Retro Rasslin – WWE Royal Rumble (1999)
I’m going to try to do a weekly (or so) segment where I take an old show from WWE Network and recap it. It’s going to be called “Retro Rasslin”, and it’s not always going to be WWE Pay-Per-Views – sometimes it’ll be a RAW or Smackdown, sometimes it’ll be a WCW PPV, and maybe I’ll throw in an ECW show or something else random. If you’ve got any ideas for future “Retro Rasslin” recaps, let me know in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter at @MrWorkrate.
The Rumble has always been one of my favorite PPVs, with just a jumbled mess of a main event that ends up seeing one-shot gimmicks, thought to be retired wrestlers, and shocking debuts along with a card that otherwise is pretty decent most years. I’ve pretty much forgotten anything about this card (outside of the fact that it’s during the WWE “Attitude Era”), so I’ll write as I watch, with recollection and surprise coming through.
Recap package leading in was of the Steve Austin/Vince McMahon feud which was nuclear hot at the time. McMahon screws over Austin by making him #1 in the Rumble, and Shawn Michaels returns the screwjob by drawing #2 for McMahon, meaning we’re going to open the Rumble match with Austin/McMahon. That’s it – that’s all the background. The subtitle for the Rumble is “No Chance In Hell”, so Vince’s theme has been playing in the background through the whole opening package.
WE ARE NOT VERY LIVE AT ALL FROM THE ARROWHEAD POND IN ANAHEIM AND BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM cripes those damn fireworks. I used to go to a decent amount of WWE tapings during this time and the fireworks never failed to be INCREDIBLY LOUD. Fireworks should not be shot off indoors. Tonight’s Rumble is being brought to you by 10-10-220, which was something you’d dial for collect calls or cheap long distance and I’ve already lost anyone under the age of 25. Your announcers are Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler.
Packed house and everyone has a sign. Ah yes, the Attitude Era, when you couldn’t see in front of you because of THAT GUY shouting out to his message board friends some inside reference.
Match 1: OH YOU DIDN’T KNOW (Hardcore Champion) vs RAY TRAYLOR MALL COP [non-title match]
Road Dogg is in a singles match but he is unable to do his opening monologue without also introducing Billy Gunn, who isn’t even at ringside. Boss Man’s SWAT-type outfit was actually a nice update of his Big Boss Man character, but he was still meh. Boss Man comes to ringside with a tag belt, and Michael Cole reminds me BBM is part of the “Corporation” and tag champs with Ken Shamrock, who I totally forgot was ever aligned with heels/McMahon. Cole is confused why the match is non-title (we all are), and I guess 24/7 rules aren’t in effect here. Road Dogg does the corner 10 punch crowd count thing, which BBM promptly no-sells by giving Road Dogg an inverted atomic drop out of the corner, and I’m reminded why I hated Traylor. Match goes entirely too long, with BBM winning with the sidewalk slam.
Match 2: MR. ASS vs RYAN SHAMROCK’S OLDER BROTHER (Intercontinental Champion)
Billy Gunn begins to walk down to ringside to the New Age Outlaws theme (which the crowd proceeds to intro since Road Dogg just wrestled), and passes by Dogg, like two ships passing in the night. Shamrock comes to ringside doing the “Shamrock Face” and we’re told this is a feud because Billy Gunn mooned Shamrock’s sister and as you know, exposing yourself to women at ringside makes you a huge face in late 90s WWE. Normal match, with a ref bump and a double KO leads to a Val Venis run-in (Venis was feuding with Shamrock as well because of Sister Shamrock, so that’s as good as she was) leading to a Gunn cover, but a false finish as Shamrock kicks out at 2 7/8. Gunn goes to the top, misses an axhandle, which hurts his already injured ankle, leading to Shamrock locking in the anklelock finisher to retain. Not horrible.
Just a note before the next match – this is one of the few non-ECW events I’ve found on the Network that’s rated TV-MA. Most of the Attitude Era stuff is TV-14, with the current stuff TV-PG.
