The WWE Tagged Classics have always been a favourite of mine, mainly due to the fact you can view Attitude Era PPVs with no edits to the company name, no blurring on turnbuckles, t-shirts, titles, etc and that the atmosphere just seemed better. Sure, rose-tinted specs are worn when watching these events, but since that isn’t against the law (yet), I will continue to look back with fondness.
Running Time: 5hrs 30mins
Disc 1 – In Your House 27: St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
- Goldust v Bluedust
- WWF Hardcore Championship Match – Bob Holly v Al Snow
- Big Bossman v Mideon
- WWF Tag Team Championship Match – Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart v D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry
- WWF Intercontinental Championship Match – Ken Shamrock v Val Venis
- Mixed Tag Team Match – Triple H & X-Pac v Kane & Chyna
- Last Man Standing Match for the WWF Championship – Mankind v The Rock
- Steel Cage Match – Vince McMahon v Steve Austin
Disc 2 – In Your House 28: Backlash
- The Brood (Gangrel, Edge & Christian) v The Ministry (Mideon & The Acolytes)
- WWF Hardcore Championship Match – Hardcore Holly v Al Snow
- WWF Intercontinental Championship Match – The Godfather v Goldust
- New Age Outlaws v Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart
- Boiler Room Brawl – Big Show v Mankind
- X-Pac v Triple H
- Ken Shamrock v Undertaker
- WWF Championship Match – “Stone Cold” Steve Austin v The Rock
The In Your House events started in 1995 and were two-hour “filler” PPVs to pass the time between the five supershows (Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, King of the Ring, Summerslam and Survivor Series). These eventually went to full-blown three hour long events (with a price tag to match; the earlier events were around $10 cheaper than normal pay-per-views) with subtitles after the standard In Your House plus whatever number it was. The two events on this disc are the last to use this format as the next PPV was the original, UK only, No Mercy followed on with Over the Edge as the first to drop the IYH prefix.
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, while not a one-match card, had one bout dominate the promotion for the event; Vince McMahon taking on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin inside a steel cage. For those who only started watching during the WWE years, it’s hard to put across just how huge a deal it was that Vince McMahon was going to have an actual wrestling match… and it would be inside a steel cage.
Before the show opens, the WWF Attitude opening plays and gives me a good feeling inside. From there, we get a promo video recapping the Austin/McMahon history so far (Stunners, bedpan, Rumble victory, etc) and the background to some of the other bout. It’s then on to the first match of the night; Goldust v Bluedust.
The fans are very vocal from the off (a huge “Jerry” chant rings out for local boy, Jerry Lawler, who is commenting alongside Michael Cole) and the atmosphere is electric when Goldust makes his entrance (in his stunning robe that has the horizontal feathers), followed straight after by Bluedust (same entrance only blue)..
The match is far too short to make a real impression, but Goldust puts on a good showing (this was before Dustin seemed to become an awful wrestler) as he attacks his foe before the bell (and before the lights come back on). The Blue Meanie is the heel of the match, especially when Jerry Lawler starts talking about him being an ECW reject. Back in 1999, ECW was at the peak of its output in regards to PPV exposure and (apparent) financial success, so for WWE to reference them was a big deal. It’s also hard to fathom how over Goldust was at this time. The reaction to the post-match Shattered Dreams is something Dustin Runnels (and half of today’s wrestling rosters) would kill for.
As much of a joke as the WWE Hardcore Title became, it was an entirely different beast in the Spring of 1999. Al Snow and Bob Holly (he wasn’t “Hardcore” yet) put on a typical Attitude Era hardcore match (chairshots, brawling around the arena, brawling backstage, fire extinguishers, glass jugs, etc) and it works nicely.
The match actually ends up out of the arena as Holly and Snow battle in the main road outside the building, the banks of the Mississippi River and then they actually brawl INSIDE the Mississippi River. The finish is also unique, even for the Hardcore Division, as Bob Holly pins Al Snow by wrapping him up in a chicken-wire fence.
Basically, it was ten minutes of two guys hitting each other with things over and over and over again… but it sure was enjoyable. This was the night that Bob Holly shed the “Sparky Plugg” moniker for good.
