What if…Mankind had been Vince McMahon’s choice for the Corporate Champion?
Our story begins in the closing moments of the finals of the World Title tournament at Survivor Series ’98. The Rock has defied overwhelming odds—including risking his own job—to get to the finals of the tournament. His opponent, the confused Mankind, believes he is Vince McMahon’s favored son, but the match is not going in his favor …
Nov. 15th, 1998
The Rock stands above the prone body of Mankind, sucking air and barely moving. Rocky scans the crowd, giving his shoulders that familiar jerk; he has no elbows pads left to strip off and throw, but the crowd doesn’t care. It’s still The Most Electrifying Move In Sports Entertainment Today. Rocky waves his arms in and out—the preamble to The People’s Elbow—then bounds into a run; first, off to his right, then a hop over Mankind and to the left side, then, as he approaches Mankind’s body, he slows long enough to give Vince McMahon—who is at ringside—a two-fingered salute before dropping the elbow square on the heart. The crowd counts along with the referee, but the three never happens.
Instead, Vince springs up, screaming and pointing at the referee. Only the people nearby can hear it, although microphones pick it up in the background for those at home: Earl! Make the three-count and kiss your job goodbye! Earl stops, then stands up. The Rock waits a second more, then when what would’ve been the winning third slap doesn’t happen, he springs up and is in Earl Hebner’s face. Earl’s hands are in the air in an “I surrender” gesture and he shakes his head. Anger overrides Rock’s judgment, and he gives Hebner a shove. Hebner still shakes his head, but offers no verbal argument; instead, it is Vince’s voice Rock hears.
“Hey, Rock!” Vince puts up a thumb, then slowly turns it down. Rock’s eyes go wide with rage, but he has no time to do anything else. He is wheeled around by Mankind, who quickly drives his hand into the mouth of The Rock, and Rock is barely on the mat before Vince is screaming at Hebner to ring the bell. Reluctantly, Earl signals the timekeeper, and the bell rings. The energy of the crowd turns nasty and Mankind’s theme song is drowned out with the boos of the crowd. Vince tears the belt from the hands of the timekeeper and carries it (along with a microphone) with pride into the ring, presenting it to Mankind like an Academy Award. Mankind takes the belt and cradles it, while Shane McMahon joins them and Vince brings out the microphone.
“What you’ve just seen is the completion of a Machiavellian plot, a conspiracy that could only be brought forth by someone like me, Vince McMahon!” Vince beams amidst the visceral hatred coming from the crowd. “I’d try to break it down for you inbred Missouri rednecks, but it’s—”
The Rock finally gets up, and immediately gets into Vince’s face. “What in the hell do you—” is all he has time to get off before Vince screams for help from his new pet Champion.
Mankind clobbers The Rock in the back of the head with the belt, and Rocky drops to the ground. He gives Shane McMahon the order to pick him up; Mankind backs up across the ring while Shane gets Rock to his knees. Mankind bursts forward in a mad, scrambling run, winding up as he comes forward, then blasts Rocky in the face; the crushing blow sends The Rock tumbling backwards and out of the ring. Refs and trainers scramble out of the back to check on the now-bleeding Rock as Vince announces all will be explained tomorrow on Raw.
Nov. 16th, 1998: Raw
Raw opens with Vince McMahon, along with his son Shane and the Corporate entourage of Boss Man, Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco, all beaming with pride. “Thank you for that warm Kentucky reception!” says Vince. The crowd boos, but he ignores it, the smile on his face so big, it’s threatening to cut his head in half. “Last night at the Survivor Series, my son Shane and I proved that whoever it was that said Ôyou can’t fool all of the people all of the time’ was a damn fool. A damned fool is someone who insists on doing things the hard way. A damned fool is someone who embraces middle class ethics and values.” The crowd chants for Austin, but Vince plods on. “And a damned fool is someone who doesn’t pucker up and kiss the boss’ ass. Now, now, now, wait a minute; now don’t tell me all of you don’t kiss the boss’ ass, I know you do, you probably don’t just kiss it enough—that’s why you’re a bunch of backwater Kentucky hicks, and I’m the owner of the most powerful wrestling company on earth!” The crowd boos again, but Vince continues without missing a beat. “Even though you don’t deserve it, right now, I would like to introduce you to someone who certainly is no damn fool, oh no. Ladies and gentlemen, the World Wrestling Federation Champion—the Corporate Champion—ladies and gentlemen … Mick Foley!”
Jim Ross insists that this is all a bad dream, and that the Mick Foley he’s known for years would never do something like this, but indeed, Mick Foley comes through the curtain, the WWF World Title slung over one shoulder and a large, lumpy garbage sack in the other. And this time, the corporate sell-out is complete—gone is the straggly, unkempt hair, now trimmed down to a military buzz-cut. The beard is gone, replace with a well-trimmed, respectable goatee. Gone are the dingy brown rags, the tie-dyed shirts and the smelly leather mask; in its place is a nice suit and tie, and a new bridge of false teeth to fill in the holes in his smile. And if the appearance didn’t do enough to push the sell-out, the graphic on-screen lists him as “New WWF Champion, Mick Foley”. Mick enters the ring, shaking hands with everyone (and getting a manly hug of congratulations from Vince). Vince then introduces Mick with; “Ladies and gentlemen, listen to Mick Foley!”
“Thank you, Vince” Mick says. “Ya know, every since last night, people keep asking me why I sold out. Why I’d be crazy enough to trust the McMahons after everything they’d done to people who got in their way. Why I’d turn my back on the fans who had come to accept this pudgy kid from Long Island as a genuine WWF Superstar.” Mick glares out into the crowd; a handful of boos breaks the silence, but for the most part, everyone is waiting, listening. “But every time someone asked me that, all I could think of was how the fans of the World Wrestling Federation have treated me over the past two and a half years. I gave you Cactus Jack—I even brought in Terry Funk—and instead of showing us the respect and gratitude we deserve, you chant for Steve Austin. I bear my soul to Jim Ross, and what does he do? He mocks me, and browbeats me. I get stuck in a cage with a lunatic like Ken Shamrock and a pompous son of a bitch like The Rock, and who do you cheer for? The guy who couldn’t care less about any one of you.” Suddenly, Mick’s face floods with rage, and his voice turns into a blood-curdling yell. “I was thrown off and through the Hell In A Cell, and what kind of response do I get for that? You cheer for a goddamned sock! So you ask me why I’ve aligned myself with Vince McMahon and his Corporation? Because the fans of the WWF put me there!”
Mick sets the belt and the bag down, then opens the bag and pulls out the contents; first, the tie-dyed shirt and tights of Dude Love. Next, the brown vest and tights of Mankind, and followed up with the ring attire of Cactus Jack. Lastly, he pulls out a book of matches and a can of lighter fluid, which he uses to douse the pile of clothing. “You sick bastards put me in this position, so I feel as though it’s my duty to punish you. You’ll never be seeing Mankind, or Dude Love or Cactus Jack ever again.” Mick lights a match, holding it front of him and laughing like a madman. He dangles it above the pile of clothing, ready to drop …
And the sound of breaking glass makes his head swivel in the direction of the entrance. Austin is no further then the ramp before Vince is yelling over the music. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, Austin, stop right there! Cut his music, dammit, cut his music!” The music shuts off (to another chorus of boos), and Vince says; “Need I remind you that your new contract specifically states you cannot lay a hand on me without prior provocation? In case your beer-addled brain can’t process those big words, Steve, allow me to simplify: you can’t hit me unless I hit you first, or your ass is fired!”
“Oh, I know all about what kind of rules and laws Shane wrote in that stupid little contract,” Austin says, pacing back and forth. “And since my beer-addled brain is too stupid to use them big words you like to throw around, I got a real simple way of telling you what I think of your contract.” Austin gives Vince the two-fingered salute, much to the delight of the crowd. Vince steams and stews, which makes Austin’s smile that much bigger. “But I also know,” he continues, “what else is in that contract. It says that Stone Cold Steve Austin is legally bound to get a title shot the night after Survivor Series.”
The crowd, and the Corporation, both go into overdrive, although in much different styles. Shane tries to calm down his father, whispering something to him. Finally, Vince says; “There is no way that clause is in there. And even if it is, there’s no way you can back that up.”
“Oh, it’s in there, Vince. One title shot, for ol’ Stone Cold, right here tonight. I even took my case to a legal expert.”
Above Austin on the TitanTron, the image of Judge Mills Lane appears. “I have reviewed the contract for Stone Cold Steve Austin, and determined that it indeed does contain a guaranteed match for the WWF Title on the night of November 16th, 1998.” The crowd blows up, but Mills has more. “If WWF owner Vince McMahon does not adhere to this ruling, he will be in breech of contract. I expect a good, clean fight, Vince … or I’ll see you in court.” Austin’s music fills the arena, but instead of celebrating, Austin’s gaze is directed and locked on the gaze of the “Corporate Champion”, Mick Foley, whose eyes are quite possibly even more cold and hostile than Austin’s.
As the night continues, McMahon continues to spread his Corporate doctrine, interrupting a scheduled Ken Shamrock/Boss Man Intercontinental Title match with an offer for Shamrock to join the Corporation. It doesn’t take long for Shamrock to make his decision and cast his lot with McMahon’s team. Overtures are also made to Women’s Champion Sable, but she declines.
When Team Corporate escorts Mick Foley (outfitted in plain black tights, and a sleeveless flannel shirt over a plain white t-shirt) to the ring, the hope that Austin can stick it to Vince and his Corporate stooges starts to vanish. Austin makes sure to give Team Corporate a dose of birds on the way into the ring, but is blindsided by Foley before he can do his usual pose on the turnbuckles. Austin takes a few blows before getting a block and turning the tide, putting fists and feet into Foley’s doughy body. Vince and his lackeys are horrified to watch Austin completely dominate Foley with a barrage of strikes, which Foley can only stop with a low blow. Foley backs up and takes a breather while Shane hops up on the apron to argue with the referee about Austin’s supposed use of closed fists; it is an obvious distraction ploy so Shamrock can come in and put the hurt on Austin. Foley cues Shamrock to leave after the damage is done, and Shane drops to the floor in time for Earl Hebner to see Foley make the cover. But Foley only gets two, and is angry. Foley picks up Austin and uses his old Cactus Jack finisher, the double-arm DDT, but only gets two. Foley is livid, and argues with the referee. Hebner argues back, even going so far as to shove Foley backwards, right into a roll-up by Austin, which only gets two. Foley is up before Austin, and when Austin gets to his feet, Foley clamps on the Mandible Claw. Austin fights the pressure Foley puts on him to lay back with a kick to the gut. A second kick is enough to break the hold, and a third sets up the Stunner, but as Austin is getting in position to deliver the finishing blow, Foley slaps the claw on again. Suddenly, the crowd explodes at the sight of The Rock exploding from the backstage area. Boss Man is the first to meet Rock, and he gets a stiff clothesline on the jaw for his troubles. Hebner has completely left the action in the ring to monitor The Rock’s incursion, but Rocky is dead set on one target: Vince McMahon. He stalks Vince, pointing a finger and giving him a piece of his mind before Shamrock, who had circled around the ring to end up behind Rocky, waffles Rock in the back of the head. Shamrock holds Rocky back, allowing Vince to talk trash and slap him around (and, when Boss Man comes around, to put the boots to him). All the while, Foley has abandoned the Mandible Claw and gone after his title belt; Foley swings, but Austin ducks, plants a kick in the gut, then gets the title belt and hits a homer on Foley’s skull. Austin barks at Hebner, who comes back in time to see Austin make the pin. Hebner gets to two, but the three is interrupted by the emergence of The Undertaker, who uses a shovel to blast Austin in the head. Hebner has no choice but to call for the DQ bell, sending Austin’s title shot up in smoke. Undertaker continues to abuse the bleeding Austin with the shovel, and the Corporation takes the opportunity to get the hell out of dodge, leaving Rocky unconscious on the arena floor, laughing at the destruction of Stone Cold as Raw fades to black.
Nov. 23rd, 1998: Raw
Raw, once again, opens up with Vince, Shane and “the stooges” (minus Shamrock, Boss Man or Foley). “I know some of you probably think that I was behind the brutal attack last Monday when the Undertaker leveled Austin with a shovel. Well, let me tell you I categorically deny those accusations, and as you all know, I don’t lie. I’ve never lied to you before, and I never will. When I guarantee something, you know you can take it to the bank. That’s not to say I’m not happy that The Undertaker did that, because it saved me a lot of grief, but I would never condone or seek out such a blatant, horrific attack to be perpetrated on an employee of this company … even against Stone Cold.” The crowd boos this to show their disbelief, but Vince is unfazed. “Right now, though, I am a very special and important announcement. Commissioner Slaughter has graciously decided to resign, so that the World Wrestling Federation can be the leadership it deserves—an independent freethinker who does not answer to Vince McMahon. This commissioner will have full rights and privileges to treat each and every WWF superstar with equality and dignity. Theonly exception to the rule will be Stone Cold Steve Austin—he’s mine. I will make all decisions as it relates to Mr. Austin. So without further ado, the McMahon Family proudly presents to you, the new WWF Commissioner—theonly Grand Slam winner in WWF history—he is the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels!”
Michaels comes down the ramp to a standing ovation, dressed in a nice blazer and slacks, and a cowboy hat to complete the Texas sheriff look. After he does his trademark poses (with fireworks), he shakes hands with Vince. “Well, Vin-Man … or is it Mister Vin-Man?” Vince raises an eyebrow, but lets Shawn continue. “Regardless, sir, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity. The Heartbreak Kid is thrilled to be back in the ring, even if I do have to wear a suit to do it. Now, as a token of my appreciation, and as the new commissioner of the World Wrestling Federation, I’ll be the only one issuing guarantees around here, and I can guarantee you”—Shawn points to Vince, whose expression is showing he is beginning to regret his decision—”that things will never be quite the same around here. Now, in an effort—JR, if I may steal a line of yours—in an effort to add a little bit more sizzle to tonight’s steak, Mr. Vin-Man, may I book a few matches, right here, right now?” Vince nods, his skepticism growing more by the minute. “Firstly, that Hardcore Title your Corporate Champion has … somehow, I doubt you want such a …” Shawn chuckles mockingly. “… fine, upstanding man like Mick Foley to be involved in a brawl for such a lowly title. So, Mick, consider yourself relieved of the Hardcore Title; tonight on Raw, a triple threat match for the Hardcore Title, with Ken Shamrock,” (boos to that), “the Boss Man,” (more boos), “and The Rock!” The crowd bursts at that, while Vince’s jaw hits the floor. He tries to say something to Michaels, but Michaels holds up a hand as if to say “shut up and back off.” “And furthermore … ladies and gentlemen, right here in this very ring, for the World Wrestling Federation Championship—the current Champion, Mick Foley, will defend against … D-Generation X member X-Pac! Now hit the music!” Vince can’t hide how appalled he is, and tries to question Michaels, but he is already leaving the ring. Shane and the stooges confer with Vince, who is still too rattled by Michaels’ rulings.
