It's now time for Part 2 of 4 of, "NWK's worn out tape collection". Pre-Network, and pre-being able to stay up late to watch wrestling, I had four shows on VHS that I wore out. King of the Rings 1993 and 1999, WWF Saint Valentine's Day Massacre and Judgement Day 2001. Will the show be as enjoyable to me now as it was in the dark times? Let's find out!
Show opening video package: Typical Attitude Era greatness, with overly grandiose themes cut together like a late 90s music video. Unfortunately the only thing highlighted was McMahons v. Austin.
Steve Blackman beats the shit out of Ken Shamrock on heat: This happens because Commissioner Micheals made Shamrock vs Shane for Heat, and Blackman made the save. Although Shamrock apparently got his fill, because we don't know how hurt Shane is which may effect the main event. This is GREAT! Having such important matches/events relegated to the pre-show makes this cast of chaotic characters feel like they're living and breathing, and not just on pause until there's a TV camera present.
X-Pac vs Hardcore Holly
We elarn that The Acolytes are the tag team champions because they won them in a six man tag against X-Pac/Kane , but Billy Gunn stole one of the belts. I'm confused as to what exactly this accomplishes,
X-Pac goes down after the first shoulder tackle grabbing his neck, to which JR says he may have been injured at the MSG house show the night before. Great, immediate storytelling that doesn't require anything particularly wacky.
This sets up the story of the match, with the fan favorite X-Pac taking some really scary moves, including a Jacknife powerbomb, working the neck. Holly also sets up his temper, shoving the ref during the ropebreak spot. X-Pac gets back into it, and gets the Bronco Buster, which causes Holly to snap and hit X-Pac with a chair for the DQ.
This was a perfectly fine little opener and the finish, albeit not what most fans enjoy, makes sense in the context of ill-tempered Hardcore Holly
Post match: Holly works the neck more, but Road Dogg runs out to make the save, to return the favor from when X-Pac saved Road Dogg from Hunter and Chyna on heat. This was good, except for the tease of the two 'reforming DX" despite the fact that both guys are rocking the DX colors.
Hardcore Holly interview with Terry Taylor: Bad, generic heel promo that goes against the previous match's storytelling. He does redeem himself a bit with his own rendition of Scott Hall's spooky fingers and keeping his head in the frame as he walks away like Road Runner. He also alludes to screwing with Big Show
Big Show vs Kane
Having a giant who can bump like Kane can really makes Big Show look good, and shows how valuable a worker Kane was. Jerry makes the comparison that Andre the Giant never pushed a car on someone, when one of the premiere Andre stories was that he pushed a car over on some people messing with him. A wacky double big boot spot looks sloppy for the double down. A ref bump prompts an immediate Kane low blow which summons Hardcore Holly and a steel chair. Kane eliminates Holly, which allows Show to get back into it. We get a long LONG choke spot for Kane. Show eventually breaks it, which pops the crowd....but Kane just uses the chair to the head for the three count
This match just got worse as it went on. Hardcore and Big Show barely got to advance their feud and Show looked like a goober in the process.
Mr.Ass promo: Mr.Ass comes out for his match against Ken Shamrock, who he calls a coward if he doesn't wrestle injured and an idiot if he does. This reminded me a lot of those "Reign of Terror" Triple H promo where Triple H would inadvertantly bury people because he has to be factually correct. Meanwhile, we get
Ken Shamrock rejects the EMTs' medical advice: By which I mean he throws them around while screaming like a lunatic. This was great1
Mr.Ass vs Ken Shamrock
I like the production touch of Shamrock's theme not hitting until after he's started his entrance, like the Entrance CD guy had to fumble for his theme because he wasn't expecting it. I also like Teddy trying to disuade Shamrock from continuing. What I didn't like was Teddy starting the match after he had been jumped by Mr.Ass. I feel like he should've waited to start the match until Shamrock got some offense, but that's just me fantasy booking.
Mr.Ass works the neck and torso, and also the ribs? Internal injuries mean it's hard to pick a body part to work I guess. Shamrock gets some big strikes in, and a cool ankle lock that Shamrock manages to get from his back while Mr. Ass is kneeling., but it's all Mr.Ass. Shamrock manages to pick the ankle with a roll, but because Ken is selling it's slow as hell. Shamrock makes his a comeback, but Mr.Ass blocks a Huricanrana with a sit-out powerbomb, and that convinces Teddy to award the match to Mr.Ass without doing a dramatic check on him or
Why would you do an injury angle with a guy and have him lose a tournament, or just get his match stopped? Especially when that guy is someone a major TV network deemed "The World's Most Dangerous Man?" Either have him be injured and win, or have him be so injured he has to be forcibly taken to a hospital.. You can't do either or.