Someone else who also shed his old image is the Big Bossman. No longer the blue shirt-clad former prison guard; The Bossman was now more akin to a SWAT member complete with flak-vest and great music. His opponent is another who shed an old image, but this wasn’t by choice; Dennis Knight had been kidnapped and “sacrificed” by Undertaker to become his original disciple in the Ministry of Darkness (complete with an eye in a jar).
Bossman dominates the 6min 20sec contest (and shows today’s wrestlers how to throw a punch), although Mideon does have his moments. All in all though, this is a decent brawl that is forgettable as soon as the final bell rings. A full-nelson does get the first “boring” chant of the evening (non-finish submissions were a big no-no in 1999) but the finish gets the right reaction. Bossman, who appears to be in the best shape of his career, deserved better than the crap HIAC he ended up being in one month later at Wrestlemania XV.
The post-match shenanigans are cool, especially as you look at the members of The Ministry and see where they are now (Edge, Gangrel, Christian, Ron Simmons, JBL, Big Daddy V) and how much some of them have changed. Another nice aspect of the Ministry beatdown on Bossman is that the lights don’t come up straight away, so all you can see is brief glimpses as another flashbulb pops.
Sticking with the theme of wrestlers who have changed over the years, you have to wonder what the “World’s Strongest Man” and self-professed “Silverback” would make of “Sexual Chocolate” Mark Henry. If the only exposure you’ve had to Henry is his current run, you will struggle to believe your eyes (and ears when you listen to the man “sing” his own entrance theme).
D-Lo Brown (who returned to WWE in 2008… and then promptly disappeared again) and Mark Henry had an on-screen friendship since their Nation of Domination days, while the team of Jeff Jarrett (who was doing the guitar gimmick back then too – over NINE YEARS AGO – showing just how stale his current TNA gimmick actually is). Like Owen & Bulldog before them, Jarrett & Hart (who would die in an accident two months later) were the saviours of a tag-team division that was on the cusp of the TLC Era, but needed a team to carry them through.
The match is a decent bout that runs almost ten minutes in length and has some good action from bell to bell. It’s not a stunning contest, but it keeps you entertained (with Debra being the most over performer of the six in or around the ring). The finish involves Jeff’s guitar, proving one thing; the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Our third title match of the night is up next as Ken Shamrock defends his Intercontinental Title against ‘former pornstar’ (and seriously wasted talent), Val Venis with Ken’s (storyline) sister (and real-life, at the time, girlfriend) Ryan Shamrock (who is a seriously good looking woman who, unfortunately, got too big for her boots backstage).
The match, refereed by Billy Gunn, is the second-longest of the night (nearly sixteen minutes) and is exactly what you would want from the upper-midcard title scene.
Both men trade the advantage, with Gunn playing it straight for the most part, and give a great accounting of what they can do when motivated. Ken Shamrock, in particular, is fantastic (with the crowd giving him pelters) as he does his “wild man out of control” gimmick to perfection. Val Venis, on the other hand, deserves more than this his current position with the company (glorified jobber to the stars). If he dropped the gimmick, perhaps he could mount a comeback as Sean Morley.
The finish is pure Attitude Era excess, with Shamrock even spitting out a “What the f*ck” (and a very audible call to slap him that has found its way into many a blooper-reel) at his sister when she helps Ken escape the Ankle Lock (the original Ankle Lock submission), Billy Gunn finally picking a side and delivering a fast-count, a new champion and, finally, a post-match brawl up the aisle… ah, the memories. Even Billy Gunn was super-over in 1999.
DX were also around in 1999 (and had started to become stale), but the faction was fragmenting. Chyna had joined The Corporation after turning on Triple H (while Hunter himself would turn on X-Pac and join Vince’s group at Wrestlemania the following month), so a tag match was set between the team of Chyna and Kane and DX, represented by Triple H and X-Pac (who was just about entering his “X-Pac heat” phase.
The pop that heralds “Are You Ready?” is astounding (as is all the signs in the crowd – how I miss the signs) and the noise is sustained as X-Pac and HHH make their way to the ring. It is weird seeing Hunter in long tights, but I was a huge mark (still am) for the original incarnation of Kane with the all-over ring attire and facemask.
Shane McMahon joins King and Cole on commentary and is, as you would expect, biased for the Corporate Team… at least until X-Pac kicks the crap out of him when the action spills to the outside. Chyna was a legit freak of nature and never looked out of place against the men. She gives as good as she gets and does herself proud. It’s showings like this that make me wish Joanie Laurer was fit and able to wrestle so she could have a short run against Beth Phoenix.