The first match of the evening sees The Godfather against Tiger Ali Singh; as always, The Godfather tries to use his ho’s to call things off, but before Singh can make a decision, the sound of breaking glass cuts all proceedings off. Austin stops to the ring and dispatches Singh with a Stunner; Tiger’s manservant Babu flees in terror before Austin can execute him as well. The Godfather tries to calm Austin down a selection from his stable of ladies, but gets a Stunner for a reply, which sends the ladies scurrying for safety. Austin demands, and receives a mike. He fires his words off like bullets from a machine gun, pacing back and forth across the ring. “Last week, I got royally screwed by The Undertaker cracking me in the head with a shovel. Left me so messed up, I passed out in the ring on Saturday.” Austin pauses to take a look around, a little bit of paranoia on his face. “I don’t care what the hell Vince McMahon says about he didn’t order the attack. All I know is that I got a splitting headache, and the only thing I’m fixin’ to do to make it better is to find The Undertaker, stomp a mudhole in his dead ass, and walk it dry!” Austin looks directly at the entrance, as if expecting the ÔTaker to come out. “I know you’re back there somewhere, you piece of crap, and if I can’t find you back there, I will ruin every single match on Raw tonight until I get a piece of his ass!”
The second hour kicks off with the triple-threat match for the vacant Hardcore Title, and immediately, the plan becomes obvious: eliminate The Rock for good. Shamrock and Boss Man take turns pounding and wearing down The Rock, never bothering to try a pin. But Rock utilizes the liberties of the hardcore rules, and manages to even things up by dropping both guys with shots to the groin. Rocky rolls out, grabs a chair, and swings for the fences on Shamrock’s head. Boss Man tries to take away the chair, but Rocky buries his boot in Boss Man’s gut, and drops Boss Man onto the chair with a DDT. Rocky puts the chair on Shamrock’s chest, then signals for the People’s Elbow … but Foley comes down to the ring and pulls down the ropes, sending Rock tumbling to the floor. Foley sends Rocky shoulder-first into the steps, then runs at Rocky and crushes his head between the steps and his knee. In the ring, Shamrock and Boss Man start to stir, but Austin comes through the crowd and drops both of them with Stunners (to the delight of the crowd) before going after Foley. Foley and Austin start to brawl, but Austin’s rage is more then Foley can handle, and Austin beats him to the floor. Austin stomps away at Foley, taking pause only to talk smack and flip Foley the bird. But Austin’s barrage comes to a sudden halt thanks to The Undertaker coming up from behind and subduing Austin with a chloroform-soaked rag. Undertaker drapes Austin over his shoulder and carries him around the ramp to a waiting hearse, leaving the match to continue (even though all it’s participants are various states of unconsciousness). Finally, the Boss Man stirs enough to drape an arm on Shamrock—the plan all along, despite the unwanted interference—for the three count.
The main event—Foley vs. X-Pac—starts off with Commissioner Michaels sending away the two wrestlers’ escorts (Shamrock & Bossman and the New Age Outlaws, respectively). X-Pac brings his A-game to the match, using his speed and agility to run circles around Foley. But pretty soon, the weight and strength of Foley prove too much for X-Pac, and methodically picks apart the young high-flier. Using his eclectic high-impact offense, Foley wears down X-Pac, but the youngster’s heart keeps him kicking out of everything Foley can dish out. But Foley’s penchant for dishing out pain costs him when he sets up X-Pac in the corner for his trademark running knee into the turnbuckle. X-Pac brings up his feet, and Foley runs right into the legs, sending the wind out of him. X-Pac gets to his feet and rallies the crowd to cheer (with Jim Ross going into hysterics about beating McMahon’s “puppet champion”), and unleashes with a volley of lightening-fast kicks. Foley is driven back into the corner, and X-Pac hits his Bronco Buster. Foley slides out of the ring as the match is joined by Vince & Shane McMahon, who walk down to the end of the ramp. X-Pac goes over to the ropes and gives them a couple crotch-chops, and the referee follows, admonishing them for coming out. The distraction is enough for Foley to grab a chair and slide in the ring. Michaels dives in and intercepts him taking the chair away. X-Pac turns and sees the confrontation, but Michaels turns and swings at the same time, connecting right between the eyes splitting X-Pac wide open. Michaels quickly gets out (taking the chair with him), and Foley makes the pin in time for the McMahons to back off. The referee turns, sees the pinfall attempt, and makes the three count. The ref’s hand hasn’t even hit the mat before the New Age Outlaws are running down the aisle, but right behind them are Shamrock and the Boss Man, who utilize the Boss Man’s nightstick to choke out and beat down the Outlaws, while X-Pac is decimated with chair shots, and the McMahons look on, with now virtually all of their top enemies vanquished in one night.
It is the fate of Austin, though, that closes the show. Camera crews follow the hearse to a cemetery. Paul Bearer and The Undertaker get out of the hearse and open up the back door; inside is a body bag that is writhing. The Undertaker tries to pick it up, but Austin wiggles and fights too much to pick up; The Undertaker drops Austin on the ground and stomps him until he is still, then picks him back up. Paul points off in the distance and tells Undertaker he has had a grave already prepared (the camera zooms in the direction Paul is pointing, and picks up a fresh grave with a headstone already placed). Undertaker hefts Austin’s carcass to the gravesite, then drops it down. One on side of the grave stands the dirt and a shovel driven into the mound; on the other, a closed casket, ready and waiting. Undertaker orders Paul to open the casket while he pulls Austin out of the body bag and gives him another couple stomps for good measure.
Paul starts to pull open the casket, only for the lid to coming flying open. Paul jumps back in horror to see Kane sit up, then get out of the casket. Kane grabs Paul by the throat and is about to choke slam him into the grave until The Undertaker saves his mentor. The Undertaker and Kane start to brawl, but The Undertaker gets the upper hand and drives Kane back to the edge of the empty grave. This time, it is Austin who makes the save, breaking the shovel on The Undertaker, who falls in a heap. Kane recovers and adds a couple shots in on his brother. Austin grabs the body bag, and then goes after Paul. Paul tries to run, but trips over his own feet; Austin hauls him up and punches him out. He whistles over to Kane, who helps him stuff Bearer in the body bag; the two toss it in the back of the hearse, get in and drive into the night.
Nov. 30th, 1998: Raw
The next Raw has Austin showing up at the arena with the body-bagged Paul Bearer, dragging him into the ring. He brings a shovel with him, which he uses to poke and prod and generally scare the living hell out of the pudgy manager. He demands The Undertaker come out before he breaks another shovel, but instead of The Undertaker, Austin gets Vince.
“The Undertaker isn’t here tonight, Stone Cold,” says Vince, “so you might as well go home. You’re not scheduled—hell, you’re not even medically cleared to wrestle tonight!”
“Stone Cold wasn’t talkin’ to you, Vince, so shut up! I want The Undertaker, I want that rat bastard Mankind or Cactus Jack or whoever he thinks he is this week, and I want my World Wrestling Federation Title, and if I gotta go through every superstar on the roster, you’re damned sure I’ll do it! You go back into the back and you talk to your stupid little lawyers and sign me up against The Undertaker at Have A Nice Day, and once I’m done with him, you might as well put me on the list against that piece of crap Mick Foley!”
Vince glares at Austin in silence, considering his options. The familiar evil McMahon grin spreads across his face. “Well, Stone Cold, I’m not very inclined to let you anywhere near Mick Foley. I remember exactly what kind of hell you put this company through as champion the last time you had the belt, and it’ll be over my dead body that that happens again.”
Austin takes the shovel and puts the blade under the neck of Paul Bearer. “Your dead body, his dead body, I don’t give a rat’s ass, Vince. You make the matches, or ol’ Stone Cold is gonna raise hell like never before, and ain’t no contract or stipulation or nothin’ is gonna stop me!”
Vince’s panic is plain for all to see; he runs his fingers through his hair, his jaw clinched as tight as a drumhead. Suddenly, his frustration breaks; inspiration has struck. “I’ll tell you what, Austin! I can’t give you Foley—he’s busy with The Rock at the next pay-per-view, and he has some vacation time coming after that. But I will give you The Undertaker at Have A Nice Day! You’ll make history, Austin, for you’ll be competing against The Undertaker in the first-ever Funeral Match; if you can beat the Undertaker into unconsciousness, seal him in a casket and bury him and the casket in dirt, I’ll even allow you to enter the Royal Rumble. But if you lose …” Vince’s laughter is maniacal, chilling; his eyes have the wide-open glare of a psychotic; he is the devil in a business suit that JR constantly refers to him as. “If you lose, you will never get another shot at the WWF Title again. Do we have a deal?” Austin accepts without hesitation and leaves Paul Bearer trapped in the body bag for authorities to deal with, thus setting up the second half of the double-main event for the pay-per-view.
Dec. 13th, 1998: Have A Nice Day!
Have A Nice Day! opens up with the New Age Outlaws defending their titles against the Corporation’s duo of Ken Shamrock and the Boss Man. The Corporation manages to isolate the Road Dogg for the bulk of the match, using every dirty tactic they can think of to weaken him and keep him from tagging out to Billy Gunn. The tag titles look to be in danger, and when Shane McMahon comes down to ringside to watch the proceedings, the surety that the Outlaws on their way to losing the belts goes through the roof. The ref sees Shane and gets into an argument with him over his presence, and the dirty tactics get worse … until Triple H comes through the crowd and pulls Shamrock off the apron. Shamrock’s head bounces off the apron; Triple H hurls him into the guardrail, then slides into the ring. The only people to notice anything is amiss are Gunn—who’s not saying anything—and Shane, whose protests keep the ref tied up even longer. Triple H grabs Boss Man, delivers a boot to the gut and plants him with a Pedigree. Triple H slides out of the ring and starts fighting with Shane, and the ref lets that go in favor of the match, just in time to see Road Dogg struggle to make the tag. Boss Man goes for a tag as well, but when Shamrock tags in, he’s still feeling the effects of his beating, and the Bad Ass has no trouble in polishing off Shamrock for the victory. Gunn helps the Road Dogg get to his feet and out of the ring, while Triple H chases Shane out of the arena.
The double-main event kicks off with the World Title rematch of Mick Foley (accompanied by Shane and Vince) and The Rock. Neither man even attempts a wrestling move for several minutes, as both are more content to just pound the living hell out of one another. Eventually, it is Foley who gets control, thanks to a well-timed mule kick to the groin that Vince makes sure goes unseen while he distracts the ref with instructions: “Feel free to disqualify The Rock for anything you feel is appropriate.” Foley pounds on Rock for a while, using blatantly illegal closed fists, running knee blasts and everything else in the Foley playbook to wear down the challenger. Foley hurls Rock outside and starts to tear off one of the turnbuckle pads, which distracts the ref enough for Shane to put the boots to Rocky. Foley turns his attention back to Rocky after he gets the pad torn off, and goes for a baseball slide, but Rocky dodges; Foley slides out to the floor without making contact, and ends up in perfect position for Rock to hit the Rock Bottom on the floor. Rocky breaks the count and rolls back out to toss Foley (still on the floor, grabbing his head) back into the ring, but Shane intercepts and starts to sass him. Rock takes it for all of a couple seconds before blasting Shane with a right to the jaw. Rock tosses Foley back in, hits a spine-buster and sets up for the People’s Elbow, but Vince pulls down the ropes, and Rock tumbles out. The Rock is right up and gives Vince a taste of what he gave Shane, then gets back in the ring … but Foley is waiting, and slaps on the Mandible Claw as Rocky gets in. Rock fights it a moment, then swivels around it, bringing up an arm across Foley’s chest, and hits another Rock Bottom. Rock goes for the pin, and when the ref counts to three, the places explodes … until Shawn Michaels comes out.
“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” says the Commissioner. “I hate to break up your party, but as your fair and impartial Commissioner, I have to break the bad news to you, Rock … Vince and Shane McMahon … they’re registered WWF officials. You struck not one but two WWF officials in the course of this match. I can’t let that kind of you display such flagrant abuse of authority and reward you with the WWF Title. The referee’s decision is overruled—your winner, as a result of a disqualification … and still World Wrestling Federation Champion … Mick Foley!”
The crowd turns on the decision, unleashing a volley of hatred at the Commissioner (and a few people unleash their soda cups). The Rock fumes for a moment, looking from the man he just rightfully pinned to the Commissioner, standing in the aisle, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. Rocky hops out of the ring on the announcer’s side, at the head of Vince McMahon, and demands a microphone. “The Rock suggests you watch very closely, Shawn Michaels, cause The Rock is fixin’ to show you some abuse of authority.” Rock drops the mike, then starts stripping the Spanish announce table of its monitors. He tosses Vince on the table, then gets on it himself, stands him up and puts him in position for the Rock Bottom. Rock looks to Michaels, who is shaking his head; Rock points to Michaels, then to Vince, and sketches a one-handed crotch-chop, and then drives Vince through the table (to the delight of the crowd). Shane finally stirs enough to try and defend his father’s honor, but Rocky ducks the swing and gets right into the Rock Bottom position, and dumps Shane with it, right on the floor. Rocky springs right back up and marches toward the aisle; Michaels bids a hasty and cowardly retreat.
The event closes out with the bloody brawl that is the Undertaker/Austin Funeral match. The two men do not hesitate to use the lack of rules in the match to beat the living hell out of one another. Austin wins the duel of fisticuffs and stomps the Undertaker down to the ground. Austin wastes little time in breaking out the hardware, going for a chair, but ÔTaker is up and hits a big boot into the chair, driving it into Austin’s face. ÔTaker methodically works over Austin with chair shots, punches and blatant choking. Austin tries to mount a comeback after being tossed into a corner and dodging a clothesline, but ÔTaker is too fresh for Austin and continues to pound away on the “Bionic Redneck”. After ÔTaker has Austin where he wants him, he delivers a chokeslam for good measure, then summons Paul Bearer to wheel the coffin over to his side of the ring. ÔTaker rolls Austin’s body into the coffin, and Bearer shuts the lid. ÔTaker slides out of the ring and begins to push it up the aisle, but Austin kicks the lid open. ÔTaker reacts quickly, using his strength to tilt the coffin off its gurney, spilling Austin onto the floor. ÔTaker goes to stomp Austin, but Austin catches his foot and kicks out the other, sending ÔTaker crashing down to the concrete floor. Austin crawls over to ÔTaker and slams his head into the coffin lid a couple times before getting up. Paul Bearer tries to hammer Austin in the back, but the ineffectual shot only serves to irritate Austin. Austin grabs him by the head and drives him into the protective barrier, spilling the fat man’s blood. Austin struggles but manages to wrench the gurney from under the coffin, and when ÔTaker gets up again, Austin drives him face-first into the gurney over and over again. Austin dumps ÔTaker on the gurney—sans the casket—and wheels him up the aisle toward the foreboding gravesite erected to stage right of the entrance. Austin dumps him on the ground and puts a few more boots to him, then returns to the aisle for the dumped casket. Austin tries lifting it, but can barely move it. Austin tries pulling, but doesn’t hear the Undertaker coming up behind him, and only realizes it after the Undertaker has broken the shovelhead by hitting Austin. ÔTaker picks up Austin’s limp body over his shoulder and carries it back to the grave, then takes the gurney back to the casket. ÔTaker lowers the gurney and tries to ease the casket onto the gurney, but to no avail. A look to his manager—who was barely strong enough to pick up a gallon of milk without wheezing on the best of days—confirmed no help there; Paul is still leaning awkwardly against the guardrail, not moving.