Match 3: BRAM STOKER’S GANGREL (w/cup o’ blood) vs NEGATIVE HEAT SUK IT [violent crotch chop] (European Champion)
The European Title was one of those weird titles that ended up being a punchline more than anything. They put it on the British Bulldog because, you know, England, but once he lost it the title just became this weird “TV Title” level belt which some champs ran with (D-Lo Brown was easily the best European Champ), but others just kind of were given to give them a belt and shut them up (hi X-Pac). We get a blown spot late in the match when Pac hits a crossbody off the top which Gangrel is supposed to roll through but doesn’t quite get over all the way so Teddy Long makes what sounds like a three count, but it’s one with Pac on top, then the next two with Gangrel covering. Crowd gets real confused (as does the announce team), and Pac hits the X-Factor a minute or so later for the pinfall. Blech.
Backstage promo with DX (minus Gunn, who’s selling the ankle injury) and Road Dogg calls himself an Armstrong right from the start (which is weird, because they never really acknowledged him as an Armstrong in the past), and each member reminds the audience that it’s every man for himself in the Rumble, to which Chyna chimes in with “and woman”, reminding us she’s in the Rumble too. Wrestlers in the card tonight are also entered into the Rumble as well, which seems like WWE’s was struggling to get to 30, which doesn’t totally surprise me considering the rate WCW was trying to grab talent. Hunter and Chyna are both mid-transformation here, as Hunter is still kinda Helmsley not really Triple H and Chyna is halfway between “intimidating” and “diva”.
Shane McMahon comes down to ringside (generic theme music) to introduce Luna Vachon and demand Sable hand over the Women’s Title since Sable’s back is hurt from an earlier attack from Vachon earlier on Sunday Night Heat (acting at the PPV preshow). Sable comes out and we’ve got a match
Match 4: LUNA VACHON vs MRS. BROCK LESNAR (Women’s Champion) – STRAP MATCH
Apparently this is a strap match, which makes up for the fact that Sable can’t wrestle for the life of her, but she’s hella popular so let’s put the strap on her anyway. Luna sells and looks all crazy and does Luna things, but the match ends when Shane-O-Mac distracts the ref after both women have touched three corners (going against every strap match rule I’ve ever known) and as Luna’s about to touch the fourth corner, Sable’s fan (who’d later be introduced as “Tori” and would do a whole lot of nothing in WWE) jumps over the barricade, nails Luna, and allows Sable to touch the 4th corner for the win. Poor Luna – she deserved a lot better (in her career and in life).
Our last match before the Rumble is a World Title match between Mankind (the current champion) and The Rock, and we get our normal rundown/promo package leading into this match, which is an “I Quit” mat… wait a minute.
*quick check of Wikipedia for “Beyond The Mat”*
Oh crap. This match. I have friends that won’t watch this match, but I will because reasons. Rock cuts a promo pre-match with Doc Hendrix where he drops nearly every catchphrase he’s ever used which doesn’t really get over all that well, I guess maybe because he’s heel and going to face Foley.
“members dot tripod dot com” sign with two slashes in case you were wondering if this was, in fact, 1999.
Match 5: THE ROCK vs MRS. FOLEY’S BABY BOY (World Champion) – I QUIT MATCH
- running flip over ringsteps
- elbowdrop onto ladder
- 6-7 foot drop onto “electrical circuit board”
- 10 unprotected chair shots while handcuffed
A wrestler shouldn’t do any of these things. Mick Foley did 13 of them in the same match, with his family at ringside. Foley would retire as an active wrestler the following year, and though he’d wrestle a match here and there, this is the match (with those damned chair shots) that was the beginning of the end of his career. I can remember workers telling me in those days that one could take a chair shot “unprotected” (ie. without using your arms to brace the impact) if you took it to the base of the skull (or direct to the forehead, depending on who I talked to), and that unprotected chair shots were part of “paying your dues”. Mick had no dues left to pay. This never should have happened. Regardless, it did, and Rock got Mick to say “I Quit” (if I remember correctly, he didn’t actually say it, and it was a recorded message because tomfoolery) and he got his belt. Rock kept heeling it up as medical personnel attempted to take care of Mick, and Mick ended up walking back to the dressing room without a stretcher. Now I know why this is TV-MA.