At just under 15mins, the match has plenty of time to build (as well as allowing Shane to build his pending Wrestlemania match against X-Pac) until it reaches a thrilling climax of near falls and logical finish (the reaction to Triple H’s attempt to Pedigree Chyna is unreal, as is the reaction to the Kane chokeslam and three-count by Chyna on her former stablemate).
The Rock and Mankind were facing each other for the WWF Title for the sixth time in three months (and would do so for a SEVENTH time the next night on Monday Night RAW). Hopefully this puts things in perspective when some fans complain that feuds (like Undertaker/Edge, Undertaker/Batista) have the wrestlers in too many matches in a row and claim that things weren’t different in the Attitude Era.
This was a minor disappointment (especially when compared to some of their other matches – the “I Quit” match from the Rumble, shaky finish and all, in particular), but it is enjoyable enough. The two men trade weapons shots, throws and holds for over twenty minutes… and all for nothing
Mankind had evolved beyond the sadist that battled Undertaker in boiler rooms to become a lovely cuddly babyface. The Rock, on the other hand, had evolved from bland Rocky Maivia into a complete asshole of a heel and “crown jewel” of Vince McMahon’s corporation. Together, the two were magic and had arguably as much chemistry as Rock and Austin.
Because this match is fought under Last Man Standing rules, there is, as with most stipulation matches, a set formula to follow. This means that there will be a hard shot/throw followed by a mid-level count until we end up getting counts closer to the fatal ten. Sorry to sound apathetic, but when you see the same stipulation wrestled in the same manner by different wrestlers, it does get repetitive no matter how well executed the contest actually is.
The Rock (in his black tracksuit with white stripes phase) and Mick Foley brawl all over the arena, bash each other with everything not nailed down and take some incredibly stiff shots from each other (including a brutal DDT on The Rock through a table on the outside and a backdrop from the announce table to the floor on Mankind, not to mention Rock hurling the ringsteps over the top and crashing them into Mankind on the ringside mats), but it seems like a mild rehash of their “I Quit” match from a month earlier. To be fair though, it’s not every night you get Rock stopping mid-match to sing Elvis (rudely interrupted by a Mandible Claw) to you. The finish absolutely sucks though… and don’t the fans let us know it.
And so, it’s come to this; the owner of the company taking on his top star inside a solid steel cage. Only in the world of professional wrestling would an employer/employee problem be resolved in this manner. Running at just around 20mins (of which, only the last eight is the actual match, which surprised me; the pre-match battle takes up the rest of the time) the cage match is a really fitting closer to the show.
Before the match, we get to see the ring-crew construct the cage (something that doesn’t happen anymore as the structure is stored above the ring until required) until the glass shatters and Steve Austin makes his entrance to a thunderous ovation.
Mr. McMahon comes out next and spends the first few minutes avoiding going into the cage. This keeps up until Austin has had enough and ventures out to bring him in the hard way. A foot chase ensues and Vince ends up inside the ring kicking at “Stone Cold” in an attempt to keep him out. Steve then tries to climb the cage, but gets thwarted by the boss, so drops down and “twists his knee” as he lands, giving Vince the motivation to step outside, even though a five-year old blind kid who had never heard of pro-wrestling could see what would happen when he did.
A full-on brawl then ensues around the ringside area, with cables being used to choke Vince, punches and clotheslines all taking an effect on the billionaire. They then take it to the fans in the stands before bringing it back to the ring… where Vince takes an unbelievable bump onto the announcers’ table. It really is a super-stiff bump that caused some damage to McMahon as the base of his spine hits the table right on the upright section (virtually backbreakering himself, for real, on the table) and causes the crowd to erupt.
A stretcher trip to the back is interrupted and we finally, after twelve minutes, have the match officially starting. Hearing 19,000 people scream, at the top of their lungs, “Hell Yeah” is a sorely missed experience and heralds the beginning of the end for Vince McMahon.
