Arrowhead Pond – Anaheim, California – January 24, 1999
Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are on commentary.
MATCH #1: Road Dogg vs. Big Boss Man
Both men are pulling double duty tonight, as they will be in the Rumble match later on. Road Dogg is the Hardcore Champion, but the title is not on the line for some reason and this is just a regular match. Boss Man is one half of the World Tag Team Champions along with Ken Shamrock. They start slowly, working the crowd into it before they really even do anything. Boss Man uses his size and power advantage, while Dogg tries to counteract with his quickness. Dogg goes to the floor to regroup while the referee and Boss Man argue about whether or not the nightstick can be used. That gives Dogg the chance to sweep Boss Man’s legs and pull him crotch-first into the ring post. Boss Man comes back and knocks Dogg back to the floor. Back in the ring Boss Man stays on the advantage with strikes. Dogg tries to fight back but Boss Man cuts him off. After several minutes Dogg is able to lock on a Sleeper, but Boss Man escapes and hits a backbreaker. Boss Man goes up top but Dogg grabs him and slams him down to the mat. They rise and a slugfest erupts. Dogg shakes, rattles, and rolls all over the Boss Man. He hits the knee drop for a two-count. Dogg then charges and Boss Man is able to grab him in the Boss Man Slam to get the pin at 11:52. That was decent enough for an opener, but the finish came out of nowhere. I still don’t get why it wasn’t a Hardcore Title match, as the crowd would have gotten more pumped during that. I mean did Boss Man need to go over that clean that they couldn’t do a title match?
MATCH #2: Intercontinental Championship Match – Ken Shamrock vs. Billy Gunn
Shamrock has been the Champion since 10.12.98, and this is his seventh defense. He is also one half of the World Tag Team Champions along with Big Boss Man. Both of these men are in the Royal Rumble match later on.The Champion charges into the ring and we start with an all-out brawl. Billy takes an early advantage but Shamrock is ready for a fight. They go back-and-forth a bit and Billy has the upper hand. Billy hits a delayed vertical suplex for two. He charges into the corner and Shamrock moves, so Billy’s shoulder connects with the ring post. Shamrock becomes dominant, working Billy over both in and out of the ring. They battle on the ring apron and Billy is able to heave Shamrock down face-first onto the Spanish Announce Table. Back in the ring Billy covers for two. Shamrock fights back and targets the left knee. He hits a Perfectplex for a near-fall. Billy ducks a clothesline and Shamrock nails the referee. Both men then knock each other down, so everyone is out. Val Venis sneaks into the ring and hits Shamrock with a DDT! Billy covers and the referee revives to make the count but it only gets two! The challenger is all fired up now and he is pouring the pressure on. Billy goes for an ax handle off the top rope but misses, rolling his ankle in the process. Shamrock thus puts on the Ankle Lock and Billy taps out at 14:23. That was a surprisingly entertaining match, as they kept the story simple and kept the pace going longer than I thought they could. The Val Venis interference played into the feud just fine, and the finish made sense. Well played, guys.
MATCH #3: European Championship Match – X-Pac vs. Gangrel
X-Pac has been the Champion since 10.18.98, and this is his eleventh defense. I don’t recall what Gangrel did to earn this title shot besides have an awesome entrance. D-X is on a two match losing streak, so it’s up to X-Pac to snap it. They immediately start at a fast pace and wrestle to a standoff. Both of these men are in the Royal Rumble match later on. Gangrel tries a headlock but X-Pac counters out of it with a back suplex. X-Pac hits a legdrop and covers for two. He keeps the pressure on but misses a charge in the corner. Gangrel takes control, hitting an underhook belly-to-belly suplex. He keeps the Champion grounded, always good strategy with someone of X-Pac’s strengths. Gangrel goes up top and misses a big elbow drop. X-Pac fires up and unleashes a flurry of offense. He hits the Bronco Buster and then drills Gangrel with a spinning heel kick. X-Pac goes up top and Gangrel crotches him. Gangrel goes up and X-Pac shoves him back. X-Pac goes for a cross body block and Gangrel rolls over (sort of) for a near-fall (even though debuting referee Teddy Long counted three). Lawler helpfully explains that the first-count was for when X-Pac had Gangrel covered; my own replay shows that’s not the case, but I appreciate him taking the time to come up with a reason. Imagine him doing that today. Gangrel hits a powerslam for two. He tries a spinebuster but X-Pac counters with the X-Factor to get the pin at 5:53. That was too short but certainly spirited. I would have liked to see them go longer at some point, but I don’t think it happened.