Match 6: THE ROYAL RUMBLE
As mentioned before, we start off with Austin (1) and Vince (2). Vince is in great shape for mid-50s, and has more baby oil on him than all of Venice Beach. Austin as expected kicks a mudhole in him, until the buzzer sounds for #3, and Golga (masked John Tenta) comes to ringside, wearing his Cartman shirt and reminding you that South Park has been on for a long ass time. Golga finally hits the ring, attacks Austin, then gets tossed by Austin. Vince leaves the ring (under the ropes) and Austin chases after him, so they’re in the crowd but neither are eliminated because no one’s over the top. We got LOD music for #4 but we can’t see who it is because we’re following Vince/Austin looking for a concession stand, Lance Russell and Tojo Yamamoto. Vince runs into a ladies room and Austin follows to be ambushed by the corporate stable because ITS A TRAP.
Back to ringside where LOD Droz (4) is in the ring and warming up because no one’s there. Countdown finally and YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME (5) runs down, and it’s Edge/Droz in the ring. We’re told this is both wrestlers’ RR debut, so Edge is probably still in his “mysterious drifter” phase and not yet affiliated with the rest of the Brood. GILL-BERG GILL-BERG GILL-BERG (6) is next, complete with sparklers, and Vince’s middle finger to WCW takes up a Rumble slot. Gillberg makes it in the ring, does the taunt on the ropes, and Edge flips him over and eliminates him. Cut back to the ladies room, and Austin looks like he’s out cold, and Vince & Co. look satisfied.
Back to the ring, and we’re joined by STEVE BLACKMAN (7) and DAN SEVERN (8) for some TOTALLY LEGIT FIGHTING. For those unfamiliar with those two, Blackman had black pants and a beard, while Severn wore black tights and had a mustache. Both had legit fighting backgrounds (especially Severn, who fought Royce Gracie at the first UFC), but calling the two of them vanilla would be an insult to the entire island nation of Madagascar. TIGER ALI SINGH (9) followed, who WWE signed for a good chunk of money but wasn’t ready. They gave him a Ted DiBiase-type gimmick, but that lasted for a week or so then we went away.
Cut to Austin who’s being put into a ambulance because he’s dead-ish.
#10 is THE BLUE MEANIE, and you’re getting an idea how thin this WWE roster was at the time. Meanie was signed by WWE away from ECW because sure why not. Meanie was trained by Al Snow (and was put into Snow’s J.O.B. Squad stable) so there you go. Mosh (of the Headbangers) is supposed to be next, but he’s attacked by Mabel (who returned an hour or so earlier on Heat) who comes out of the tunnel instead, and they give him music and make MABEL #11. Apparently when the number is called it’s just the first wrestler who walks down the tunnel that gets the slot – who knew? Mabel begins to clean house, eliminating Severn, Blackman, and Singh. In an amusing (if unplanned) spot, Meanie confronts Mabel, and throws various shots at him, which Mabel no-sells. Meanie, frustrated, puts his hands on his hips, then grabs Mabel’s arm to put his hand on Meanie’s throat and motions for Mabel to throw him over the top. Mabel, of course, no-sells this as well and clotheslines him. Droz gets eliminated by Mabel, as does Meanie (on Mabel’s terms, dammit), in time for ROAD DOGG (12) to hit the ring. Dogg eliminates Edge and it’s just Dogg/Mabel until the lights go out, and when they come back on, Undertaker’s music is playing, but it’s the Acolytes (pre-Protection Agency) and Midion (pre-nakedness) who have Mabel out of the ring and are hammering away at him. Taker’s out (with Paul Bearer), and Taker says something to Mabel, then they take Mabel away. I guess he’s out? Sure, why not.