Post match: Mr.Ass could've really cemented himself as the tourney's big heel by jumping Shamrock. Instead he just goes to the back. In another case of them not knowing how to book a critically injured person, and presenting two opposing ideas, Shamrock ejects Teddy from the ring and goes to the back,
Chyna and Triple H interview with Kevin Kelly: Chyna says she wanted to be a princess when she's a little, and tonight she's all grown up and can be a queen. She also cuts a generic wrestler promo about Road Dogg having balls to step in the ring with her. More interesting though, is Triple H's part. He made a challenge to the winner of Rock/Undertaker for the championship, and he teases that he might cost Undertaker, despite them being stable mates.. This actually must have been intriguing to watch live, as a stablemate turning on another because they want to isn't out of the realm of possibility in the Attitude Era.
Road Dogg promo: Man, people like Road Dogg and Enzo Amore should be grateful the average wrestling fan is mentally deficient, as they can get away with cutting the same promo and still be over.
Road Dogg vs Chyna (w/Triple H)
This match starts out...very basic, with headlocks and go behinds, all of which are done very slowly, with the only story beat of note being "Chyna's strikes hurt lots". They do have a nice sound and Dogg bumps his ass off. The story the commentators tell us is that Road Dogg is reluctant to hit a woman. We don't really see this aside from Road Dogg teasing a hulk up and just not doing it, but that isn't brought to our attention. Road Dogg finally reverses an Irish Whip, and Chyna takes a BEAUTIFUL Hammer Throw bump out of the ring, which gets the most genuine happy pop out of the crowd all night. Triple H runs interference while Chyna distracts the ref. It's all Chyna, who even gets to mock Road Doggs knee for a big pop. Once Road Dogg gets into it Hunter blatantly cheats, putting Chyna's foot on the rope during a sleeper, and using a chain on Dogg, helping Chyna into the cover . Road Dogg subsequently getting a big kickout baffles my mind, but the crowd is jubilant. The body of Shawn Micheals floats out and neutralizes Hunter. I say "the body of" because HBK is vacant behind the eyes. Chyna gets a low blow but SWERVE Road Dogg is wearing a cup! Dogg hits the pumphandle and wins.
Had this match lacked commentary (despite the great duality of heel Jerry Lawler rooting for Chyna and babyface JR shitting on it), and abandoned the unnecessary superman kickout by Road Dogg., this would've been the best match of the tournament so far. But this ranks below X-Pac/Holly for me.
The Rock interview with Micheal Cole: One of those sublime Rock promos where he just eviscerates every one of his opponent's threats and does it with the greatest of ease.
This is happening because on the pre-show, the Acolytes attacked both teams, so this a redo. Another great example of the living, breathing world of the Attitude Era.
The guys start out hitting big moves on each other, and that's the pace we get until Micheal Hayes gets involved to counter Gangrel's interference. Then the match goes into another gear. Mid-air spear by Edge to counter a Poetry in Motion. Triange Crossbody to the outside by Jeff. Gangrel spits his blood/mist into Edge's eyes for the Twist of Fate and the three. This also means that Hardyz vs The Acolytes is happening tomorrow on Raw for the tag belts, but the only person who bothers to tell us this is Jim Ross.
The Hardyz/E&C have had more exciting matches but I struggle to think of a psychologically better one. This was an all out assault between four young guns , both of whom have managers who will do anything to win.
Post match: The vampires argue but make up.
Undertaker interview with Micheal Cole: Micheal asks if he can withstand the charge of the Brahma Bull. Glad to see WWE verbage isn't a new development. Taker asks what happens when you rip the balls off of a bull, which is a terrible line, but saved by Jim Ross muttering, "Well, that'd make him a steer" as we get the next segment, which is...
Mr.McMahon promo : Because Shane is injured, the match is cancelled. This is complete bull. I believe Mr.McMahon the character is a coward, but I believe that cowardice ends when it comes to control of his company. If the match is cancelled, wouldn't Austin just....remain CEO? This makes Vince look not only cowardly, but dumb as well. Commissioner HBK comes out and says that he can't do that. Vince says that he will find a suitable replacement per HBKs own word. Now this makes Mr.McMahon an idiot, a coward, AND childish. He's now convinced he will win. This is played like Vince outsmarted HBK, but he's only following HBK's orders.
Mr.Ass vs Kane
During Mr.Ass' entrance, JR brings up Shamrock getting more medical attention, and segues that into a conspiracy theory that Blackman was hired by someone because he's "too dumb to figure it out". It sounds like JR is going into business for himself trying to connect dots that aren't connected, at least, not yet.