Then, from the locker room, Kane races down the aisle, colliding with his brother in a monster shoulder block. Kane pummels and beats on his older brother, slamming his head into the floor, driving his fists into the back of his head. Kane goes back to the grave and revives Austin, who is at first startled to see the Big Red Machine—a hated nemesis not so long ago—coming to his aid. Kane points back to the aisle, and Austin follows Kane back to the casket. Austin picks up the broken shovel handle and gives ÔTaker a few whacks for good measure, then helps Kane guide the casket onto the gurney. ÔTaker starts to stir, so Austin gives him a few more hits to keep him stunned, while Kane wheels the casket (teetering on the damaged gurney) back to the grave. Austin gets the ÔTaker on his feet and beats him back to the grave. Kane, having dumped the casket in the grave while Austin “led” his quarry back to the grave, grabs his brother by the throat and delivers a chokeslam right into the grave and the open casket. Austin reaches in and shuts the casket lid; both men get behind the pile of dirt and start shoving with their bodies, sending a cascade of dirt down into the grave, and, eventually, giving Austin the win, and a spot in the Royal Rumble.
Dec. 14th, 1998: Raw
Raw kicks off Vince in the ring, microphone in hand, a sneer on his face. Next to him is a brass tumbler full of white balls. “As a result of last night,” he begins, “The Corporation has more issues—and more enemies—then ever to deal with. For instance, that degenerate Triple H trying to lay a hand on my son Shane last night during the Tag Title match …” The crowd starts cheering and chanting “suck it!” “Are you people that horrendous that you would wish harm on my son?” The crowd responds with a rousing “asshole” chant. Vince tries to tell them to kill the chant, but when it grows louder, he realizes he has no choice but to talk over it. “And another person who will pay is The Rock—I’ve been to the chiropractor twice today because of the damage he inflicted on me! Why, I was too sensitive to withstand my Swedish massage!” The crowd shows no mercy or pity. Vince lets them go on a bit, then saysl “Rather than feed you animals any more reason to act like the buffoons you are, I’m going to move on to other business, and that is Stone Cold Steve Austin, and that he has qualified to be in the Royal Rumble. Who would have thought that Kane would be a part of the Funeral match? Well, let me tell you something, Kane is here tonight, and Kane … I have a little surprise for you, and it involves your new friend, Stone Cold. Austin is here tonight, and The Corporation has devised a way to fix both of them for good … because tonight, in this very ring, there will be a no-holds-barred match with Stone Cold Steve Austin versus Kane … if Kane can somehow beat Steve Austin, which I sincerely hope he does and does without mercy, then Kane will keep his freedom. But if Kane loses … well … his father has signed over permission to me to have Kane committed. Good luck, Kane.” The crowd boos, but Vince, for once, is not only happy, but very pleased with himself. “And now, to show you the McMahon family never goes back on its word; Austin has, much to my chagrin, qualified to be in the Royal Rumble. Right now, we will determine the number that Austin will enter the Royal Rumble.” McMahon turns the tumbler a few times, then takes out a number. “And the number is … Austin has chosen number one!” McMahon then says; “All the of competitors have now been decided, save one. That one last entrant be making his debut in the Rumble, and, from what I understand, is the odds-on favorite in Vegas to win it all. Ladies and gentlemen … the final entrant in the Royal Rumble is … me!” The crowd boos and Vince tries to calm them all down with consoling gestures. “Now, now, it all depends on the luck of the draw. Just to show you that this drawing is on the up and up, I will draw my number, and for Austin’s sake, he better hope it isn’t number two.” Austin turns the tumbler, then reaches in and pulls out a ball; the smile turns to a frown. “I’m sorry, Austin … I’ll be coming in at number thirty. And I’d so hoped to actually be in the Rumble with you. Oh, well, what can you do?”
“Oh, The Rock has a few ideas on what you can do.” Everyone’s attention turns to the TitanTron, which is showing The Rock, live and big as life. “The Rock would normally suggest you take your tumbler … shine it up real nice … turn that sumbitch sideways and stick it straight up your candy ass!” The crowd explodes, but The Rock doesn’t let up. “But see, that’s what The Rock wouldnormally tell you to do. Hell, The Rock would like nothing better then to do it himself, but you’d probably enjoy it anyway!” Again, The Rock talks over explosive cheering. “The Rock wants you to know your role and shut your mouth, cause The Rock doesn’t like to repeat himself. The Rock has had enough … and The Rock isn’t the only one …”
The camera pans back to show the whole of D-Generation X with him … and, in between them, tied to a nice chair in Vince’s office, is Shane McMahon. “The Rock knows you’ve got a big vocabulary, so let The Rock speak in terms you’ll understand, you piece of crap—” Road Dogg holds up a hand and shakes his head, mouthing something to Rocky. Rock nods, then says; “Make that, you piece of excrement! The Rock plans to … eviscerate … and annihilate … and obliterate … and defecate and masturbate and whatever it takes, to your special little boy until we get what we want.”
“It’s real simple, Vince,” says Triple H. “The Rock and I, we may not see eye to eye on a whole hell of a lot. Frankly, I don’t wanna know why he’s gonna masturbate or defecate, but what he’s trying to tell you is that we’re not gonna take this anymore! We’re not gonna let you turn this company into a living hell for everyone! We want Mick Foley … we want his World Title … and we want your Corporation dissolved!”
“Shane! I’ll get you out of there—”
“No, you won’t, Vince. We got the place fortified.” X-Pac slaps Shane in the back of the head a couple times. Shane—his mouth covered with a rag—can only moan and utter a muffled yell from underneath the gag … but it’s enough to turn Vince.
“Fine, fine, what do you want?”
“We told you, Vince,” Triple H says. “We want Foley.”
Vince is about to open his mouth when Shawn Michaels comes out. “Vince, I think I have a solution. Hey guys … you want Mick? Fine … here’s the deal … at the Royal Rumble, Mick Foley will defend the WWF Championship … against the winner of tonight’s main event, with Triple H facing The Rock! Now, I know you’re probably nervous, Trips, since you aren’t really main event—all you ever do is hang out with the main eventers … so, to help you get the feel of it, I will be the special referee.” Michaels pauses long enough for Triple H to open his mouth, but Michaels cuts him off; “I wasn’t done yet, mid-carder. As much as it pains me to put two good friends at each other’s throats, I gotta add something to sweeten the pot here … don’t you think, Vinnie-Mac? How about … how about …” Shawn snaps his fingers in mock inspiration. “I got it! The loser is fired! How do you like that?” Vince nods a reluctant approval, still in shock over his son. Shawn takes no notice. “Now, someone hit my music!” The D-X theme cues up, and Michaels escorts Vince out of the ring.
The Kane/Austin match barely gets anywhere before descending into chaos. The brawl ends up taking both men outside the ring, where they continue the brawl. Kane ends up winning the duel of the fists, sending Austin sprawling back to the ring. Kane goes to give chase, but Ken Shamrock runs out of the locker room and blindsides Kane. Austin is too dazed to notice, and slides into the ring just in time to avoid the ten-count elapsing. Kane’s head jerks to the sound of the bell, and the realization visibly dawns on him—he has lost the match. Orderlies, led by the Boss Man, come pouring out of the back, and Kane has no choice but to run into the crowd for cover; the orderlies give chase, and the whole group disappears into the crowd. Shane—freed from his captivity—comes out to witness the chase from the ramp, and is about to leave when Austin comes up from behind and slams Shane headfirst into the metal structure holding up the TitanTron a few times, leaving him bleeding and unconscious.
The presence of Shawn Michaels as the referee causes unease in both the audience and the participants of the main event … especially with so much riding on the outcome. Triple H and Rocky, no strangers to one another, go at it full tilt, and naturally, the Commissioner is content to let the two go at it, throwing the rule book out the window. The crowd tries to cheer, but they know that the consequence of one of their favorite wrestlers getting a shot at Foley at the Rumble is that the other will be fired on the spot.
The match is a 10-minute back-and-forth classic, as could only be expected from two men who have wrestled one another so many times in the past. When D-X comes down to ringside, it is not Shawn Michaels, but Triple H who shoos them away, yelling that he doesn’t want to win that way. Chyna hesitates, but ends up leading the troops back to the locker room, in time to turn around into a Rock Bottom. Rock makes the pin, and Michaels goes down to count an arthritically slow two-count. Rocky jumps up and argues with Shawn about his slow count; Shawn argues back, reminding Rocky who the ref is. Rock threatens to punch Shawn, who sticks his chin out, daring him to swing and get himself fired. The crowd is screaming for him not to, when Triple H clobbers Rocky in the back, sending him sprawling forward into Shawn, crushing him in the corner. Shawn crumples in a heap, and Rocky reverses a whip into the ropes by Triple H. Rocky catches Triple H in a spine-buster, then sets up for the People’s Elbow. The crowd is on their feet (even if it means cutting off the head of D-X), and when Rocky throws the elbow pad, there’s a mad scramble for it. He bounces off one rope, then the other, gives a crotch-chop to Triple H and one to Shawn, then drops the elbow and makes the cover. Shawn stirs and crawls over … then signals to the timekeeper, and the bell rings. Rock’s eyes go wide with confused fury. Shawn gets to his feet and stumbles over to the ropes to tell the ring announcer what’s going on. The official verdict; Rock is disqualified for striking the referee, giving Triple H the title shot, and Rocky a trip to the unemployment line. Rocky snaps, whipping Shawn into the ropes and planting him with a spine-buster. He doesn’t even waste time with the elbow pad for Shawn; Rocky signals, then runs and drops the elbow. Triple H struggles to get to his feet, and offers a hand to The Rock in consolation. Rock takes the hand, then pulls Triple H for another Rock Bottom. Rocky gives everyone around him a mouth full of trash as he backs up the ramp, swearing revenge, but only the crowd has realized the ramifications of Shawn’s actions: The People’s Champ is gone.
Our story resumes at the Royal Rumble. In the ensuing weeks between the firing of The Rock and the Rumble, the WWF has been turned into a bloody battlefield; the Foley/Triple H match at Royal Rumble has been turned into an “I Quit” match … the absences of The Rock and Kane (who hasn’t been seen since fleeing from doctors looking to commit him) have given McMahon’s Corporation (bolstered with another new member, the former Motley Crue bodyguard, Test) such a free run that WWF CEO Linda McMahon has been forced to schedule an appearance at the Rumble to address the abuse of power by Vince and Shane … The Undertaker has not been seen or heard from since December, but ominous blackouts, laughter and haunting music have hinted at a demonic rebirth … and caught in the middle is Stone Cold Steve Austin, facing an uphill battle against the insurmountable odds of Vince’s corporate conspiracy …
January 24th, 1999: Royal Rumble
While the matches at the Royal Rumble are all entertaining in their own right, all eyes are focused on the two big matches of the evening, and the Royal Rumble has the honors of being the first of the two big matches to bow.
But before the Rumble can begin, Linda McMahon comes out, microphone in hand. She is no sooner in the ring than Vince comes out in his ring attire of a black tank top and loose-fitting sweatpants. “Linda, this really isn’t a good time,” says Vince. “Perhaps you’d better…”
“Perhaps you’d better stay right where you are, Vince,” Linda says forcefully, and the crowd loves it. “I’ve sat back and watched you torment and persecute the superstars of the World Wrestling Federation long enough! And my first act towards setting things right will be the matter of your slot in the Royal Rumble.” Vince gulps, his eyes almost leaping out of their sockets. “You and I and everybody here know that you rigged that drawing to make sure you came out where you wanted. But since you’re so eager to see what it’s like to be in the Royal Rumble, why don’t we give you the chance to experience it from the very beginning?” Vince gulps again and tries to plead with her, but Linda is hearing none of it. “Ladies and gentlemen … standing to my right, the number twoentrant for the Royal Rumble … Vince McMahon!”
Linda hasn’t even set foot out of the ring before the glass breaks and Steve Austin runs down to the ring. Vince’s expression of shock melts into horror, then abject terror, before he dives through the middle rope towards the announcers. But Austin circles around the ring and catches up to Vince in short order. He bounces Vince face-first off the announcer’s table a few timers (including a shot to the head with Jim Ross’ portable fan) and pounds away with his fists, then proceeds to leave Vince lying on the floor when the crowd starts to count down from 10. When the buzzer sounds, it’s Gillberg, who is kicked in the gut and tossed without a fuss; Austin then goes right back outside and works on Vince again for another minute before the crowd starts counting down again. This time, Headbanger Mosh is the unlucky victim of a 10-second appearance-and-elimination by Austin, who goes right back to work on Vince. But when the buzzer sounds again, Austin doesn’t get off so easily; this time, it’s Ken Shamrock. The two brawl in the ring, and Austin manages to get the upper hand, stomping Shamrock down in a corner. The next man out is Al Snow, who goes after Shamrock. Initially, Austin helps Snow try to eliminate Shamrock, but out of the corner of his eye, he sees Vince has risen and is trying to escape through the crowds. Austin gives chase, leaving through the middle rope. He chases Vince through the crowd and into the concourse (all the while, Headbanger Thrasher has joined the Rumble), but before he can catch up, the Corporate Hired Muscle, Test, waylays Austin with a steel chair. Vince taunts Austin as Test works him over, throwing him into the cement walls and sending him headfirst into shipping crates, doors and anything else in the area. Satisfied with the damage, Vince comes back to the ringside area, where D’Lo Brown and Scorpio have joined the proceedings (while Thrasher has been tossed). Vince joins the announce team and proceeds to run down Austin, who is being tended to by physicians in the concourse of the arena. In the ring, Shamrock gets help from the Bossman, who helps to dispatch of Scorpio and Christian, who is eliminated within 30 seconds of coming in. The 12th man in is Bob Holly, who helps his J.O.B. Squad friend Al Snow dump D’Lo. When the buzzer sounds for the thirteenth person, though, no one comes, and the fighting continues, with no eliminations. Three more people join the Rumble…Road Dogg, Steve Blackman (the number 15 man) and Dan Severn…before there another elimination takes place; with Shamrock almost on the brink of elimination by Snow and Holly, Vince sneaks in and helps the Bossman toss out both members of the J.O.B. Squad, then quickly sneaks back out before anyone can touch him. Gangrel comes in next and helps to dump Severn. Billy Gunn is the next man out, and he comes to his partner’s aid, saving him from elimination by the Corporate duo. Bradshaw and Faarooq come in one after another, and immediately start laying to waste, pitching Gangrel and Blackman in short order. But the next entrant is a true surprise, and the red lights and ominous music are a glimpse into the hell about to be unleashed by Kane. The Outlaws immediately back away and let the Corporation, Faarooq and Bradshaw go after the monster. Faarooq gets pushed out and over as if he were a cruiserweight. Bradshaw is the next to get the wrath of the Big Red Machine, and meets the floor just as Edge comes down. Unfortunately for the young star, he slides in next to Kane, who promptly picks him up by his throat and tosses him back out. But when the orderlies start to swarm down the aisle, Kane leaps out and over, eliminating himself and running through the crowd, leaving Shamrock in the ring alone with the New Age Outlaws. Luckily for Shamrock, he doesn’t have to wait long for someone to come to his aid, in the form of Jeff Jarrett. Shortly after Jarrett is Owen Hart, and the Outlaws find themselves on the short end of the stick. The heels gang up on the Outlaws until the next wrestler is introduced, and he comes to the ring without music or fanfare … and, further confounding the crowd, covered head to toe in a bodysuit and wearing a black mask. Jim Ross identifies the man as “Il Roche”. Il Roche sets his sights on Jarrett and dumps him. Owen goes after Il Roche, while the Outlaws double-up on Shamrock. Droz comes in to even things up, but after him, X-Pac comes out to the aid of his D-X buddies.