Road Dogg is left alone until he’s joined by GANGREL (13 because OF COURSE). Gangrel doesn’t last long, so the D-oh-double-gee waits for his next opponent, which is KURRGAN (14). Ah, the Oddities. Cole mentions Kurrgan dropping a “patented sidewalk slam”, which I assume is making him a fortune since every wrestler ever uses it, including Bossman earlier. They’re joined at #15 by AL SNOW (w/o Head), but he doesn’t stick around long because let’s get over Road Dogg. #16 is [SLURPING SOUND]GOLDDUST, while #17 is THE GODFATHER (w/hoes). The hoes only make it halfway to ringside, take Godfather’s gear, then leave, which starts a “we want hoes” arena chant. ATTITUDE ERA AH MEMORIES. Countdown again, so I think we’ve gone from 2 minutes between entries to about 45 seconds (actually 1:36 from the time the Godfather is announced to the next entry – I went back to count). We lose lights again and it’s BAH GOD ITS KANE (18) who apparently pissed off Mr. McMahon earlier, but he’s here for another Royal Rumble cleansing. Kane eliminates everyone in the ring, including himself as literal men in white coats come to take him away. LITERALLY. Kane fights off a few and gets the hell out of dodge, so we’ve got an empty ring.
We get another countdown and it’s KEN SHAMROCK (19) coming down and Vince McMahon has returned to the ring (wearing a sweatshirt now because it’s cold damn it). Vince leaves the ring (though the middle ropes, so no elimination) so Shamrock’s all alone in the ring making SHAMROCK FACE with no one to fight and it’s a little sad because it’s like when a cat sees itself in the mirror and freaks out and cries to scare the “other cat” even though there isn’t one there. That’s Ken Shamrock alone with the SHAMROCK FACE. Vince now on commentary and I’m looking forward to WHAT A MANEUVER! but that probably won’t happen. At #20 is BILLY GUNN selling his ankle injury by run/skipping down to ringside without a wrestling boot on – you know, a boot that would offer him ankle support, then gets in the ring where Shamrock hits him with a shin kick causing Gunn to go down like a ton of bricks and sell like he’s shot while Cole talks about his bad ankle, further proving no one in the WWE knows where your ankle actually is. #21 is TEST TEST TEST who is also part of the Corporation and had just recently joined WWE at this point. #22 is BIG BOSS MAN, but before Boss Man can come to ringside Steve Austin is back, driving an ambulance to the arena and chasing Vince around ringside. He finally gets Vince in the ring, where he’s ambushed by the Corporation and Vince gets back out. Austin eliminates Shamrock, but we get another countdown, and TRIPLE H (23) enters the ring.
WWE had a smart side stipulation for the Rumble – a $100k bounty for the person who eliminated Austin. That way, faces were justified for trying to eliminate Austin, and Austin truly looked to have “everyone against him” in the Rumble, a storyline they’re trying again 17 years later with Roman Reigns with the WWE Title at stake. But, let’s remember – Reigns is no Austin. No one is/was.
Here comes HELLO LADIES SAXOPHONE MUSIC (24) and I’m reminded that Val Venis’ contribution to wrestling history was that because of him, you can give your video game created wrestlers a towel to wear to ringside, which was only eclipsed when Sean Stasiak’s “Meat” character was introduced, allowing you to have literal underwear as your wrestling trunks. Vince is still on commentary, saying that the $100k is coming out of Shane’s trust fund (no wonder he got pissed and bought WCW later), and when Lawler asked if he’d even give the $100k bounty to Billy Gunn, Vince says he “could care less” who claims the bounty, further cementing his heel status with me and every other grammar snob. Gunn gets tossed, rendering the point moot, but now it’s X-PAAAAAAAC (25) running down to join the fray and the crowd collectively takes a bathroom break. SEXUAL CHOCOLATE (26) is next in the Rumble, and damn Mark Henry has been around FOREVER. There’s mention of the “Sammi” transvestite angle with Henry which I had forgotten/repressed, and McMahon quietly says in commentary “that was a mistake”, echoing our thoughts over Mark Henry’s entire “Sexual Chocolate” booking. J-E-DOUBLE-F J-A-DOUBLE-R-E-DOUBLE-T (27) comes to ringside with Debra and it’s apparently very cold in the arena, much to Jerry Lawler’s delight. #28 is D-LO BROWN (w/chest protector & PMS) and now I’m SURE it’s extremely cold in the area (hi Terri).