Bleeding and beaten, Vince flips Austin the finger when “Stone Cold” was ready to escape in a stunning visual, but nothing, and I mean nothing, can compare to the finish of the match. It goes a little something like this; Stunner, taunting by Austin and then, from under the ring, the 7ft tall Paul Wight (later, the Big Show) interferes in the bout and throws Steve Austin around like a rag doll before hurling him through the cage wall (wiping out the ref in the process). Unfortunately for the heels, Austin then touches the floor and wins the bout, but the look on his face really sells how much of a shock Wight appearing actually was.
This was a fantastic end to a decent pay-per view that was followed by Wrestlemania XV and then the first annual Backlash PPV (the second disc in the collection).
Backlash has consistently been the strongest of the “B-Level” PPV events, and this, the first of them, is no exception. Headlined, as most of them have been, by a Wrestlemania rematch for the WWF Title, the 1999 edition was a very enjoyable show from top to bottom.
Opening with a six-man tag-team match between former members of Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness (who were united in the first disc) as Mideon & The Acolytes take on The Brood (comprised of Edge, Christian and Gangrel). The reason for this encounter is that The Brood left The Ministry (the only people to do so willingly) rather than dish out a punishment beating to Christian. Because of their insubordination, The Undertaker decreed they will be taught a lesson at Backlash. With the background in place, the fans were excited and eager to see the vampire trio take care of business.
I will go on record and say that Gangrel/The Brood had one of the best entrances in pro-wrestling history. The character of Gangrel was brilliant and it’s a pity he didn’t do better than he did. Anyway, enough reminiscing from me; let’s get back to the show.
The Brood (with great entrance) are out first to a sizeable reaction. It was apparent, even back then, that Edge was destined for greater things, but not so much with Christian; a testament to the talent he has become today. Out next are The Ministry; it’s hard to fathom that the guy with the stiff clothesline would become WWE Champion and be a New York millionaire… it’s funny how the world turns sometimes.
On commentary are Jerry Lawler and the returning Jim Ross (who was out with his first bout of Bell’s Palsy – the right side of his face is still visibly weakened at this point in time), which, in 1999, was as good as it gets. Lawler was still working as a heel, so the dynamic between the two is awesome throughout the broadcast. On a negative note, it really drills home how much they’ve been phoning it in the past few years.
Mideon and Christian start the match, with their exchanges being a little awkward for some reason. Bradshaw tags in (after Gangrel has done the same for his team) and things start to pick up. What becomes apparent is that the complaints about JBL’s current physique (droopy pectorals specifically) seem to be unfounded; his physique in 1999 isn’t that much different (droopy pectorals specifically). His big boot to the face is still as sweet as ever too.
There’s a surreal moment just after Bradshaw hits a fall-away slam on Gangrel where the crowd react huge for something Mideon says on the apron, but it’s never revealed what (he actually gets some good heat from the crowd all match). Moving on though, Edge and Faarooq pick up the pace and have some nice exchanges as the referee for the evening (a certain ECW General Manager) tries to keep order among the six men in the match.
At almost twelve minutes in length, it’s quite long for a PPV opener, but with six men and various in-ring combinations, it keeps your interest for that running time. The finish makes sense and keeps both teams strong. It’s also nice to see things like Edge’s spear and think to how they’ve evolved over the years. It’s also nice to see that some things were just as devastating back in 1999 as they are today (Bradshaw’s powerbomb and clothesline are positively brutal).
In a rematch from St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Hardcore Holly (he’d acquired his current name by this point) defends his WWF Hardcore Title against Al Snow (w/ Head). Using the rose-tinted specs I mentioned when earlier, it’s amazing to experience (again) how over EVERYONE seems to be during the Attitude Era. Al Snow & Head are prime examples of this as the “What does everybody want?” intro to Al’s theme gets a monster reaction.
As I mentioned during my comments on the previous hardcore match, the Hardcore Title hadn’t become a parody of itself yet, so the matches were exciting and a great boon for the mid-card wrestlers who were treading water before the division was created.
Holly starts the match by smacking an unsuspecting Snow in the head with the battered title belt and busting him open. From there, they spill the floor (to no real surprise) and Al takes a plastic jug full of water to the head that is followed by a great camera shot to show how badly he is bleeding less than a minute in.
The fans, who were hot for the first match (in all honesty, pretty much all Attitude Era crowds were super-hot), go crazy when the bout ends up across the barricade and among the throng. The wrestlers don’t stay there for long and, unusually for these types of matches, keep the action around the ringside area (where Al performs a moonsault from the security wall onto Holly on the floor… and almost smacks the ringpost on the way down).