Kane dominates, until he gets the stairs dropkicked into him. Mr.Ass' offense at this point is mostly chokes. The crowd is so dead it feels like Kane and Mr.Ass are BELLOWING spots. Kane prevents a Fameasser and makes a comeback. Mr.Ass gets dropkicked from the ring. He gets a chair, and also Big Show appears. Big Show grabs the chair and gets into a shoving match with Mr.Ass, but SWERVE, he hits Kane because of earlier. Why was this swerve necessary. Somehow the referee didn't see this and counts the pin for Mr.Ass
This had nothing of merit or content, and had a completely unnecessary swerve within a swerve
X-Pac interview with Kevin Kelly: X-Pac talks for way too long about having mixed feelings facing Road Dogg, Brian, James, Jesse James. Yeah he fucked up his name ladies and gents. This was bad.
X-Pac makes his entrance and then we get
Road Dogg interview with Kevin Kelly: A much better promo than X-Pac but that's not saying much. As hes walking through the curtain I noticed that his DX shirt is still the post WM15 iteration of DX on the back? I get not wanting to forfeit the DX logo, but can they at least get him a new T-shirt that's just him, or him and X-Pac
Road Dogg vs X-Pac
Both guys neglect their entrance fanfare because this match is so serious. This is a clean match between two friends, and ends when X-Pac hits the X-Factor out of nowhere.
I'm amazed that so much thought went into the little storytelling nuances of a babyface vs babyface match. If this entire tournament got more forethought than "DURRR INTERFERENCE" you'd be delighted. Unfortunately because X-Pac has to sell injuries and win, this is the shortest match all night.
Rock vs Undertaker video package: The Rock has been beaten up by the Undertaker recently so he wants the title. The Rock has to win a triple threat between himself, Undertaker and Triple H. Triple H and Undertaker get into it after a miscue, and Rock pins Hunter after Taker is too slow to break up the pinfall. This is brilliant and provides multiple dissension avenues for Hunter/Taker
The Rock vs Undertaker (c) (w/Paul Bearer)
Jerry dances around Undertaker's "balls on a bull" comment, to which Jim Ross mutters, "Testicles" which cracks Jerry up.
In the first minute of the match we have two finishers and two ref bumps. Then it slows down to a normal match. This was apparently what the doctor ordered because it wakes the crowd up. Next we get a brawl by the stage. Rock takes a gnarly bump into a barricade. The referee sells being afraid of the Undertaker, which I would too if your co-workers got knocked out. This also explains the leeway on the rules. Taker works over Rock but he reverses Old School and spits water in Taker's face. They go into the crowd, and you see fans sat by the cameras which seems like a poor decision. Taker blocks a chair shot with the ring bell, which causes a cartoon whiplash effect so now Taker has the heat. Rock makes his own comeback, and does a sell for an Undertaker running DDT that would give RVD a run for his money. Rock sells like death, and Paul Bearer does a masterful job of selling supreme confidence, followed by shock when Rock kicks out at 2. Rock makes his own comeback, but gets cut off by Taker for another nearfall. Having done this a couple times now they can tease Rock getting cut off effectively and that's a good thing. They tease a nearfall on Undertaker and now there's a double down. They go back and forth on strikes until Rock counters the tombstone with a DDT. A third ref bump, and the Undertaker barely sells the People's Elbow to hit a low blow. They tease an ether rag spot, but Rock hits clotheslines, pantos using the rag so Row Z can see it and uses the Ether on Taker! Triple H runs down and immediately Pedigrees Rock, They tease a double down, and Taker is just coherent enough to fall into a pin...FOR A KICKOUT! Taker hits the Tombstone and wins.
This match had everything. The insane beginning, and the old school rasslin at the end were exactly what the crowd wanted. I feel like the match slowed down a bit in the middle, but this is one of those matches that exemplifies great storytelling and telling a great story the crowd wants/understands in wrestling. Most importantly however is that The Rock put up one helluva fight and still looks like a viable challenger to the title.
Jim Ross speculates that because Trips is in wrestling tights , he might be Mr.McMahon's replacement for tonight.
HBK has Hunter arrested and removed from the building: All while Vince protests. At first I thought this was HBK being a dick, but then it occurred to me that Hunter has interfered twice tonight, so why shouldn't he be disciplined. Good ole HBK standing up for the rules! As a result, Vince makes a phone call and tells someone to come back to the building. Hmmm... Also, we see Rock coming through the curtain just as the camera cuts, and, while there's no real reason for Rock to be involved in the segment, I thought it was odd that the #2 babyface had noting to say about the #1 heel being screwed. Even a "good luck Jabroni" would've worked. especially if you were knowingly filming that close to the curtain.