Val Venis is the next man to enter, but gets no further then the entranceway when a surprise hits him…a surprise named Stone Cold Steve Austin…who hammers Venis in the back of the head, then drags him to the ring and tosses him right out. Droz charges Austin, who ducks and back body drops Droz right out and flips him off. When Austin stumbles back, he runs into Billy Gunn. The two turn to face each other, but Austin plants a boot in Gunn’s gut without even looking (or caring) who it is, and hitting a Stunner; Austin grabs Gunn’s head as he staggers about and tosses him. Austin glares at Vince, daring him to come in; Vince points behind Austin, to the newest entrant, Goldust. Like Billy, Goldust gets a quick Stunner and a quicker elimination. Austin exits the ring through the middle rope and stalks Vince, slowly at first, then chasing him around the ring until Vince slides in. Austin follows him in and gets stomped as he enters by Shamrock. Vince slides back out and taunts Austin from the outside while Shamrock works over Austin. Road Dogg gets tossed courtesy of Il Roche just in time to be replaced by the 30th participant, and the first female participant in the Rumble, Chyna. Chyna goes after Owen with the help of X-Pac and Il Roche; it is too much for Owen to fight against, and he ends up getting dumped. X-Pac gives Owen a couple crotch-chops to add insult to injury, but Chyna comes up from behind and tosses out X-Pac. X-Pac looks in disbelief at Chyna, who shrugs…after all, it is every man, and woman, for themselves in the Royal Rumble. But Chyna doesn’t see Il Roche come up from behind and ends up back on the floor, her dream of being the first woman in the main event of WrestleMania ended.
The final four are now evident: Vince, Austin, Il Roche and Shamrock. Vince now slides into the ring as Shamrock heads off in the direction of Il Roche, getting the drop on the masked man and trying to get him out by force. Vince weighs his options, seeing a practically unconscious Austin in the corner and Il Roche in danger of being eliminated. Vince gives Austin a double-bird and heads for Il Roche and Shamrock. But Austin has been playing possum with his exhaustion, and pops back up; he grabs Vince by the shoulder, gives him a double-bird of his own, and kicks Vince in the balls. The crowd explodes, and Austin uses his leverage to upend both Il Roche and Shamrock over the top rope. Austin goes to the turnbuckle to celebrate his impending victory, but Vince’s hatred gives him enough energy to get up and charge, shoving Austin over the top rope and to the floor. The energy of the place turns rabid when Austin’s feet hit the ground, but the anger turns to excitement when the crowd realizes that the feet of Il Roche never hit the ground. Il Roche pulls himself up and over, much to the chagrin of the exhausted Vince. Vince tries to plead, beg and bribe his way out of the situation, but Il Roche slings Vince into the ropes and drives him down with a spinebuster. The crowd loves it, but goes crazy when Il Roche stands at Vince’s head and lightly kicks Vince’s arm onto his own chest. The mask comes off and, like normal when The Rock does the set-up for the People’s Elbow, he flings it into the crowd. After he drives the elbow into Vince’s chest, he picks up Vince and easily dumps him.
But before the timekeeper can ring the bell, darkness swallows the arena. “Did you forget about number thirteen, boy?” a familiar, husky voice says. When the lights come up, The Undertaker is in the ring behind The Rock. He grabs The Rock’s head and bum-rushes him to the ropes, tossing him over and out. The timekeeper rings the bell and The Undertaker, the missing 13th entrant, is declared the winner of the Royal Rumble. But Austin springs into the ring, chair in hand and brains The Undertaker, drawing blood from the forehead of the dead man. The Undertaker sits right back up, and the two brawl out of the ring and into the aisle before being separated by authorities.
Mick Foley is highlighted at ringside as the World Title defense is set to conclude the evening. A brief interview of Collette garners the information that their marriage has been troubled since Mick Foley’s sell-out to Vince, and she concedes that she is frightened of the evil streak Mick might tap in to tonight.
Indeed, her worst fears are realized, as Foley’s aggressive streak hits, and exceeds, levels he set as Cactus Jack. Piledrivers on chairs, hanging Triple H by his head in the ring ropes (the very same move that cost Foley an ear) and tables are all used to weaken and wear down Foley’s challenger, reducing Triple H to a bloody mess. To his credit, Triple H fights back as hard as he can, showing a sadistic side altogether new to him; Triple H uses the steel steps to batter the body and head of Foley, but no matter how hard he tries, Foley refuses to quit. A Pedigree directly on the ringbell (which opens up a gusher on Foley) gets a strained “never!” out of the WWF Champ. Triple H’s greatest chance comes when Foley climbs the turnbuckle to drop an elbow on Triple H, who is laid out on the announce table; Triple H rolls out of the way, and Foley drives himself through the table, putting out the lights for a moment … but not enough to get him to quit (even after additional shots to the head with a monitor).
The closing moments, though, prove the most brutal and hard to watch, even for the most hardcore fan. Triple H, having taken the advantage and mounting a five-minute, foreign-object-laden offense, prepares to hammer the prone Foley in the head with the steel steps and crush his skull. But Foley’s veteran mind acts on instinct, and he trips up Triple H with a drop toe hold, sending Triple H face-first into the steps. Foley stumbles out of the ring and fishes out a pair of handcuffs from under the ring. Triple H struggles, but Foley eventually locks the handcuffs in place. Foley drags Triple H into the corner, then grabs a chair that has been kicked in the corner; he opens it enough to fit Triple H’s head in between the seat and the back, with the backing resting across Triple H’s throat and chest. Foley climbs up to the second turnbuckle and jumps down, stomping on the chair and crushing Triple H’s windpipe. Blood spews from Triple H’s mouth, and Foley demands an answer; Triple H can only shake his head, but it’s enough to enrage Foley. He screams at the referee, who can only shrug…rules are rules, and not even the ref can stop an “I Quit” match, he reminds Foley. Crazed, Foley dives out of the ring and searches under the aprons. Under the announcer’s side, he finds what he is looking for, and the mood in the arena goes from fear to sympathetic horror: it is a 2×4, wrapped in barbed wire. By the time Foley rolls back in the ring, Triple H is on one knee, blood dripping from his lips. Foley’s sick, merciless grin puts chills in the blood of everyone who sees him, save Triple H, who only sees a blur of humanity approach him at seemingly light speed. Foley rams Triple H in the head with the plank, spreading the open wound on his forehead into a cavern of bloody flesh. Triple H crumples in a heap, but Foley is right on him, raking the wire across his forehead. The screams are inhuman, enough to scare the most hardened of hearts, but he refuses to quit, no matter how much flesh is rended from his skull. Foley puts the plank on the ground, positions the very limp Triple H over it, and drives him into it head-first with a piledriver. Triple H is unconscious, unable to utter the necessary words to bring the carnage to a halt.
The crowd suddenly comes alive when Chyna runs down to the ring, her face a frozen mask of horror. She approaches the ring tenuously, not a bit like the Amazon she is. Foley eyes her with savage, evil eyes as she comes up the steps and asks for the microphone from the referee.
“Please, Mick, you have to stop!” she implores. “Put an end to this!”
Foley’s words aren’t audible, but his slow shake of his head says it all: not until he quits. Or dies.
“Please! I know you! This isn’t you! You aren’t like this!” Foley’s eyes show no remorse or surrender. And to punctuate it, he picks up Triple H’s lifeless body (arms dangling like loose string) and drops him head-first onto the board again, this time with a double-arm DDT. He stays seated next Chyna, grinning like a madman, staring through a curtain of his own blood. Chyna shrieks as Triple H’s head slams into the barbed wire, and a fresh geyser of blood spurts out on the mat. She shakes her head in disbelief, but nothing changes: Triple H is still a bloody mess. Suddenly, inspiration explodes and her eyes go wide. “He quits!” she says, then repeats with more authority. “He quits!” She turns to the referee. “He’s unconscious. He can’t say it himself. If you don’t want Mick to kill him, let me quit on his behalf!” The referee doesn’t hesitate in taking up the offer and signals for the bell. Foley takes his belt from the referee and sits in the corner, watching as Chyna dotes over her fallen friend. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Foley stand up, and her hand rockets over to the 2×4. She backs up, holding the plank like a sword, while Foley advances, motioning for her to give over the weapon. Suddenly, Foley charges; Chyna ducks and sidesteps, then turns and drives the 2×4 into the gut of Triple H once, twice, three times. Foley laughs as Chyna drops the 2×4 and beats on her now-former friend with her fists, and the two leave arm-in-arm as paramedics haul away the motionless, blood-soaked body of Triple H.
January 25th: Raw
The Raw following the Royal Rumble begins Vince and Shawn, but there seems to be little joyousness from the previous night’s successes. “Last night should’ve been one for celebration,” says Vince. “Last night should’ve been like Christmas for the Corporation! In one fell swoop, we managed to deny Stone Cold Steve Austin of his final chance at the WWF Championship …” The crowd boos and starts an “asshole” chant, but Vince ignores it. “I should add that Austin has been barred from the building tonight, so don’t go expecting him to crash Raw and Stun me. We also crushed D-Generation X and their leader, Triple H, like a cockroach, thanks to our newest acquisition, Chyna.” The crowd boos even louder, and chants of “slut” break out. “As I was saying, we should be celebrating like it was New Year’s Eve, if not for one problem, and that is The Rock coming in and sticking his nose in the Royal Rumble! Last time I checked, I fired his ass, and he has the gall to trespass at my event?” Vince wheels around and glares at Shawn. “And I blame you. You let my son get abducted and attacked … you continue to fail in putting that big red idiot Kane in an asylum where he belongs … and to top it all off, you can’t even keep an unauthorized person from interfering in the sanctity of my Royal Rumble? Your performance as Commissioner has been nothing less than a tragedy, and I’m rectifying that right now. Shawn Michaels, you’re fi…”
“I let him enter,” says a husky feminine voice. Linda steps out onto the stage. “I rehired The Rock, Vince, because he never should’ve been put in the position to lose his job anyway. Shawn may be to blame for a lot, but remember, Vince, that you were the one who gave him the job. You are ultimately responsible for the monsters you create. I can’t change the results of the Royal Rumble, much as I’d like to, because I’m sure you made sure The Undertaker held back until the last minute as an insurance plan. But what I can do is make Mick Foley defend that World Title on our upcoming Halftime Heat to air during halftime of the Super Bowl. It’ll be a special Empty Arena match, and Mick’s opponent will be … The Rock!”
Linda turns and leaves while Vince stands in shock. When Shawn snatches the microphone from his hand, he barely notices. “You were gonna say something, Vinnie Mac?” Shawn asks. Vince turns around and glares at Shawn, his upper lip turned up in a snarl. He can no more mouth the words you’re fired before Shawn rocks back on his heels and drops Vince with Sweet Chin Music. The crowd erupts with the turn of events; Shawn gives Vince a crotch-chop before the Corporate goons come looking for Shawn’s head. Shawn waves goodbye and disappears into the crowd.
January 31st: Halftime Heat
Despite the premise of the match, Vince escorts Mick Foley to the ring for the Empty Arena match, giving verbal support for his champion as the match progresses (and a lot of trash-talk for The Rock). The lack of rules is a swing in Foley’s favor, and he uses it to his favor to beat Rocky with every object he can find: chairs, pipes, trays from a catering stand, garbage cans (both plastic and aluminum) and even a bag of popcorn. But in the kitchen, Rocky is able to throw a pot of coffee in Foley’s face and turn the tide. A frying pan, a jar of mayonnaise and a broom are all used on the former hardcore icon as Rock chases him through the arena, trash-talking all the way. In an office, Rocky picks up a phone receiver and says, “Yeah, whattaya want? The Rock’s busy laying the smack down on some jabroni, like this!”, then smacks Foley with the receiver. “Here, you think you can do better? Why don’t you show The Rock how it’s done?” And this time, Rocky breaks the phone over Foley’s head.
The trash-talking and brawling…which ends up swinging back and forth between the two men…ends up in the arena’s loading dock. The combatants use everything around to their disposal to inflict pain on one another, but neither man will stay down long enough for a three-count. Foley ends up with the upper hand, resorting to a flurry of fists to drive Rock backwards towards to dock’s drop-off point, a six-foot fall onto old wooden palettes and concrete beneath. Foley hammers away, punching and punching, driving Rocky back to the precipice, but Rock maintains his balance and will not fall. Frustrated, Foley moves back, then charges; Rock ducks and elevates Foley up and over in a back body drop. Two palettes break Foley’s fall, but he crushes those beneath his weight, and is writhing in pain. Rock stumbles down a nearby flight of stairs in time for Foley to stagger to a stand. Rock reverses a punch attempt into a quick Rock Bottom on the broken palette. The Rock looks to his right, sees the stack of palettes and grabs a couple, then dumps them on Foley, driving the air from his chest. Rock lies across the palettes, and the weight is too much for Foley to move under as the referee counts to three, giving The Rock his first WWF Championship.
The first Raw of February has The Rock and Steve Austin forced to tag together against Test and Ken Shamrock. The match, however, is really a set-up; Mick Foley runs in and causes the DQ before the match gets too long, and the three beat into unconsciousness. Austin is of no help, as The Undertaker comes out and blasts Austin with a chair, splitting him wide open. ÔTaker tears and pulls at the wound, creating a massive gash; ÔTaker dabs his hand in Austin’s blood and wipes it on his own cheek like war-paint, leering with Satanic fury. When the aggressors leave the scene, the tableau is gruesome enough to call out the medics. The unmitigated attacks are enough to prompt Linda McMahon to sign two matches for the upcoming St. Valentine’s Day Massacre event: Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker in a First Blood match for the World Title shot at WrestleMania, and The Rock vs. Mick Foley for the WWF Title.