MATCH #4: Women’s Championship Match – Sable vs. Luna
Sable has been the Champion since 11.15.98, and this is her first defense. Shane McMahon personally introduces Luna, and announces that Sable will be unable to compete due to a back injury suffered earlier tonight on HeAT. He says Sable will be forfeiting the title. Sable makes her way out and says “ring the bell,” so there will be no forfeit. This is a strap match, with the corner touching rules in effect.
Sable is all fired up and Luna immediately bails. Back in the ring Sable continues to dominate. Luna fights back and targets the back, which she injured earlier tonight. She goes to touch the turnbuckles but Sable stops her and whips her repeatedly with the strap. Luna cuts her off and chokes Sable with the strap over her shoulder. She goes to touch the turnbuckles and Sable touches each one behind her as well. Sable goes to touch the fourth one and Shane jumps up on the apron to distract the referee. Sable’s stalker (Tori) jumps up and decks Luna, allowing Sable to touch the last buckle and get the win at 4:43. Not a whole lot happened in that match, but they kept it short and Sable didn’t embarrass herself, so that’s fine.
MATCH #5: “I Quit” Match for the WWF Championship – Mankind vs. The Rock
Mankind has been the Champion since 1.4.99, and this is his second defense. They start off slugging away at each other and Mankind has the early advantage. Things quickly spill to the floor and Rock whips Mankind knees-first into the steps. That’s such a suck bump. Rock gets cocky and does his own commentary, so Mankind attacks him and they brawl on the announce table. Mankind continues to dominate both in and out of the ring, and even lulls Rock into unconsciousness with Mr. Socko! They fight through the crowd and Rock Mankind charges at Rock and gets caught in a powerslam over the guardrail! That was cool. Rock gets the ring bell and rings it right in Mankind’s ear, twice. He puts Mankind on the Spanish Announce Table and goes for a Rock Bottom but the table breaks underneath them before he can actually do the move. Bummer. Rock spits water at Mankind, and that just fires him up. Mankind beats Rock up the aisle. Rock comes back and hits a DDT on the concrete floor. Ouch. Momentum continues to shift and a ladder gets involved. Rock climbs up on a landing and Mankind follows. It looks like Mankind is going to knock Rock down, but the wily Rock counters with a punch to the balls. Rock then knocks Mankind off the landing and onto some electrical equipment, causing literal sparks to fly. Shane McMahon comes out and thinks the match should be over but Rock will have none of that. They make their way back to the ring and Rock produces a pair of handcuffs! Things are looking bad for Mankind, but the resilient Champion is able to fight back with assorted leg-based strikes to the nuts. Rock fights back and slams Mankind down. He goes outside the ring and breaks a chair back with him to assist with the People’s Elbow! That sounded sick. Things get famous now, as Rock unloads on Mankind with unprotected chair shots to the head. Mankind walks right into them and Rock continues to blast him. They go up the aisle, with Rock continuing to pound Foley’s head with the steel chair. Rock knocks Foley out with one final vicious shot, and finally Mankind says “I Quit” (sort of) to end this brutality at 21:47. That is one of the more famous matches of the Attitude Era, thanks in no small part to its role in Barry Blaustein’s “Beyond the Mat” documentary. All these years later, it is still a sick display, and even for the time a foolish endeavor. It’s amazing that Foley can even carry on a conversation at this point and doesn’t have serious brain damage. That being said, the match told a great story and both men played their roles to perfection. This was a great feud and this is by far the best remembered match that they had. For better or worse, it’s one of the defining matches of the era.