Various weapons find their way into the match, with a table getting one of the loudest pops of the night, and get used in a variety of ways… with the exception of the aforementioned table. Before it can be used, the two men brawl up the aisle and into the parking lot outside (even going for a cover inside a trash dumpster) where they end up fighting around cars, lorries and even into the production truck.
The highlight of the contest is an unbelievable superplex through the table (lengthwise – making it even more spectacular) by Holly on Snow that brings the fans to their feet. It really should have been the finish; nothing afterwards can compare to the impact and visual effect of the move. That being said, the fans in the arena don’t seem to care and pop loudly for the pinfall anyway.
It seems odd for a hardcore match to go over 15mins, mainly because most people’s recollection of the division is the asinine 24/7 era when matches lasted under a minute and had twenty title changes a night. This was refreshing and in the spirit of that style of professional wrestling. It’s also a testament to the talents of the wrestlers who made up the early days of the division (Snow, Holly, Mankind, Test, Bossman, Road Dogg, etc) that they could keep the fans’ interest over a 10-15min match under hardcore rules.
The second of the three title matches on the card had a hard act to follow, but Goldust and The Godfather had an ace up their sleeves in the shape of the former Nation member’s hoes (although it seems unfair to The Gold One; Godfather has hos and he comes out with The Blue Meanie for a valet).
Godfather makes his entrance without his female companions to a chorus of boos… until he shows that he’s teasing the live crowd and brings out the ladies (one of whom, dressed in a pale blue dress, is practically busting – did you see what I did there? – out of her attire, much to the delight of Jerry Lawler, the fans and one internet reviewer who shall remain nameless. Did I mention she was a redhead?).
Going back to something I mentioned earlier about everyone being super-over in the Attitude Era, rarely was this more apparent that when The Godfather took to the microphone before his matches. His “It’s time, once again, for everybody to come aboard the HOooooooo Train” introduction always got a phenomenal reaction; the former Papa Shango (as well as most of the roster) never had it so good.
Another aspect of the era is that it’s pretty amazing WWE got away with as much as they did, especially with the Godfather character. He was basically a pimp who boasted about smoking weed and pimping out his prostitutes “nationwide” (as well as used his ladies to buy off opponents). Could you even imagine the company trying to promote a gimmick like that today?
The match is pretty basic (slams, punches, kicks and clotheslines for the most part), but is kept brief (at 5mins21secs, the shortest bout on the card. Godfather controls most of the contest, with Goldust getting in some flashes of offence at various times as the Blue Meanie runs interference on the outside (the Hoes simply stand around and look pretty). The finish to the match is inspired, with a comedy routine straight out of the Airplane playbook. The post-match celebration (with added nipple-slip) is pretty good too.
Before the next match (and after some surprisingly shoddy editing), we find ourselves in the men’s bathroom as Al Snow discusses his earlier fight with his associate, Head. It’s a credit to Al Snow that the fans bought into him basically talking to, and arguing with, an inanimate mannequin head.
“Oh, you didn’t know” was, in 1999, THE most over aspect of the Attitude Era with the exception of Steve Austin and The Rock. Looking at them now, it’s hard to believe that Kip and BG James could ever have been over with the fans, but from 1997-1999, The New Age Outlaws were so over with the crowd it was phenomenal (they had the third-highest merchandise sales figures in the company behind Rock and Austin). They showed how two singles wrestlers thrust together into a tag-team can work if pushed correctly and should be used as an example to teams thrown as how to do things right.
To give you an example of just how over they were, the group had the longest catchphrase in wrestling history, yet there wasn’t a fan watching the shows at the time who couldn’t repeat it verbatim. It seemed like every wrestling fan had to, by law, shout out “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages. D-Generation X proudly brings to you, its (soon-to-be) WWF Tag Team Champions of the Worrrrrrrrrrld! The Road Dogg Jesse James! The Bad Ass Billy Gunn! The New! Age! Outlaws!… And if you ain’t down with that, we got two words for ya — SUCK IT!”
With the capacity crowd still recovering from chanting along with The Outlaws, the current WWF Tag Team Champions make their entrance. Jeff & Owen were a great team, and with Debra on the outside, one that catered for the era’s main demographic. The titles were not on the line in this match, but if Billy & Road could score the win, they would get a shot at the belts during the WWF Smackdown special (a one-off show that took place on April 29th, 1999. The show we know and love today didn’t debut until August that year).