Equally distasteful is a deal offered to Kane by the Corporation: do our work and we’ll keep you out of the asylum. And, in the spirit of generosity, they give him a week to think about it.
The next episode of Raw, the final show before SVDM, gives viewers a preview of the main events, with The Rock and Steve Austin once again teaming up, this time with Triple H and X-Pac, against the equally unlikely team of Mick Foley, Bossman, Ken Shamrock and The Undertaker, along with Kane’s decision.
But before either can happen, The Rock comes out, looking stern and determined. “The Rock has been thinking all day and all night for two weeks, Mick Foley. For two weeks!, The Rock hasn’t gotten a bit of his beauty sleep, and you know how The Rock needs his beauty sleep.” The Rock paces back and forth in the ring, the championship belt dragging on the ground in one hand. “See, Mick Foley, The Rock has it up to here with your jabroni buddies and the Corporation, with Vince McMahon and his asshole son, with your Aunt Bertha, your cousin Floyd, your barber, your pet rock and everybody else you keep putting in The Rock’s way!” The crowd blows up; The Rock regards his people with a raised eyebrow. “The Rock isn’t out here asking, no, no, no! The Rock is out here telling you that beating you just isn’t enough! Pinning you, no, it just isn’t enough for The Great One! The Rock has had it up to The People’s Eyebrow with your roody-poo candy-ass! The Rock says no more, Mick Foley … The Rock says … Last Man Standing, Mick Foley. Don’t waste time thinking about it, or talking to Vince about it … probably can’t get your lips unglued from his ass anyway, ya perverted piece of monkey crap! No, don’t waste time, get your ass out here and give The Rock the answer he wants!”
But instead of Mick Foley, three words fill the arena: “Are you ready?”, signaling D-Generation X. Triple H comes to the ring, limping slightly, the scars from his horrific fight with Mick Foley still visible on his forehead. The Rock eyes him carefully, not confused, but obviously put off. “The Rock called out a doughy, stupid piece of crap,” Rocky says. “And, as much as The Rock can see, you’re not doughy.”
The crowd gives this a mixed response, the only kind of response a crowd can give when two beloved favorites stop seeing eye to eye. Triple H produces a microphone, and while he is smiling, there’s about as much humor in it as an autopsy. “Rocky, good ol’ Rocky,” Triple H says. “Boy, a guy gets his ass kicked and sits on a shelf for a few weeks, and suddenly, the whole place goes haywire, eh?” Triple H chuckles, but it doesn’t last long, and suddenly, he’s in Rocky’s face. “Cause last time I remember us meeting, I pinned your ass straight-up and sent you packing, Great One, and your sense of good sportsmanship got me a Rock Bottom. Time before that, I beat you for the Intercontinental Title in a Ladder match. And yet, here we are … I’ve got two wins over you, got you fired in one of them, and somehow, you’re the one with the World Title. You wanna explain that to me, Rocky?”
Rocky smiles, but like Triple H, it has all the warmth of a polar ice shelf. Rock backs away from Triple H and paces back and forth again. “You’re pretty funny, Hunter! You make The Rock laugh, see?” Rock stops still and his smirk vanishes. He lets the moment linger, then says; “No, wait, you don’t, because you’re just a stupid son of a bitch! Cause last time The Rock checked, you were fighting Mick Foley at Royal Rumble! Yeah, Rock was there … watched from the back, saw Mick Foley splatter your candy-ass all over Anaheim! The way The Rock sees it, you had your chance and you blew it! You’re just not good enough to get the job done!”
“Good enough to beat you twice, champ. Way I figure it, when you get done with Foley at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, you and me …” Triple H looks down at the belt, then back up at Rock’s face, locking eyes. “We got unfinished business, Rocky.” The two stare at one another with intensity, and eventually, Triple H backs away, cautiously, his eyes never leaving his long-time nemesis.
The final images of Raw leading into the pay-per-view are of the 8-man tag match quickly disintegrating into madness, with people quickly pairing off into their SVDM opponents. The referee lets the madness continue for only so long before it’s obvious the chaos won’t be reigned in, and he tosses out the match (which had barely even gotten started). So no one notices when Chyna comes out, save the crowd, and observes for a moment. She turns back to the curtain and motions someone to come out, and finally, Kane takes a few hesitant steps forward. She points down to ringside, and he walks down the aisle, but stops in the middle and looks back to Chyna. Behind her, two orderlies have appeared, a straightjacket in hand. Kane reluctantly turns back and heads to the ring, where the Corporation and The Undertaker have been fought back. Kane makes a beeline for X-Pac, grabs him by the throat and chokeslams him. This draws Triple H’s attention, who runs right at Kane and ends up sharing his fate. By the time the show ends, Kane managed to mow down nearly everyone in the ring, save his brother The Undertaker, who bows out of the ring once he notices the carnage his brother is inflicting, and Austin, who ends Kane’s reign of terror with a Stunner. Chyna sees this and books for the safety of the backstage area while Austin glares down The Undertaker from inside the ring.
February 14th, 1999: St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
An inter-gender tag match is announced on the weekend shows for the pay-per-view, pitting Triple H and X-Pac against their former D-X friend Chyna and her captive assassin Kane. And the pattern of the match quickly establishes itself, as Chyna refuses to tag in and forces Kane to do all the fighting. Triple H starts things off and makes a valiant effort to thwart the Big Red Machine, but Kane fights him off with all the effort needed to deal with a mosquito. Even Triple H’s speed (what speed he has on Kane, that is) isn’t enough to fell the monster, but rather than move in for the kill, Kane backs off and lets him tag out. This earns Kane a tongue-lashing from Chyna, who even gives Kane a hearty shove. Kane looks as though he’ll fight back, but the more she barks, the more he wilts, and when X-Pac finally charges, Kane catches him with a palm thrust.
Kane’s offense is hesitant but powerful, wearing down the smaller X-Pac with brute force. Many times, Kane has a sure pinfall…after a vicious chokeslam, and another chance from a Tombstone…but both times, he is ordered by his sideline commander Chyna to interrupt the pin. Both times, Kane questions the order (and gets an earful from the referee), but Chyna is insistent: more punishment is the order. Kane continues the punishment, but slowly (much to the irritation of Chyna), letting X-Pac get in the occasional breather … and even the rare bit of offense, although it’s little more than a bee-sting to Kane.
But a desperation spinning kick from X-Pac catches Kane off guard, and X-Pac crawls for the tag. Chyna has to dive in and pull X-Pac away, but stops to harangue Kane on the way back. Again, another tongue lashing, but Kane gives it right back. Chyna gives him a bigger dose of vitriol, and in addition, claps Kane across the head. Kane’s head whips back into place, and the glare is hostile enough to send the normally brave Chyna scurrying into the corner like a scalded dog. Kane looms over her, the screaming audible through the leather mask. He backs off and lets Chyna slink out to the apron, then, when she has her back turned, he slaps her shoulder: a tag. Chyna turns in time to see the ref make the sign for a legal tag, and her eyes go wide with first shock, then horror, as she sees that X-Pac has made the tag to Triple H. Kane gives Chyna a finger, then grabs her by the hair and hauls her in, then drops out of the ring to the floor.
Chyna barely has time to nurse her ass before Triple H is on her, throwing her into the ropes (and discarding the “she’s a girl” notion). Triple H rocks her with a knee to the jaw, and makes her eat canvas with a DDT. The crowd goes nuts when Triple H puts Chyna in the corner and brings in X-Pac to hit the Bronco Buster. The ref (reluctantly), and Kane (willingly), allow the double-teaming, but the ending is academic, and the Pedigree Triple H hits is more for satisfaction than out of necessity. Triple H gives his fallen former friend a crotch-chop as a goodbye kiss; Kane, meanwhile, has vanished from the scene.
The fight for the WrestleMania title shot follows, and no sooner has the bell rung then the match descends into a brutal slugfest. Undertaker’s size and strength is counteracted by Austin’s toughness and sheer determination, but with a chair in his hand, The Undertaker easily takes the advantage. Luckily for Austin, First Blood rules eliminate disqualifications and count-outs, and he is able to counter with a crotch-shot. For ten minutes, both men beat each down, taking turns at weakening the other, and trying to hammer, claw, punch and rend the other wide open and bleeding enough for the referee to end the war. But no matter how hard either man tries, neither man will break.
But the odds slowly start to shift in The Undertaker’s favor, as Corporation members come out one by one to try and help The Undertaker’s cause. It takes everything Austin has to fight them off and keep The Undertaker at bay, although The Undertaker is about as interested in the free help as Austin is in the interference: for The Undertaker, punishing Austin, not aiding Vince McMahon, is his goal, and goes after the added hands with just as much hatred as his opponent has for them.
But the one The Undertaker never sees coming is the one he…and no one…ever suspects: Kane. The Undertaker turns around in time to catch a large wrench to the forehead, and he goes down, his forehead opened up. Kane throws the pipe wrench and is about to leave when the second surprise of the match occurs: the mat rips open and, from beneath the ring rises a massive moving skyscraper, a human-shaped monster that is very familiar: Paul Wight, formerly known as The Giant in WCW. Wight steps up into the ring, seizes Kane by the throat and launches him over the top rope. Meanwhile, Austin has grabbed a chair and blasted Undertaker with a chair, turning the small rivulet of blood coming from his forehead into a full-fledged river. The referee, having been bumped long ago, comes to enough to see The Undertaker’s forehead and calls for the bell. No one notices, save the crowd, as Austin sees Wight and swings. Wight catches the chair and throws it aside, then picks up Austin by the throat, but stops when The Undertaker gets up and glares at Wight. The two giants stare at one another, with Austin held aloft between them. Slowly, Wight sets Austin down and the two stare at one another until Kane comes back in and attacks his brother. Austin kicks Wight in the gut and goes for a Stunner, but Wight shoves him away like a child, and Austin goes tumbling out of the ring. Authorities break up Kane and Undertaker, and Kane is pushed back down the aisle along with Austin, leaving Undertaker and Wight, one in the ring and one outside, cordoned off by officials.
The Rock is introduced first, and he grabs the microphone from the ring announcer before they can introduce his challenger. “The Rock doesn’t care if Mick Foley brings the idiots in the Corporation, Vince McMahon, his daddy, his daddy’s daddy, the 101st Infantry, whoever you got, it just doesn’t matter, cause The Rock is just that much better! The Rock says Mick Foley is a fat jabroni, always has been and always will be. Mick Foley, you will never…and The Rock means never…have the class The Rock has … the movie-star looks, the most electrifying move in sports entertainment, and you sure as hell won’t have the millions …” The crowd inserts “and millions” in the gap left by The Rock, who picks up right after; “and millions of fans like The People’s Champion. But tonight, The Rock is looking forward to bringing you a special delivery, Mick Foley, a very special gift: your very own grade-A, blue-ribbon-winning, Olympic-class, state-of-the-art, World Champion-caliber ass-kicking right through the door of the Smackdown Hotel!” The crowd blows up, and Rocky lingers, nose in the air, soaking in the praise. “And as for your buddy Vince …” Rocky tears off his sunglasses, his eyes wide and locked on camera; “… and especially for you, Triple H, The Rock wants you to pay very close attention. Cause The Rock is about to lay the smack down like only The Rock can … but The Rock is gonna hold back just a little …” The Rock picks up his left foot, twirling it in the air. “This little bit right here …” He then picks up the other foot; “… and this little bit right here. The Rock is gonna keep these in the holster tonight, cause The Rock wants nothing more then to shine these up real nice … turn these sumbitches sideways … and stick one straight up each of your candy asses!”
Mick Foley comes to the ring, escorted by Vince himself. The Rock is on Foley quicker than a hiccup, throwing a hurricane of punches before whipping him into the ropes. A spinebuster leads to the set-up for The People’s Elbow, but Foley bails and consults with Vince on the outside. When Foley slides back in, Vince gets on the stick and announces that the match has now become a street fight.
A direct kick to the groin swings things in Foley’s favor, and he takes advantage of the new relaxed rules with many an illegal maneuver. These help him set up his unorthodox but high-impact offense, and the flurry is so much that within mere minutes, Foley has hit his double-arm DDT and goes for the cover. But before the ref can even count to two, Vince is barking at Foley to break the count and continue. Foley looks from Vince to his wife, seated in the front row again, her eyes pleading not to give in to Vince’s orders. Foley slowly picks up Rocky and pounds him back into the corner, keeping him still long enough to leave the ring and talk to Vince. The cords in Vince’s neck are taut, his face red and the veins bulged out as he commands his champion to stop just short of murder before he pins Rock. And to emphasize it, Vince shoves the timekeeper out of his seat, steals his chair and the bell, and hands them to Foley. Foley looks at them questioningly, but the look on Vince’s face says it all: do your job.Foley goes back in the ring, dropping the bell and raising the chair over his head … only to be caught off-guard by a sudden burst of energy from The Rock, who almost tears Foley’s head off with a clothesline. Rock grabs the chair and proceeds to plaster Foley’s back and chest with the chair over and over again. From the sidelines, he can hear Collette screaming in horror; Rock looks at her, shrugs, and yells, “It’s him or me, lady,” and wallops Foley one more time, but the barrage gets only two from the ref. When Rock argues with the referee, he doesn’t see Vince slide the hammer for the bell to Foley; but when Rock bends down to pick up Foley, he finds out about it, by getting it right between the eyes. Foley goes for the cover, but gets only two. Vince tells Foley to hold on, and proceeds to toss various implements of from under the ring into it: garbage cans, cookie sheets, a pipe wrench and a shovel, and, for good measure, another chair. One by one, Foley goes through the objects, turning the cookie sheets and cans into heaps of crumpled metal, and breaking the shovel off on Rock’s back. But for all the punishment he heaps on the bloodied Rocky, all Foley can get is two.