We lose Test (via Austin) and X-Pac (via Boss Man) and as we hit the countdown, we also lose Jarrett (via Triple H). OWEN HART (29) comes down to ringside in that horrible road sign gear. Finally, it’s CHYNA (30) and we have our last entry. Looking over the last eight people in the ring, if I had told anyone in earshot in 1999 that of those eight, only Mark Henry would still be an active wrestler, I would have been laughed out of the building, but here we are. Chyna goes after Henry (because Henry had apparently bragged about sleeping with Chyna) and Chyna throws Henry over, causing announcers to yell out “SEXUAL CHOCOLATE! SWEET JESUS!” and an entire generation of future brewmasters begin working on stout and porter recipes. Austin responds by clotheslining Chyna over the top rope, ending her night and leaving her looking disappointed, which may be the first time we actually see a human emotion out of Chyna in her WWE career. Triple H eliminates Venis, then is met with a Stunner from Austin, which Hunter sells by standing straight up. Mind you, this works because Austin then clotheslines Hunter over the top to eliminate him, but you can’t sell a Stunner like that, Hunter. COME ON HUNTER.
We’re down to four in the ring, and they show a shot of Vince’s face at ringside apparently realizing that his three non-Austin options are D-Lo Brown, Road Sign Era Owen Hart, and the Big Boss Man, and he knows he’s probably better off with Austin destroying his company and kicking the crap out of him than putting one of them in the main event of Wrestlemania. Another few minutes of rest as we get extended grappling near the ropes, then Austin finally tosses Owen, probably hoping that he’d fall on his head, still bitter over Owen’s piledriver spots that broke Austin’s neck the year before. Owen would die four months later, falling from the rafters at the Over the Edge PPV in May. D-Lo and Boss Man double team Austin, with Boss Man delivering a sliding punch thing that set up D-Lo’s top rope finisher, but as D-Lo celebrates, Boss Man tosses him, proving that the Rumble makes you stupid. Boss Man turns around to see Austin completely fine after selling D-Lo’s finisher for 2 seconds to give him a Stunner and throw him out, leaving Austin and McMahon, who realizes that he has to confront Austin now. The two fight over the announce table, then Austin throws him into the crowd. Various plunder, then Austin nails McMahon with a (unprotected) chair shot (“See Mick! I can take one too!”) then throws him back in the ring, where McMahon is dead (but not split open, which I kind of expected). Cole talks about “Stone Cold Blue Eyes” and I’m pretty sure he’s hitting on Austin, which Lawler misses a golden opportunity to call him out on. Austin hits a Stunner, leaves McMahon for dead, and
Rock comes to ringside to distract Austin, which takes WAY too long to set up (Vince sold Austin’s attack a little *too* good), and ties up Austin over the ropes, leaving McMahon to push him over the top rope for the victory. After the win, Vince, Shane, Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson celebrated in the ring with beer, taunting Austin. Not the best Rumble by a longshot, but I guess it did it’s job.
The Rock: This card cemented his heel status, putting the World Title back on him while destroying Foley, arguably the second most popular wrestler in the company, then screwing over the most popular wrestler in the company in Austin. Major rub here, and he ran with it.
Big Boss Man: What the hell did Ray Traylor do to get this kind of push? Boss Man was holding a tag belt, beat the Hardcore Champion in Road Dogg earlier in the card, then was the next to last man in the ring for the actual Rumble match, staying in the Rumble longer than any other wrestler who wasn’t Austin or McMahon. He’d be feuding with Al Snow soon enough, but damn – that was a nice ride while it lasted.
Mick Foley’s brain: 10 or 11 unprotected hair shots, depending on who you ask (I counted 10 – I may have missed one). I mean – this isn’t totally on Rock or WWE or whatever – plenty of blame goes to Foley as well, who I’m sure supported (and maybe even encouraged) all the abuse he took, but it’s stuff like that (and that mentality) that led to so many brain injuries later on, leading to much worse real-life ramifications than headaches and crappy memory.
Chyna: Despite a big build for a woman being in the Rumble for the first time, and her winning the 30 spot on RAW previously, Chyna spent all of 35 seconds in the ring, eliminating Mark Henry before being quickly eliminated herself. Admittedly, she was still pretty raw at this point, but yeah.
OVERALL RATING: C+