In an example of just how over Billy Gunn was, the crowd even pop huge when he attempts to pull down his trunks and moon the opposition. It doesn’t transpire, however, as Owen clubs him in the back and the referee gets the match underway.
Another interesting aspect to this match, particularly with the “2nd Generation” faction being promoted on RAW at the moment, is Jim Ross drawing attention to the fact three of the four wrestlers (Owen, Road Dogg and Jarrett) are also second-generation talents. It goes to show you that it’s not a recent thing for WWE to draw attention to a wrestler’s lineage.
The bout is soundtracked to a positively overpowering “Show the puppies” chant directed to Debra (punctuated from time to time with a loud “Nugget” chant directed towards Owen) and is a very good tag-team encounter. Both teams get various chances to shine and show what they can do and the finish is one of those “out-of-nowhere” exchanges that worked really well.
From the sublime to the surreal as the WWF presents the second ever Boiler Room Brawl. The rules were slightly modified from the original Mankind/Undertaker match as, unlike that encounter, all the wrestlers had to do was escape the boiler room (in the original, from Summerslam 1996, ‘Taker or Mankind had to escape and make it to the ring to retrieve Paul Bearer’s urn. This was also the match where Bearer turned on Undertaker and joined up with Mankind).
It’s a short match, but the shots (mostly) pale come across as repetitive because of the earlier Hardcore Title bout. Big Show (dressed in street attire and in phenomenal condition) enters the boiler room to start the bout (no entrance music here; this is a fight, not a wrestling match) and then spends a little while searching for his opponent… who charges from off-screen to smack the giant in the head with a piece of piping.
The contest basically consists of one of the wrestlers smacking the other with a weapon of some kind (the most impressive, aurally as well as visually, are a square pane of glass that is smashed over Big Show’s head, cutting it open and leaving Foley with a legitimate gash on his hand, and a chokeslam from a ladder through two tables that have sheets of glass and, for some reason, a pair of shoes on them).
The risks that both men take, particularly Foley, are unreal (well above original ECW-levels of carnage; fire-tables excepted) and it’s a miracle neither were seriously injured. The crowd Rhode Island seem to get a kick out of it, as did I at the time. The end of the match shows this in a very visual manner; in a scene that could have come from a slasher film, Mankind crawls along the ground, leaving thick, bloody handprints in his wake. The post-match brawl seems unnecessary, but it doesn’t last too long and helps continue Big Show’s face turn.
Following on from the first disc, where they were feuding, Triple H and Chyna performed a double-turn at Wrestlemania (Chyna turned on Kane in his match with Triple H and rejoined DX. Later in the same night, X-Pac fought Shane McMahon for the latter’s European Championship. Shane had help from various Corporation members, so, late in the contest, HHH and Chyna came down to, we assumed, even the odds. One Pedigree on X-Pac later and DX were no more) and had joined The Corporation (which was now under the guidance of Shane as Vince had been pre-occupied with the Undertaker/Stephanie storyline).
Seeking revenge for that betrayal, X-Pac demanded a singles match with Triple H at Backlash, which is why we find two guys who were team-mates on Disc 1 facing against each other on Disc 2. Trips and his woman cut a pretty generic heel promo (followed by Big Show being told where he’ll need stitches and Mick Foley giving us a tour of the carnage they both wrought in the boiler room) in the back to explain their side of things, but you’ll be lucky if you remember a word of it after it’s finished.
At over nineteen-minutes long, this is the longest bout on the card, but it’s a very good match that doesn’t seem to last half that. X-Pac is another who is massively over with the crowd (this was before the X-Pac heat time period), as is Triple H (with really, really bad entrance music) and Chyna as heels.
Both men have their working boots on (as do the commentators) and put forth a fantastic effort. Exchanges are exciting, the fans are super-hot and the action flows smoothly from the opening bell to the frantic finish. Some choice highlights include various kicks from X-Pac (he was always great with those), perfectly timed interference by Chyna, some stiff shots by HHH and the referee getting baseball-slide dropkicked on the outside.