Foley sets up the two chairs, unfolded, the seats facing one another in a queer sort of bridge, then whips Rock into the ropes. Rock counters more out of instinct than anything, throwing Foley’s head back into the chairs … but Rock can’t capitalize. The best he can do is get into a slugfest when Foley gets back up, but Vince reaches in from the floor and trips up Rocky, which gives Foley a chance to hit the old Cactus Clothesline, sending both tumbling outside, right in front of Collette. Foley walks over to his wife, all smiles and wanting a hug, but Collette regards him with something closer to hatred than love. When he reaches out, she shrinks away, and he is busy asking why she’s being so cold when Rocky grabs him and slings him backwards into the ring post. Again, and again, and again, Rocky drives Foley’s head into the post; then, he reaches in, grabs a chair and swings, sandwiching Foley’s skull between the two steels. Now busted wide open, Foley crumples, a bloody mess. Rocky then goes about stalking Vince, who backs away, his eyes wide with fright. Rocky bursts out into a run, and chases Vince around the ring, and ends up getting clobbered with a clothesline from Foley when he comes all the way around again. Vince shows his elation by reaching under the ring and presenting Foley with a new toy: the barbed-wire 2×4. Now Foley’s eyes go wide, but with shock and concern. “We have him beat, Vince, we don’t need that,” Foley says, but Vince’s eyes say different. “No, but he needs it, Mick,” Vince says, and thrusts it into Foley’s hands. Foley regards it for a moment, then slides it into the ring, followed by The Rock. Once in, Foley grabs the 2×4 and is about to plunge it into the stomach of the prone Rock when the ref grabs Foley’s arms and stops him. Foley turns and immediately gets in the referee’s face. The ref barks back, but Foley won’t back down, and the two argue until Vince settles the issue by clobbering Mike Chioda in the back of the head. Chioda goes to a knee, and Vince finishes him off with the finisher of his enemy: a Stunner. Chioda goes down, eyes rolled back, and Vince says; “Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered,” right before Foley joins Chioda on the ground. Vince’s eyes go wide again and he looks down; the 2×4 has been driven into Foley’s crotch by The Rock, who is getting back to his feet (albeit a very unsteady stand). This time, Vince can’t escape the grasp of The Rock, and he barely has enough time to call for help when he is being slammed with a Rock Bottom. Rocky tosses Vince out and sets to work on Foley, punching, kicking and using every implement left in the ring that isn’t broken. And when those get old, he goes out and finds a new device to use: a table. Rock slides the table in, but while he is setting it up, Foley manages to get out a ballshot that drops Rock. By now, Vince has stirred enough to pull himself up onto the apron, and barks at Foley to fetch the 2×4 and clobber Rock with it. Foley shakes his head, but Vince yells again. “I want him erased! Do it, or I’ll send you back to that bingo hall hellhole!”
There is no time for moral debates in Foley’s mind…he will deal with the consequences of his actions, and the guilt, later. Right now, he is in a fight for his life. He picks up the 2×4 and runs full-tilt, connecting with Rock’s head. Rock collapses into a heap, and Foley falls on him, forgetting the referee is still down. Vince tells Foley to forget pinning and finish the job, and to that end, he has something that will do the job. Vince reaches under the apron and pulls out a large burlap sack, then gets in the ring and discusses plans with Foley, giving him directions. Foley’s eyes go wide, and when he understands what the plan he, he actually refuses. Vince snaps, slapping Foley broad across the cheeks and screaming at him. Foley can’t contain his shock, but can’t break the spell either, and just takes Vince’s verbal abuse. Even the sound of his wife’s screaming and pleading in the background doesn’t rouse him from his fugue: only the sight of The Rock starting to stir finally gets Foley to move…first, another a few kicks to The Rock to keep him incapacitated, and then to help Vince. They move the table cutting one of the corners. Then, while Foley gets The Rock and props him up on the turnbuckle, Vince spills the contents of the bag…hundreds and hundreds of thumbtacks…onto the table. Vince backs away while Foley sets up the back suplex that will surely kill Rock’s career. But Rock has enough presence of mind to swing his elbows, connecting with Foley’s head, and, after the third one, Foley flies backwards, right into his own trap. Vince gasps with the crowd, seeing his master stroke of eliminating The Rock going up in smoke as Foley rolls on the ground, the thumbtacks puncturing holes in Foley’s body. Thinking quickly, Vince grabs the 2×4 and, as The Rock gets down and stumbles over, drives it into Rock’s gut. Rocky falls, and when Foley rolls on top of him, Vince drops down and issues his own, and very fast, three-count to give Foley the WWF Championship again. Both men are in too much pain to notice the end of the match, and the pay-per-view ends with medics attending to both men as Vince escorts Foley out of the arena, the WWF Championship once again under his control … and, from a distance, the ire of Collette, watching her husband be led away again by the devil himself.
Our story resumes the night after St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Mick Foley is once again WWF Champion, but his violent actions have taken a toll physically and mentally. But all Vince sees is a moment to celebrate …
The Road To WrestleMania
Vince and Shane are in the ring to open Raw the night after St. Valentine’s Day Massacre complete with streamers, balloons and a special red-felt mat. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he proudly announces, “the World Wrestling Federation and Vince McMahon are proud to bring to you your first glimpse at the man who beat The Rock within an inch of his life … and once again WWF Champion … Mick Foley!”
Foley hobbles out, his head bandaged, the World Title dragging on the ground, almost forgotten. “C’mon down, Mick,” Vince says jubilantly, “tonight is a celebration in your honor!” Confetti and more streamers and balloons fall from the ceiling, but Foley notices none of it. “Shane, can’t you see our Champion is still hurting from kicking The Rock’s ass all over the place last night?” Vince points to Foley and says; “Help him into the ring, for crying out loud!” Shane dashes away, helping Foley climb the steps (although Foley barely seems aware of Shane being there), and holding the ropes open. Foley steps through, and is immediately accosted by Vince, proffering a hand. When Foley doesn’t take it right away, Vince grabs Foley’s hand and gives it a couple firm pumps. Vince acts like everything is jake and says, “Give it up for your Corporate Champion!”
The crowd boos mercilessly. Vince hands Foley his own microphone and steps back, giving the floor to Foley. “Thanks, Vince,” he says, although his voice is weak and is as warm as frozen pizza. “I’m sure a lot of you have heard the story about how I got started in this business; from being inspired by Jimmy Snuka fly from the top of a steel cage in Madison Square Garden, to sleeping in my Ford Fairmont as I traveled a couple hundred miles to train with Dominic DeNucci. I wrestled in every run-down gymnasium and crackerbox with one goal in mind … and that was to wrestle in the main event at WrestleMania.” The crowd cheers that (half-heartedly, though, considering the source). “But the WWF didn’t want some crazy man who threw himself off of roofs and dived onto concrete floors … so I went to that place down south since they were throwing money around like candy, all the while hoping to hear something from Vince McMahon saying ‘come home, kid, we got a place for ya’. And when I left WCW and made my family move into some wretched little sweatbox so I could throw myself into barbed wire and thumbtacks in some dingy bingo hall in Philadelphia, scaring the crap out of my wife, all so we could keep the electric bill paid. Finally, three years ago, Vince McMahon noticed that pudgy kid from Long Island and said; ‘Hey, we finally got a place for ya … but we want you to pull your hair out, and wear some stinky mask and squeal like a pig. Whattaya say, Michael?’” Vince takes a step towards Foley, asking what’s going on, but Foley’s eyes give him all the answer he’s going to get for the moment: back the fuck off. “Ya see, folks, when I sold out at Survivor Series, I was only continuing a long tradition of selling out in my career. Need notoriety since you’re not pretty like Shawn Michaels, or don’t have charisma like The Rock? Go to Japan and fall on some broken glass! Can’t pay the rent? Work for some charlatan in Pennsylvania who has you throwing yourself in barbed wire?” Foley pushes the hair out of his face, looking around and speaking very slowly and deliberately. “Wanna finally live your dream?” He looks right at Vince when he says this. “Then throw away your entire career and piss all over your legacy! Vince says ‘We need this Hell In A Cell to be big, Mick, what can you do?’, and I get launched off the top through a table! He wants a patsy to throw up against Steve Austin? Here, dress in these tie-dye tights and dance with a couple of whores in bikinis!” Foley pushes the hair out of his face again, and this time, the glare makes Vince do his Vince-gulp. “I’ve sold myself down the river time and time again so some Connecticut tight-ass can make millions while I keep coming home with broken bones and have to tell my kids ‘No, I can’t play catch today, daddy has a broken clavicle’. So last night, Vince tells me that if I can get past The Rock, I’ll be in the main event at WrestleMania … a paycheck like I wouldn’t believe, and the chance to live out my dream. And all I had to do was put The Rock out of commission. But every time I try, I see my wife out of the corner of my eye, and she’s crying, and I’m hearing the words she’d said to me after I annihilated Triple H at the Royal Rumble. ‘Mick,’ she said, ‘you’re not the man I fell in love with anymore. That bastard has turned you into a puppet, and I’m not gonna sit back and watch it continue.’ And I tried to reason with her that I was doing this for our family, but she told me it was coming down to a choice: her, or Vince. Between my family, and my dream.” Foley gets in Vince’s face, his hair pushed back again, his eyes as cold as steel. “Does it really matter to you who wears this belt? Really, Vince, if The Rock had come up and offered himself up to you, would you have cast me aside? Because after last night, that’s how I’m beginning to feel, Vince. Like a pawn that you like to move around, but you don’t care if the pawn gets a couple hundred thumbtacks shoved in his body, or goes through a table, or gets his brain scrambled with a chair.” Suddenly, his voice flies up into the upper registers and his face turns red. “You don’t give rat’s ass about anyone, do you?<” He jabs a finger towards his wife, sitting in the front row again. “Here I am, broken and battered, and your main concern is me beating Rocky into unconsciousness? You’re sick! And you make me sick! This isn’t why I became a wrestler, and putting guys in hospitals isn’t why I sold out to you three months ago!”
Finally, Vince has enough and asks; “What’re you saying, Mick?”
“What I’m saying, Vince, is that I won’t make a fool of myself anymore. I renounced my past just like you wanted me to, and you had me attacking people with barbed wire and thumbtacks! Between whatever vengeance you can get on me, and the disgust my wife has had for me over the past few months, I’ll gladly take whatever you wanna dish out on me. So, in the words of Nancy Sinatra, these boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do!” Foley turns and leaves the ring, only for Vince to bellow at him as he walks away.
“You self-serving, backstabbing son of a bitch!” Vince yells. “I made you, Mick Foley! Without me, you’re nothing! Nothing!” He pauses, then his eyes explode with inspiration. “Mick Foley, tonight, you’re gonna defend that World Wrestling Federation Title … against an opponent of my choosing!”
Speculation runs rampant through the show as to whom the mystery opponent will be. When Commissioner Shawn Michaels demands to know (since he had been given total control over all WWF superstars), Vince assures him he is well within the boundary of the rules. Numerous superstars all demand their shot, from Triple H to members of the Corporation to The Undertaker (who goes so far as threaten Vince, and it seems to work).
When Mick Foley is called to the ring for his main event title defense, the expression on his face tells the story: he can feel his main event slot in WrestleMania slipping away. Vince will no doubt not let Mick Foley leave the building walking, let alone as Champion. But, strangely enough, a serenity is about him, as if he is at peace with this.
But what he doesn’t expect is the entire Corporation to come out of the locker room like a swarm of bees and attack. Even for a man of his hardcore history, it is impossible to defend himself against Ken Shamrock, Test, the Bossman and Chyna. The four drag him out of the ring and stomp him, throwing him into guard rails and the steel steps. Chairs and the ring bell all end up being slammed onto the body and head of Foley, drawing blood. Chyna clears off the announce table, and the three men hoist Foley up, then drop him through the table. Foley is a bloody, battered mess by the time Vince comes down to ringside, getting in his face and slapping him. “You still have a match to wrestle, Mick!” he yells into a microphone. “You still have a title to defend!”
And through the curtain steps Paul Wight. The Corporation roll Foley back into the ring as Wight enters. Wight picks up Foley as the bell finally rings, and delivers a chokeslam that shakes the ring for an easy three count. The crowd boos mercilessly, but Vince and his cohorts focus on torturing Foley … until the locker room empties, with D-X, Kane and Austin leading the charge. The Corporation scatters to the winds through the crowd, but the damage has been done to Foley, and Vince still retains control of the WWF Title.
The following week opens with another party, but this time, for, as Vince puts it, an “appreciative champion”, Paul Wight (now given the nickname of The Big Show). Streamers, balloons and confetti welcome the mammoth new Corporate Champion to the ring, as Vince McMahon announces more victories for the Corporation: Mick Foley hasn’t called or shown up to an event since the prior Monday, and will be terminated for job abandonment if he doesn’t call in by the end of the night. Another reason to celebrate, Vince says, is that at WrestleMania, he will witness the elimination of two of his largest pains in his ass: Kane, when he takes on his brother The Undertaker in a Hell In A Cell match, and Stone Cold Steve Austin, who will be squished by The Big Show. And, to top it all off, he gives The Rock a World Title rematch tonight against The Big Show in a no-DQ match, which he ensures will spell the end of The Rock. He declares that, unlike last week, this week will be one of happiness and celebration, unlike last week.
Until Commissioner Shawn Michaels comes to the ring. He looks bothered, and Vince, in turn, is confused. Shawn eschews his normal fanfare, producing a microphone from his sport jacket, and getting right to the point. “Vinnie Mac,” says Shawn, “the Heartbreak Kid wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t speak his mind, so that’s exactly what I’m gonna do with you right now. I got two issues I need to speak with you about, and the first is you cutting me off at the knee, first last week and then just minutes ago. When you named me Commissioner, you said I would have total, unquestioned authority over the WWF Superstars. Yet, last week, you booked Mick Foley in a World Title defense, and this week, you start naming matches for WrestleMania. So, if you’re gonna go around taking charge and booking matches, what do you have me here for?”
“Well, Shawn, you’re here to help take some of the burden off my shoulders,” Vince replies. “It’s hard to run a nearly billion-dollar company all by yourself like I have up to now. I’m sorry I stepped on your toes, Shawn—I honestly thought you wouldn’t mind.”
“Well, Vin-man, that’s where you’re wrong, because I do mind. I had plans for WrestleMania, and plans for Mick Foley, and you went and circumvented me, for all the boys to see. You know how that makes me look? Like a chump, and if there’s one thing that HBK isn’t, it’s a chump.”
“Never mind that, Vince. Because there’s a bigger issue I wanna discuss: Mick Foley.”
The crowd erupts at Foley’s name; Vince’s eyes narrow, unsure (and more than a little afraid) of where this might be leading. “Foley is yesterday’s news, Shawn, didn’t you hear? He’s gonna be fired by the end of the night—”
“Over my dead body,” says Shawn coldly, and the crowd explodes. Vince’s eyes go wide with surprise. He tries to say something, but Shawn cuts him off. “Save it, Vinnie, don’t wanna hear it. I listened to what Mick had to say last night, and you know what? It hit home. You used Mick Foley … convinced him to piss all over the fans, renounce his past to be some brain-dead corporate stooge … and then you use him as an instrument of destruction to wipe out anyone you don’t like, knowing he’ll go that extra mile others won’t. You used him, and when he finally put two and two together, you gave him the bum’s rush. It’s the same thing you did to me, Vince McMahon; you flashed the cash, promised that corporate lifestyle, and got me to sell my buddies down the river, then used me as a foil to keep everyone else at bay.” Shawn steps up to Vince, mere inches away from touching noses. “Tonight, Vince, the buck stops here. The Heartbreak Kid ain’t gonna sit back and watch you crush everyone who gets in your way.”
“Should I take that as your resignation, Shawn, or am I just gonna have to fire you right here, right now?” Vince says with a smile.
Shawn smiles back, and Vince’s evaporates. “Check my contract, buddy boy. It’s iron clad. I’m like a bad virus, Vinnie—I ain’t leaving until I wanna leave, and, well, like good ol’ JR likes to say, I think business is about to pick up around here.”