MATCH #6: Royal Rumble Match
Stone Cold Steve Austin will enter at #1, and Mr. McMahon will be #2. The winner gets a shot at the WWF Championship at WrestleMania XV, and whoever eliminates Stone Cold will received $100,000 from McMahon. The bell rings and Austin unloads on his boss, much to the delight of the entire crowd. Austin has a chance to eliminate McMahon but decides to keep him around. Golga is the #3 entrant, and I’m shocked at how over he is. Austin eliminates Golga in a matter of seconds. McMahon crawls under the bottom rope and runs through the crowd. Austin follows suit and they battle all the way to one of the men’s bathrooms, where the Corporation attacks Austin and lays him out! Meanwhile, Droz enters at #4 and has no one to fight. That changes when Edge makes his way out at #5. They brawl back and forth until the Light Heavyweight Champion Gillberg comes out with the #6 spot. Gillberg poses on the ropes and Edge dumps him out. Cut to the restroom, where Austin is completely laid out. Next up at #7 is Steve Blackman. Dan Severn is #8 and he goes right after Blackman. Apparently they were having a feud at this time but I don’t think they ever blew it off. Next up at #9 is Tiger Ali Singh. I forget he exists sometimes. The Blue Meanie of the JOB Squad is #10. Mosh is the scheduled entrant for the #11 slot, but Mabel attacks him backstage and steals his spot. Mabel and Sing eliminate Blackman and Severn together, and then Mabel dumps Singh out. We reach an even dozen with Road Dogg, as Mabel eliminates Meanie and then Droz. Dogg eliminates Edge, leaving himself alone with the monstrous Mabel. The lights go out and The Acolytes and Mideon eliminate Mabel and deliver him to their dark lord the Undertaker. Gangrel at lucky #13 gives Road Dogg someone to fight. It doesn’t take long for Dogg to elimiante Gangrel, making him a two-time loser tonight. The giant Kurrgan is #14. Kurrgan dominates, throwing Dogg around the ring. We’re halfway home with #15, Al Snow, who wisely tries to eliminate Kurrgan. Dogg sneaks up behind Snow and dumps him out. Goldust is #16. The Godfather is #17, and not much happens until Kane arrives with the #18 draw. Kane dumps Dogg, Kurrgan, Godfather, and Goldust in short order. The men in the white coats come out to get Kane and bring him back to the Institution, but Kane fights them off and then steps over the top rope as he leaves the ring, eliminating himself. I guess that’s a rule this year. Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion Ken Shamrock is #19, and he enters as Mr. McMahon makes his way back to the ring. McMahon and Austin are still technically legal, but Austin was taken away on a stretcher so he seems to be out of the match. Ever the gracious one, McMahon avoids fighting Shamrock and gets on commentary. Shamrock’s rival Billy Gunn comes running out at #20.
Test is #21, as they cut backstage to show the Ministry stuffing Mabel into the back of a hearse. At the same time, an ambulance pulls into the arena, and it’s Stone Cold Steve Austin! He’s back! Austin chases McMahon around the ring but gets cut off by Shamrock. Big Boss Man is #22, and he comes in just as Austin backdrops Shamrock to the floor. Triple H is #23. Val Venis follows at #24. Austin eliminates Billy Gunn, and then European Champion X-Pac comes out with the #25 draw. Venis works on Austin but is not able to eliminate him. Next up at #26 is “Sexual Chocolate” Mark Henry. Jeff Jarrett (with Debra) is #27. The ring is filling up as D-Lo Brown (with Terri and Jacqueline, P.M.S. – Pretty Mean Sistas) is #28. Austin eliminates Test, and Boss Man dumps X-Pac. Triple H eliminates Jarrett right as Owen Hart comes out at #29. The field is complete when Chyna makes history, becoming the first woman to enter the Rumble at #30. Chyna quickly eliminates Henry, but then gets eliminated by Austin. Triple H takes offense to that. He dumps Venis, but turns right around into a Stunner and gets clothelined out by Austin.
Now there are four men (plus Mr. McMahon) left. Austin dumps Owen out. D-Lo hits Austin with the ‘Lo Down, and then Boss Man dumps D-Lo out. Austin hits Boss Man with a Stunner and clotheslines him out. That means we’re back to where we started, with Austin vs McMahon! It’s just like 1995, sort of. Austin throws McMahon around ringside and clobbers him with a chair. Back in the ring Austin continues the physical and verbal abuse. New WWF Champion The Rock makes his way down with the title belt and distracts Austin. That allows McMahon to sneak up from behind and eliminate Austin to get the win at 56:36! At the time, watching with all my friends, this was super fun and we were so pissed that McMahon won. Looking back it’s one of the weaker Rumbles, with really only one story going on throughout the entire thing, and lots of jobbers in the early going and nobody important coming out between numbers 3-18.
Royal Rumble Highlights
This is the usual highlight package, nothing out of the ordinary.
ROYAL RUMBLE TRIVIA
Longest Lasting Superstar in the Ring: Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mr. McMahon, 57 minutes
Superstar With Most Eliminations: Stone Cold Steve Austin, 8
Royal Rumble Rookies: The Blue Meanie, Chyna, Droz, Edge, Gangrel, Gillberg, Godfather, Golga, Kane, Mr. McMahon, Dan Severn, Tiger Ali Singh, Al Snow, Test, and Val Venis