Long-time fans of wrestling will often criticize today’s PG-TV WWE product as being too tame, boring, and not nearly edgy enough to harken back to the glory days of the Attitude Era. To be sure, that era of wrestling featured the gritty persona of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the over-the-top antics of D-Generation X, and the cooler-than-thou promos of The Rock. However, that same period also consisted of angle after angle and gimmick after gimmick produced by a writing method best described as throwing (Wrestle)crap against the wall and seeing what would stick. Even some of the supposed superstars of the Attitude Era were not immune from such inane booking, as demonstrated by D-X member Billy Gunn and The People’s Champion himself, Dwayne Johnson.
The story of this epic encounter begins at the King of the Ring 1999, where Billy Gunn was crowned after winning the 8-man tournament, thus cementing his legacy as the worst King of the Ring of all-time, except Mabel (MABEL!). In response to this booking oddity, the Rock would take to the microphone and say what everyone in the audience was thinking: “My name’s Billy, and I just won King of the Ring, but there’s one problem: Everyone still thinks that I absolutely suck!“
Billy Gunn, for his part, would cost the Rock a match against Triple H at Fully Loaded 1999. With a title shot on the line, Gunn broke up a pin attempt, leading to HHH getting the pinfall and a title shot at Summerslam (a shot which he would lose to Chyna, who would lose it to Mankind, who would have to share it with Triple H after a double-pin but would then win the WWF title at Summerslam only to lose it to Triple H the next night. Hey, it was Vince Russo booking). Naturally, The Rock wanted retribution, and he wanted it at Summerslam.
It’s a classic tale of revenge, older than the sport itself. So naturally, the feud would then spend the next month revolving around butts. If you’ll recall, Billy Gunn had previously been known as the “Bad Ass,” meaning a tough guy. WWF creative took this idea and ran with it, re-christening Monty Sopp as “Mr. Ass,” a man obsessed with rear ends, especially his own. (The creative team would take this gimmick to its logical extension by forming the team of Billy & Chuck).
To build the feud further, Gunn would come to the ring with his ASSociate (ha ha, ho ho!) Chyna to brag about the superiority of his bum over that of The Rock, calling it “beautiful, elegant, and well-manicured.” The Rock, he said, was just envious of Billy’s magnificent tush. Gunn even went so far as to take a picture (he claimed) of The Rock’s hindquarters as he stepped out of the shower (leading the audience, living years before cell phone cameras were ubiquitous, to wonder whether Billy made a habit of taking a camcorder into the men’s locker room shower). He then showed video footage on the Titantron of a rear-view of a cellulite-ravaged woman taking a stroll outdoors.
So The Rock showed up on the Titantron to clarify that the buttocks in question belonged not to the People’s Champion, but to Billy Gunn’s own mother. Ouch. He then promised to violate Gunn and Chyna anally, as he so often threatened during the Attitude Era, to the delight of the crowd.
With his Summerslam showdown just weeks away, Gunn would prepare for his biggest match to date by getting a butt massage (or “herbal ass treatment,” as he called it), which was of course caught on camera. Lamentably, the special oil used by his masseuse gave him an allergic reaction, resulting in a rash.
How could such a tragedy (his words) have befallen Mr. Ass? The Rock would solve this mystery, marching out Gunn’s masseuse onto the stage and explaining that she had rubbed him with The People’s poison ivy. He then promptly told her to “pancake [her] ass back to Chicago” and once again threatened to violate Gunn anally, this time with a bottle of “monkey piss.” And people give John Cena a hard time for saying nonsense like “Baloney, fudge, and mustard.”
Revenge would be swift, however, as Gunn ASSerted (ha ha, ho ho!) his dominance, beating The Rock down with a kendo stick and shoving the People’s Face into the Perfect Ass. Later that night, The Rock vowed to make Gunn kiss his heinie at Summerslam. Thus, the pay-per-view bout would officially be a “Kiss My Ass” match, where the loser would suffer the indignity of having to smooch the winner’s tuches. This stipulation had been tried just once before, at Summerslam 1997, where Steve Austin bet a butt-kissing against Owen Hart’s Intercontinental title, then proceeded to overcome temporary paralysis just to pin Hart and avoid having to pucker up. The stakes could not be any higher.
Come match time, however, Gunn decided to change plans, bringing to the ring with him a mystery person veiled in a black cloth. No, it wasn’t one of the Undertaker’s druids (although Taker does have a favorable opinion of buns, as you can tell from the 1996 Slammy Awards). It was, in fact, a large woman, presumably the same one whose posterior Billy Gunn had filmed and tried to pass off as The Rock’s. This was 1999, remember, and there was nothing worse than being a large woman in the WWF, so when Billy declared that the Rock would have to kiss not Mr. Ass’s glutes, but those of the large woman, it was comedy gold. I still don’t understand what kind of ace legal team Gunn had that allowed him to change a contractual stipulation on a whim, though.
Nonetheless, the Rock fought through adversity and the threat of having to kiss an overweight woman’s derriere (eww, gross!). When a very cocky Billy Gunn (good thing WWF writers didn’t seize on that character trait and build a goofy gimmick around it!) brought his ASSistant (ha ha, ho ho!) into corner of the ring, backside sticking out, the Rock turned the tables, taking his fallen opponent’s head and ramming up the moneymaker of his plump valet. In doing so, he accomplished three things:
1) He came the closest he had ever come to making good on his promises to insert objects up a person’s rectum. At least she seemed to enjoy it.
2) He inspired an immortal line from Jim Ross, who summed up Attitude Era wrestling as succinctly as Al Michaels’s call of “Do you believe in miracles?!” summed up Cold War-era sports:
3) He deprived the WWF’s female and gay male fans of their long-anticipated glimpse of The Rock’s Bottom.
You see, after making Billy meet lips-to-buttocks with his rotund escort, the Rock gave the 1999 King of the Ring the People’s Elbow, scored the pin, and then was on his way.
So, to sum it up, the WWF had a match whose build-up centered almost exclusively on the glutei maximi of its combatants, whose stipulations guaranteed some sort of bare tush on pay-per-view, and which included a man whose very name was “Mr. Ass,” and it still managed to pull a bait-and-switch. Perhaps they thought it would turn off the largely heterosexual male audience, which had been fed a steady diet of bra and panties matches for years. Or perhaps they thought that that kind of exposure was beneath The Great One, who would find himself in the very same kind of match two years later with Vince McMahon, only to break the stipulation again and bury the chairman in Rikishi’s rump. Whatever their justification, in hindsight (ha ha, ho…eh, whatever) the writers made the right decision not to show the Great One’s Great Two.
So what does this match say about the Attitude Era? Well, it was a time when almost anything would go in the Federation, stopping just short of a literal butt-kissing on camera. That would have to wait until after Vince Russo had left the company and after the ratings war with WCW had ended.
Rest ASSured, it wouldn’t be the last time.