Vince’s anger is almost palpable, and his cohorts pick up on it. Vince barely unclenches his jaw to get out, “I think you’re right,” and The Big Show wraps a hand around Shawn’s throat. Shawn’s surprise is just the edge The Big Show needs, and he hauls him up, and drops him down with a ring-shaking chokeslam. The other members of the Corporation beat on him and bloody him up, leaving him for paramedics to take away.
The Rock comes out at the midway point of the show, a microphone in hand, looking all business. “The Rock has two things on his mind right now, so right now, The Rock is get those things taken care. Number one”—he holds up a finger—“is that tonight, The Rock is getting a shot at this, this … Big Show. What the hell kind of stupid-ass name is The Big Show, anyway? The Rockreally wants to know. Is it cause his ass is big enough to use as a drive-in movie screen?” The crowd bursts out with laughter and applause. “Or maybe it’s cause the when he comes on and does his stupid”—Rocky raises a hand, mocking Show’s signal for the chokeslam—“yaaaaarrrrgh! thing, the ratings for the show take a big nosedive!” The crowd likes that even more. “Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because you’re the biggest jabroni ever to come waddling down that ramp in the history of this show!” The crowd bursts and starts chanting “Rocky”. Rock soaks it in, then continues when the chants die down. “But The Rock’s not looking past you, oh no! The Rock couldn’t do that—you’re too big of a piece of crap for The Rock to look past without moving six feet in either direction! Big Load, The Rock just wants to assure you that when you huff and puff and waddle your fat ass down Know Your Role Boulevard, to the corner of Jabroni Drive, and into the doors of The Smackdown Hotel … don’t you worry, there isn’t a weight limit! There isn’t an all-you-can-eat buffet, either, so get used to it, tubby … but there’s no weight limit! The Smackdown Hotel takes all shapes and size of jabronies, all kinds and colors … because, no matter who you are, when you check in, that means you’re getting the smack laid down on your candy ass!”
The crowd chants for The Rock again, and he allows them to do so until the chants die away. “Now, then … issue number two.” The Rock takes a deep breath. “Triple H. Ya see—”
D-X’s theme song cuts off The Rock once again, and Triple H walks down to the ring with purpose. The Rock tries to retake control of the interview; “Why is it, every time The Rock comes down and has something to say, you gotta show up and get in The Rock’s face? You’re not a little … koomsee-koomsa, are you?”
Triple H chuckles, but it is without humor. “Rocky, you’re a funny guy. Always quick with the quips. Too bad you’re not as good at wrestling as you are running your mouth, cause your waist is looking kinda empty, champ.”
The Rock raises The People’s Eyebrow. “Really, now? Well, let’s see … The Rock had a feeling that, someday, sometime, you’d come around, saying the same thing you said last time. So, The Rock had a little something prepared.” Rocky points to the TitanTron, where still images of former champs flash one after another. Rocky gives the crowd the (unnecessary) narration to go along with it; “See, ya got Bruno Sammartino … Pedro Morales … Superstar Billy Graham, one of The Rock’s personal favorites … who else? Ah, that freaky Dennis-the-Menace-lookin’ Bob Backlund … Yokozuna … Shawn Michaels … that’s just a sample of the great men who’ve held the WWF World Title. But, going through that list, Triple H, you know who’s name isn’t on there? Yours.”
Triple H’s eyes narrow. The good-natured degenerate is far, far gone, and all that remains is a steely, determined warrior. “Funny, Rocky … all those guys you just listed? They all held the belt for months and months … some of them years. What’d you have it for, a few weeks? What a great champ you were, Rocky … I mean, the matches you put on defending your title were amazing! Oh, wait … you didn’t, cause you didn’t have it long enough!” The crowd is a mixture of cheers and boos, torn between the two crowd favorites (and further confused by Triple H’s almost predatory coldness). “And besides, champ … need I remind you that I’m still two-for-two in our last two matches?”
The Rock nods, stroking his chin. “You’re right, you’re absolutely right, Triple H. You have beaten The Rock in our last two matches. But remind The Rock, how did you beat him? Oh, that’s right … last time, you won on a cheap disqualification … and the time before that, you shaved some monkey, taught it to walk upright and hit The Rock in the People’s Jewels.”
“And last time I checked, Rocky, it doesn’t matter how you win, as long as you win.”
Rocky cracks a humorless grin. “Then maybe what you said a few weeks back is right after all, Triple H. Maybe it’s time we settle it, once and for all, Triple H and The Rock, one on one, at WrestleMania.” Triple H nods. “Maybe it is,” is all the answer he gives as the segment fades to black.
The World Title match, predictably, turns into a melee that gets thrown out, with Mick Foley starting the interruptions by blasting—and failing to knock over—the behemoth Champion. This gets the DQ, and draws out more Corporation flunkies, which brings out Austin, who drops them all with Stunners. The Stunner for Big Show, however, is countered with a shove that sends Austin across the ring. It takes Austin and The Rock to counter Big Show, clotheslining him over the top rope (although he lands on his feet), seething at the two triumphant heroes … while Triple H watches.
The final marquee match for WrestleMania is added the following week, and it begins with Shawn Michaels coming to the ring. He is alone, but looks as strong and confident as ever. When he gets to the ring, he begins, speaking in a soft, almost conciliatory tone. “Ya know, the Heartbreak Kid has never been accused of being the sharpest crayon in the box, but I’m man enough to admit when I’ve made a mistake. And over the past few months, I’ve made a bunch. From screwing The Rock out of his job, to signing up with Vince McMahon … I’ve really had my head up my ol’ keester.” The crowd cheers lightly, as if confirming to Shawn how erroneous he has been. “But my days being Vince McMahon’s errand boy are over. I told him things were gonna change, and starting tonight, Shawn Michaels has got a big bomb to drop. So, Vinnie Mac … get your ass out here so we can have a few words!”
“No Chance In Hell” cues up, and Vince McMahon comes out (alone), looking very annoyed. He is no sooner through the ropes, then he marches up to Shawn’s face. “Who the hell do you think you are calling me out like that? Do you know who I am?”
“I know who you are!” Shawn says with a Texas-sized shit-eating grin. “You’re Vince McMahon! You’re Chairman of the World Wrestling Federation!”
“You’re damned right, Michaels, so—”
“And as of December 14th, well … lets go to the videotape, shall we?” Shawn points to the TitanTron, which shows the footage of Vince McMahon declaring, and drawing, his position in the Royal Rumble. “You following me yet, Vince?”
“No, and frankly, I don’t care what—”
“Oh, Vince … Vince, Vince, Vince …” Shawn throws an arm around Vince’s shoulder; Vince’s face contorts into a mask of disgust. “Ya see, now, back when you appointed me the Commissioner of the World Wrestling Federation, you gave me jurisdiction over ever WWF Superstar excluding Stone Cold Steve Austin. Well … you see, there, Vinnie Mac … when you entered yourself into the Royal Rumble, you stopped being just the Chairman. You became an active WWF Superstar.” Vince’s eyes go wide, first with surprise, then horror; he shakes his head and denies it over and over, but Shawn shakes his head in return. “Deny it all you want, boss man, but the fact of the matter is that I call the shots over you. And as such … I’m feeling like there’s some business you and I need to take care of.” The roar of the crowd grows from nothing to a fever pitch. “But, see, I got a feeling that I’m just a little too close to the issue to be objective, so I thought I’d bring someone else in … so,” Shawn says as he turns to the entrance ramp, “will my mystery guest enter and sign in, please?”
A familiar raspy blues-metal riff fills the arena, and sends the crowd into overdrive. All the color leaves Vince’s face before the man familiar with that music—a madman would be more accurate—comes out. He doesn’t need to see the face of Mick Foley to know who is coming to the ring, but seeing him makes it, and the knowledge that he’s no longer merely Mick Foley, all the more real.
“That’s right, Vinnie-Mac!” Shawn yells over the music and the roar of the audience. “As Commissioner of the World Wrestling Federation, I’m putting you in a match at WrestleMania against … Cactus Jack!”
Cactus slides in the ring, giving the crowd his trademark bang-bang! hand gesture. Vince, meanwhile, is paralyzed with fright, so much so, he barely hears a word Cactus says. “Don’t worry, Vince,” Cactus says with alarming calmness. “You have nothing to be afraid of at WrestleMania … I won’t pull out any new tricks like landmines, or broken glass, or C-4 …” He gets right in Vince’s face, but Vince is too horrified to do anything more than mutter unintelligibly. “But I willbeat your ass just like you made me beat The Rock and Triple H!” Cactus backs away, and the grin is so twisted, so sick, so deranged, Vince McMahon, Chairman of the World Wrestling Federation, cannot help but piss his pants. “And this time, Vince …” Cactus adds; “nothing, and no one is keeping me from my doing my job. None of your Corporate goons, not my wife, not my conscience … not even God will keep me from beating you into a bloody pulp. Bang-bang!”
Shawn mutters something in Cactus’ ear, who nods. Shawn takes a step or two towards Vince, extending a hand. Vince robotically extends his, until Shawn hops back, then tattoos Vince right on the jaw with a picture-perfect Sweet Chin Music. “Now that our business is out of the way, I’m sure you and Cactus here will get along just ducky at WrestleMania!”
March 28th, 1999: WrestleMania XV
Austin comes out to open WrestleMania, a six-pack in one hand. He doesn’t waste time with poses or gestures to the crowd. Never more than now, he is the Rattlesnake: a vicious predator, thinking only of his prey. “I was sittin’ back there, thinking about how I’m gonna whip that big goon Paul Wight’s ass from pillar to post tonight, and doin’ some special training with a few Steveweisers when I got to thinking; Paul Wight ain’t the bastard I got an issue with. He’s just the unlucky piece of crap who’s holding Stone Cold Steve Austin’s belt. My real beef is with Vince McMahon.” The crowd jeers at the mention of the Chairman. “For just about a year now, Vince McMahon has put Stone Cold through hell and back, and I’ll be the first to admit, he’s a tough son of a bitch. Most men woulda quit long ago, if they knew they’d pissed me off like he has. But he stuck it out, and for that, I give him credit. But the crap between Stone Cold and Vince McMahon has gotta end … so I got a little something to say to Cactus Jack; I know you’re getting ready to do everything but kill Vince, but leave just a little bit of him. Enough so he can show up to Raw tomorrow, cause once I get my belt back, Shawn Michaels has been kind enough to give me the honor of facing Vince McMahon tomorrow night live on Raw!” The crowd goes apeshit at the idea—a match that almost happened a year ago, but hasn’t since—but Stone Cold goes right on talking. “And that little piece Cactus leaves behind, I will stomp and stomp and stomp again, until I run your sorry ass out of the World Wrestling Federation once and for all … and that’s the bottom line … cause Stone Cold said so!”
The first of the four big attraction matches is the rematch from the prior year’s WrestleMania, the Hell In A Cell match between Kane and his brother The Undertaker. Immediately, the two towering monsters take it to one another, pounding and punching each other until both are struggling to stand. Kane ends up with the upper hand and slings Taker into the ropes, and slaps a hand around his brother’s throat. Taker goes low to counter, and immediately resorts to the aid of a chair. Undertaker wraps the chair around Kane’s back a few times and goes for the pin, but Kane kicks out emphatically between one and two. Kane sits up (a la his brother), but The Undertaker swings and smacks Kane across the face. Undertaker goes for the cover again, and again Kane doesn’t even give Taker the satisfaction of a two-count before kicking out.
Undertaker slides out, gets another chair, and brings it in. Kane has sat up by the time Taker is back in, but Taker answers this with another chair shot to the face. While Kane is on the mat, Taker wraps a chair around Kane’s ankle, then proceeds to use the other chair as a hammer and crushes it over and over again, sandwiching Kane’s ankle. Kane rolls around, trying to get away, but Undertaker stomps on the chair, further damaging Kane’s ankle. Kane finally manages to roll out of the ring, but Undertaker follows him out. Undertaker goes for Kane’s leg, but Kane uses his good leg as leverage to catch Taker in a drop toehold, sending him face-first into the steel steps. Kane manages to get to his feet, hopping on one foot, a chair in hand. The crowd perks up as he brandishes the weapon for all to see, and loves it when he blasts Undertaker in the back. Kane grabs Undertaker by the hair and bashes his brother’s head into the steps time and again. Kane uses the time bought to get back into the ring and try to walk off the pain. The Undertaker gives him little time to recover, slinking in the ring (slowly); Kane goes right on the attack at the sight of his brother, but Undertaker swings from the ground and hits Kane in the ankle, and the Big Red Machine comes crashing down.
The Undertaker gets up, working through the pain to begin a systematic dismantling of his brother. Fists and kicks are followed by high-impact slams and maneuvers, one after another, replacing the strength in Kane’s body with white-hot pain. The crowd winces as Kane is put in move after move, his face raked against the cage, and the return of the chairs. But cover after cover gets Undertaker two at best, and with every unsuccessful cover, he gets more and more frustrated with his little brother. Sure it will be a killing blow, Undertaker sets Kane up on the top turnbuckle, then steps out onto the apron and grabs Kane by the throat; Undertaker jumps and brings Kane with him, sending him into the wall of the cage with a hellish chokeslam. Kane collapses to the floor in a heap, and Undertaker is right on him, throwing him in the ring and covering him … and getting only two. Undertaker all but flies to his feet and positions a chair in the center of the ring. He grabs Kane as he struggles to sit up, picks him up over his shoulder and positions him for the Tombstone on the chair. Undertaker drops Kane onto the chair and makes the pin … and gets two. Undertaker leaps up, enraged; he barks at the referee, but the referee stands his ground. The Undertaker turns in time to see Kane sit up … and not just sit up, but come up as if he were as fresh as the opening bell. Undertaker kicks Kane in the gut as he stands up, and quickly picks him up and drops him with another Tombstone … only for Kane to sit up before Taker can even pin him. Undertaker turns a sickly shade of white and goes to punch Kane, only to get caught by the throat. But instead of slamming his brother, Kane simply squeezes, cutting off Undertaker’s supply of air. Taker’s only counter is to kick, which loosens Kane’s grip for all of a second before he applies it again. Undertaker kicks again, and this time makes a break for it, scrambling out of the ring and to the door. Undertaker reaches for the door when there’s a massive explosion in front of his face; a wall of fire erupts from the floor, and within moments, the cell wall itself has caught fire, turning the entire length of the cell facing the entrance into a wall of flame. Undertaker backs away from it and turns around in time for Kane to dive at him through the ropes; the human torpedo of Kane slams into Undertaker, shoving him into the firewall. Undertaker’s reaction to the burning pain is immediate, but Kane is far from done with the element that has shaped his life so; he extends his gloved hand into the fire, letting it catch, and punching his brother in the gut. Undertaker doubles over from the pain of the heat, but Kane doesn’t let up, continuing to pummel his brother’s midsection. Undertaker escapes back to the ring, but there with his only exit cut off by fire, there is no sanctuary for The Undertaker. Undertaker runs in a suicide charge, but Kane kicks his brother in the face, putting him down. Kane puts out his hand, and grabs his brother, pulling him towards the corner. Kane picks up his brother over his shoulder, backing into the turnbuckle and slowly ascends to the second turnbuckle, his brother precariously on his shoulder, struggling. For a few seconds, it looks as though The Undertaker will escape with a long fall to the floor, but Kane manages to pull The Undertaker into position, then jumps out, hitting a second-turnbuckle Tombstone. Kane crosses his brother’s arms over his chest—a mockery of the old Undertaker—covers his brother and makes history, defeating his brother and giving him his first WrestleMania loss.
