfortunately, not all shows would be able to make up for Russo’s weird ideas in 1999, but at least this one hit a home run to start the year.
Monday Night War Rating: 5.7 (vs. 5.0 for Nitro)