We get X-Pac's pyroless entrance, and then we get
Mr.Ass interview with Micheal Cole: Actually a great promo. He's so confident he straight up admits he'll be working the neck, and tries to get "Four Words For Ya: Kiss my Royal Ass" over as a promo-closer, which isn't the worst catchphrase ever honestly
X-Pac vs Mr.Ass
Mr.Ass jumps X-Pac from behind and works the neck. Had Mr. Ass been this ferocious all night I'd be less critical of this show over all. Jim Ross says "homerun kick" and when Jerry calls him out on it, he just owns it. God, I wish modern commentators would/could do this, would save me from Micheal Cole's fake squeak laugh. That aside X-Pac makes a comeback and it's full of fire. But Mr.Ass comes back. X-Pac kicks out of a Fameasser after a cocky cover. X-Pac hits the X-Factor but he can't capitalize, which yields a nearfall. X-Pac gets his Bronco Buster but he hits a neckbreaker for a nearfall. Billy gets crotched up top, X-Pac screams obscenities as he goes for a superplex, gets knocked off, and gets hit with a top rope Fameasser for the win, ALL HAIL KING ASS. In a vacuum this was a great King of the Ring final, despite its booking, which I'll talk about next
I've decided to throw in a synopsis space for future wrestling tournaments so we can step aside and break down the tournament itself before we account additional matches into my overall review this was a great final in a vacuum, but I should say this is one of the worst tournaments I've ever watched. Mr.Ass basically fell into his all of his wins because of outside interference, so he's in no way credible. It could also be argued X-Pac didn't have the best run of it either (getting a softball match in the second round), but at least a win for him would've given him something good to hang is hat on. Hell, even a Kane win, having him go between cheating against Big Show and winning clean against Mr.Ass would've been cool, as a Chaotic Neutral King of the Ring really hasnt been done before. But because this is Vince Russo and the midcard (of which, based on this show I'm convinced he had complete control, whereas some of the mainstays on the booking team edited his ideas for the main event) the heel HAS to win, regardless of credibility in doing so. History has shown us what positive gains this yielded for Billy Gunn.
Austin vs McMahon video package: They start with Austin beating Rock at WM15, and they jump to Higher Power. I really like this. WM15 was the moment Vince went from "Normal disgruntled boss" to "The Mad King Vince McMahon". Of note also are Stone Cold's completely ridiculous CEO segments. which are hysterical and I recommend you watch on Youtube immediately.
Main event preamble: Absolute mastery. Vince makes his entrance with a glorious despondent look on his face. Vince looks disheveled by the "asshole" chant, which is a great contrast to earlier when he chastised the crowd for being rude. Vince reveals Steve Blackman as his partner, which means JR spoiled the angle earlier. However, GTV reveals that Shane and Vince were lying about his injuries. When they realize they're caught redhanded, they try to flee, but HBK stop them Shane and HBK come out to Shawn's music with Shawn's arm on HBK's shoulder like a teacher leading a bad kid to the principle's office. This is top tier comedy. Blackman is barred from ringside under the threat of DQ. Jim Ross sneaks in a "My boy Blute just won the pony" reference which no doubt popped Jim Cornette. NOW we finally get
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs Vince and Shane McMahon
This is your typical "Steve Austin kicks ass, but the McMahons get potshots in, but Austin mostly kicks ass match you'd get out of these three. Except there's a crazy element of danger in a few spots. Shane climbs the ceiling of the stage (all made of ladders) and basically freefalls off of it onto concrete, and then the ceiling gets knocked down. Austin runs wild forever, and takes a brutal announce table bump which cuts his back, allowing the McMahons to go for the briefcase, but Austin gets back into it. To show how masterful the McMahons are as comedy buffoons, they neutralize Austin and decided to basically play chicken and get on each other's shoulders to get to the briefcase. Austin gets a big Tom and Jerry theatrical tap on the shoulder before ending that nonsense with a punch. Austin has the win but someone messes with the briefcase controls! Vince climbs the ladder and Austin fights, but Shane shoves both guys off the ladder, which I'm sure despite looking tepid by today's standards looked like a car crash in 1999 (we were still several months away from the tag team ladder match at No Mercy). McMahon's win!
This was an excellent match, but the fact that Big Bossman would be implied as the mystery controller (his firing on Raw, which gets around the No Corporate Ministry interference rule) is the beginning of WWF jumping the shark trying to maintain Vince's heat, which would basically cement how they woudl handle authority figures for years after this.
No rating, excellent segment
Austin is skulking around the ring, presumably looking for someone to murder with his bare hands as we close out.
Undertaker vs Rock ruled, the main event ruled, and this was the beginning of Hardys/E&C tearing down the house together. That said, even if you're an X-Pac superfan, I would highly recommend skipping everything else, because Mr.Ass' abyssmal coinciding King of the Ring run will just make you upset