The grudge rematch between Triple H and The Rock bows, and proves to be the epic encounter the promo wars and long-simmering hatred has built it up to be. For nearly twenty minutes, The Rock and Triple H trade momentum no less than eight times. But unlike the wild encounter that was the Hell In A Cell, or the expectant bloodbath of Cactus Jack/Vince McMahon, Triple H and Rocky not only manage to keep it clean, but almost seem to go the extra mile to keep it a contest of two wrestlers, fighting to prove who is the better man once and for all. Every demand for a clean break from the referee is adhered to; there isn’t a single incident of cheating, or using the environment (like the guard rail or the steps) to one’s advantage.
Very early on, the gameplan of both men is revealed, and persists throughout the match: for Triple H, it is a dissection of The Rock’s anatomy, piece by piece, starting with wearing down the lower back, followed up by concentrated attacks on the legs. For The Rock, the plan is much more simple and direct: beat Triple H stupid until he can’t stand anymore. And neither of them hold back or shortchange one another; every move in their arsenal is unleashed and then some in the battle to outdo one another.
But as the final minutes of the match wind down, the fight turns to desperation, and The Rock resorts to a discreet but effective low blow to stop a tide of Triple H offense. The Rock abandons the power moves and his strategy in general, and goes for outright stomping. When Triple H manages to escape to the arena floor, Rocky follows and pounds away with punches; when Triple H tries to counter, Rock resorts to slamming Triple H’s head off the barricade once, twice, too many times to count, and the unspoken sportsmanship of the match disappears in the face of Rock’s bloodthirst. The Rock breaks the count just so he can roll back out and abuse Triple H some more, pounding his head into the iron post and, in a totally disrespectful gesture, spits a mouth full of water in his face. The Rock then tosses Triple H back in the ring, slings him into the ropes, and drives him down with a spinebuster. The crowd can sense what’s coming, and if the crowd wasn’t torn before, The Rock’s new attitude is dismaying and confusing the fans. Rocky rips off and disposes of the elbow pad, gives the signal, and runs the ropes, pausing to give Triple H a crotch-chop before dropping The People’s Elbow. The ref drops for the count, but gets two. The Rock jumps up and argues a little with the referee, but turns in time to see Triple H struggling to his feet. The Rock’s movements are almost liquid in nature as he feints to the left, slips an arm across Triple H’s chest, hauls him up and drives him down in a Rock Bottom. Triple H has barely hit the mat before Rock is up and at his head, setting up a second People’s Elbow. But what he doesn’t know or see is that The Big Show is coming to the ring, and when Rock bounces off the ropes on the side of the entrance, Big Show clubs him in the back, sending Rocky stumbling forward into the referee, knocking Mike Chioda out of the ring. Big Show climbs in and, as Rocky stumbles around holding his back, grabs him by the throat and creams him with a chokeslam.
With Rock laid out, Big Show picks up Triple H and wraps a hand around his throat. He has Triple H up in the air when Chyna slides in and orders Big Show to put Triple H back down. Big Show shakes his head, but Chyna repeats her command. Big Show argues, but slowly lets Triple H back down. Chyna bickers back and forth with Big Show until Triple H has gathered enough strength to stand up; he grabs Chyna and turns her around, yelling at her. Chyna argues back, going so far as to shove Triple H. Triple H stumbles back, glaring with hostile intent; the crowd urges him on, chanting “slut” at his former bodyguard and friend. But before he has the chance, The Rock is up, shoving Chyna out of the way and getting Rock in position for another Rock Bottom …
… only for Chyna to drop him with a low blow from behind. Triple H seizes the moment, cinching in the double-underhook and hits a Pedigree. While the crowd sits in shocked silence, Triple H orders Big Show to fetch the ref. He does, picking up Chioda by the back of the shirt like a puppy, and rolling him in. Triple H makes the pin, and the slow three-count from Chioda makes it legit. Triple H celebrates with Chyna, getting a high-five from The Big Show as well. Triple H turns to the fallen Rock, who is out cold and motionless, and adds insult to injury by giving a crotch-chop. The crowd boos the champion and reunited couple as they leave the ring, their fans—and an unanswered question about who the better man really is—behind.
By contrast, the match between Cactus Jack and Vince McMahon has no pretenses of being a contest to determine the better man. And it is all the more evidenced by Vince McMahon’s walk to the ring: it is a timid, frightened thing, with Vince’s gaze darting around him, paranoid of a surprise attack from the madman king of deathmatches, Cactus Jack. Cactus draws out his walk to the ring, forcing Vince to live with the terror of what is to come that much longer. When Cactus slides into the ring, Vince cowers, his arms over his head, hunched down and shaking. Instead of charging in for the kill, though, Cactus merely watches him, waiting …
… and then the oh-so-familiar music of Shawn Michaels fills the arena. Vince comes out of his protective ball long enough to look past Cactus and see his renegade Commissioner coming down the aisle … and all the terror and nervousness he is feeling multiplies. Shawn is wearing a striped black-and-white shirt, and prancing down the aisle with his usual cocky swagger. After he finishes with his posing and posturing, Shawn makes the two meet in the center like a boxing match. Vince approaches like a man approaching his execution, while Cactus is silent. Shawn gives his pre-match instructions (“I want a good, clean ass-kicking.”), then signals for the bell, and immediately, Vince bails. The crowd boos, and he cannot help but yell back. Vince leans back against the announcer’s table, urging Shawn to begin the 10-count, but instead, Shawn asks for and receives a microphone. “Um, Vince,” he says, smiling the whole time, “just so you know … no count-outs.” Vince is irate, while Cactus merely stands still, waiting for his moment. Vince looks around, then steals the chair from under the timekeeper, slides in the ring and approaches Cactus. Cactus leans forward, pushing the hair out of the way, giving Vince a good, clean shot (barely audible to the people in the front row and to the people at home is Cactus yelling; “Hit me, you chickenshit!”). Vince winds up, his gaze going from Cactus to Shawn, who is content to lean back in the turnbuckle as if he’s waiting for a bus. Cactus urged Vince on again, and after another check of the ref shows Shawn is in no hurry to do anything, Vince swings and connects, sending Cactus to the mat, but not for long; he is barely fallen before he is sitting up, glaring at Vince. Vince runs to Shawn, demanding the natural response: disqualification. Instead, Shawn leans out, requisitions the mike again and says; “Oh, did I forgot to say no-DQ?” He nods. “Yup, I musta. No-DQ, Vinnie. Carry on.”
Vince’s panic is so palpable, it is almost its own weapon against him. He scrambles to get away and ends up tripping over his own feet. All the while, Cactus slowly stands, slowly approaching the man who has made him into a fool and a hypocrite … a man who is on his knees, begging for his life. It is almost a scene from a <u>Friday The 13th</u> movie, except it’s funny to see the billionaire degraded and humiliated and afraid for his well-being. But instead of charging in with rage, Cactus demands Vince get to his feet. It takes the confused Vince a few moments to process the request, and he does so … and no sooner has he stood up then Cactus unleashes with a barrage of rights, pushing him to the ropes. Cactus backs up for a running start, comes off the blocks and hits the Cactus Clothesline to the outside. Vince lands hard, but has enough presence of mind and will to survive to start crawling away. Cactus lets him get a few feet away before he drops an elbow in the small of the back, stopping Vince cold. Cactus grabs another chair and gets up on the apron; he gives a bang-bang to the audience (who responds in kind), and delivers the patented Cactus elbow off the apron, driving the chair into the back of Vince McMahon. Cactus makes a cover, and Shawn slides out, which gets a count of two (without announcing the rules-change to pinfalls-count-anywhere) before Cactus pulls him up. Shawn gives him a “tsk-tsk” that’s more for show than a scolding, to which Cactus shrugs before returning to the beating.
And a beating—not a match—is what it truly resembles as time wears on. Though it is only ten minutes long, it seems forever in the mind of Vince McMahon, as Cactus proceeds to do exactly as he promised, and uses every implement of pain and suffering that he was forced to use under Vince’s brainwashing. One chair is used so frequently and so destructively, the seat-back breaks off during a pounding. Somehow, Vince finds the will to kick out, although Cactus makes little to no effort to seriously cover him. Cactus uses the ringbell and hammer, putting it next to Vince’s head and ringing it over and over again, disorienting the chairman and hurting the ears. Garbage cans, cookie sheets, and anything else that’s not nailed down, sat on or kept under lock and key are used as weapons against Vince’s aching body and head, but Cactus either lets Vince kick out, or pulls up before a sure three-count can be finished. Winning is obviously taking a back seat to Cactus’ desire to inflict pain.
And the suffering for Vince only intensifies as the match draws to a close, and Cactus becomes more inventive. A folding table is brought in, and Cactus puts Vince through the wood with a Cactus-piledriver, sending the now-limp body of Vince into seizures from the pain … but Cactus has more pain on his mind. Instead of a cover, he goes outside and pulls something out from underneath the ring, something unexpected: a ladder. The ladder stands almost ten feet taller than the top rope when Cactus props it up on the arena floor. With Vince unconscious in the ring, Cactus ascends the ladder, drawing out each step for dramatic effect. It is an echo to the top-of-the-cage dive he took against Triple H two summers prior; a sea of flashbulbs capture the moment of Cactus’ flight from the ladder outside to the ring inside, driving his elbow right into the chest of McMahon. But even that is not enough for Cactus, as he is up (as soon as the pain from the dive subsides) and out of the ring, looking under the apron for something. Shawn checks on Vince to make sure he doesn’t need a doctor, and when he stirs a little, that’s good enough for Shawn. Meanwhile, Cactus finds what he is looking for, and the crowd goes nuts when he brings out a dirty brown sack; they don’t have to see proof of what it is, but Cactus reaches in and tosses a handful of thumbtacks. Cactus climbs in and stalks Vince, who is now seated (and bleeding, and looking highly disoriented) on the mat. When he catches glimpse of Cactus, he barely recognizes him at first … but slowly, realization dawns on him, and the horror sets back in. And recognizing what Cactus is dribbling onto the mat in handfuls quickly follows that. Vince’s panic overcomes him and he begins to scream as loudly and high-pitched as he can (and wets his pants again). In the midst of the screams, Shawn hears something; he beckons for the microphone, then bends down to Vince’s level; “What did you say, Vince?” Shawn asks. Vince grabs the microphone and screams into it: “I can’t take anymore! I quit! I quit! Just don’t hurt me anymore!” Shawn looks to Cactus for acceptance of this; he hesitates until Vince grabs the microphone again; “Please, Mick! I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry! Accept my surrender, and I promise I’ll leave you alone!” Cactus nods to Shawn, and Shawn calls for the bell; the winner, Howard Finkel announces, is Cactus Jack by submission.
That leaves one match, the World Title match, left in the card, and despite the massive size and strength differential, there is a feeling in the air that if anyone could overcome the challenge of it, it is Stone Cold. And from the opening bell, he acts as if the weight and height differences don’t even register with him; he charges like an enraged bull, throwing punch after punch. Big Show tolerates it for a few minutes before pushing Austin away like a puppy begging at his heels. But Austin will not be so easily dissuaded, and comes right back with more fists. The punches start to take their toll, but Show pushes Austin away again. This time, Austin bounces off the ropes and clobbers Show with a clothesline that doesn’t even reach his collarbone. When it barely pushes Show back more than an inch, Austin tries again; it gets him a couple more inches. A third charge, this one a Thesz press, backfires though, as Show catches him and puts the squeeze on in a bearhug before throwing him down like a sack of potatoes, and the momentum shifts in the favor of Big Show.
Big Show’s pace is deliberate, wearing down Austin with his size and power. For ten long minutes, Austin is kept grounded as Big Show exerts minimal effort to keep Austin down. Only occasional bursts of life from Austin, in the form of sudden attacks on Big Show’s tree-trunk legs, give the crowd any hope at all that Austin has a chance. And every time Austin manages to out-maneuver the Big Show, it takes but one single offensive strike—usually a clubbing blow—for Show to retake control of the match. After fifteen minutes, the possibilities for Austin to take command of the match are running out as his strength fades, the victim of Show’s methodical pacing; if he exerted the effort (or simply just unleashed one of his devastating chokeslams), he could finish the match at any time. But, as Vince had prophesized, WrestleMania would see the end of Steve Austin, crushed by The Big Show … and to that end, Show has orders to fulfill.
But Austin’s need to regain the championship—and defeat McMahon and his pet champion—are too strong for him to cease, even against a mountain of humanity like The Big Show. Austin claps his hands against Big Show’s ears while in a bearhug, causing the behemoth to drop him to the mat. Austin shakes the cobwebs loose, bounces off the nearest rope and comes at Show with a clothesline; instead, Show counters with a hand across the throat, the set-up for the chokeslam. But Austin counters with a kick to the groin, which goes unseen by the out-of-place referee. Show doubles over, and Austin starts to stomp away on the knee and hamstring of Big Show; again and again and again he stomps, even going so far as to club it with forearms and fists, knotting up the telephone pole-thick muscles in Show’s leg. When those start to become routine, Austin uses the ropes for momentum to execute running kicks to the legs. After a few of these, Big Show drops to one knee, and Austin begins to work, quickly, on the other leg. Big Show tries to push Austin away, but with Big Show brought down to a more manageable level, Austin can punch him face-to-face, and Show’s size difference doesn’t effect how he takes a punch. Pretty soon, Austin has tightened up the muscles in both legs, and pummeled Show in the head to boot, and Austin quickly circles around back and clamps on a move from his Ringmaster days: The Million Dollar Dream. Big Show tries to stand, but his weakened legs can barely support his own weight, let alone the extra poundage of Stone Cold. Austin tightens the hold, choking the life out of Big Show until he is woozy and wobbling. Before Big Show fades out completely, Austin lets go (much to the chagrin of the announcers and audience) and comes back in front of Big Show. Austin gives the groggy Big Show a double bird, which is enough to catch Big Show’s attention; he is infuriated (although groggy and confused), but doesn’t expect the kick in the midsection. It isn’t until after the match is over will he realize what Austin’s plan was: to chop him down to reasonable height so he could effectively apply the real finisher, the Stunner. And when that plan earns Austin the three-count and a third World Wrestling Federation Championship, the killing blow in a night of total humiliation for Vince McMahon and his evil empire, the struggle against the tyrannical billionaire and his legions of hired goons seems worthwhile. There will be new challengers to deal with—from The Rock to Cactus Jack to a rematch with The Big Show—and God only knew Vince McMahon wouldn’t take this wholesale defeat lying down … but for now, the Corporation was bankrup