Chyna, wearing one of the most revealing outfits you’ll ever see (honest to God, you can see her entire ass), lands a reverse-DDT to put X-Pac down. This, in turn, causes the lights to go out in the arena and the fans to erupt with a humungous cheer. Why are they cheering? Simple; Kane is on his way… and this was mega-over super-powerful mask and bodysuit wearing Kane with the organ music, so this is a good thing.
The Big Red Machine comes down, chokeslams both Helmsley and Chyna (to a huge reaction; more so for the second one), sets them both up for Bronco Busters from his tag partner and then simply leaves. This is how Kane should be booked; (in the words of Austin’s t-shirt) arrive, raise Hell, leave.
The finish is a perfectly booked piece of bait-and-switch that allows both wrestlers to come out looking strong regardless of who won and lost. It also led to plenty more quality encounters over the following months until DX reformed under the McMahon-Helmsley regime.
There have been many incarnations of The Undertaker, but the version who wrestled at Backlash in 1999 was my favourite. In the midst of the Ministry storyline, he looked like a devil, had ominous music and was just a bad muthafunker. Ken Shamrock was also one of my favourites from back in the day, but these two together was just a horrible waste of eighteen minutes.
The strategy was understandable; Shamrock (with the benefit of his MMA background) was a submission wrestler, so he wanted to make “The Dead Man” tap. Undertaker doesn’t feel pain, so making him give up would be a massive deal for any wrestler. The problem was that the match just didn’t seem to work as well as the concept would have you believe.
The reason for the match taking place is that Undertaker wanted to marry Stephanie and make her his Bride of Darkness. Shamrock, working for The Corporation, saved Stephanie from The Ministry’s clutches and, as such, was targeted by Undertaker himself. As storylines go, it was convoluted even for the Attitude Era (particularly as the commentators and other wrestlers would make mention of how “Mark believes his gimmick to be real”).
The crowd aren’t really into the match (despite giving both men loud face and heel reactions during their entrances) and some “boring” chants creep out. The general feeling is one of restlessness; the fans in attendance simply wanting this match to be over so they can enjoy The Rock v Steve Austin.
To be fair to them though, the fans do come alive when Ken latches on his Ankle Lock, and stay “up” for the last few minutes of the match (featuring an awesome counter of a chokeslam into a cross-armbreaker from Shamrock) and the match-winning Tombstone Piledriver, but out with maybe two or three minutes, the match is a colossal bore-fest.
The same cannot be said, however, for the next and final bout on the card. Steve Austin and The Rock fighting over the WWF Title (and Austin’s Smoking Skull Belt) in a rematch from Wrestlemania XV… and it has to be said, this is a slightly better contest than the one they had a month previously.
Shane McMahon, new leader of The Corporation, is the special referee for the bout; which is to be fought under no-disqualification rules (except if Austin touches Shane or “looks at him the wrong way” – do that and The Rock will be awarded the title). McMahon did give his word (in the name of his grandfather Vincent J. McMahon) that he would have no issue with counting the pinfall is Austin could keep Rock down for three.
With all the stipulations in place, the only thing left to do, apart from taking a look back at the feud so far (including the ‘Mania match, Austin being thrown in the river, Rock’s car being crushed by a monster-truck, Shane smashing a shovel over Austin’s head and then Shane-O-Mac naming himself the special referee) is to get on with the job of having the actual match.
The Boy Wonder doesn’t have his ‘Here Comes the Money’ theme yet, so he comes out to Vince’s theme (which seems wrong somehow), and gets a decent reaction from the crowd. The Rock comes out next and gets a mixed reaction (the fans were positively itching to cheer the man… and wouldn’t have to wait too long to do so; The Rock turned on Shane and The Corporation on RAW the next night.
Austin’s pop is unreal (seriously, to be a part of this era of professional wrestling as it happened is something I feel honoured to have experienced). In contrast to the previous bout, the fans are electric from the second the first punch is thrown until the last ring of the bell.
The action is fast and furious in the early going, with The Rock getting hammered for the first minute. After that, The Rock gets a moment to shine before taking it to the floor. From there, we have a thunderous brawl in the aisle until the match (some eight minutes and a smashed up entrance set later) returns to ringside.
Shane is a great heel referee (shoving Austin and daring the “Rattlesnake” to strike back and lose the belt) and again shows why he is one of, if not the, greatest non-wrestler to have plied his trade in the wrestling business.
Things finally slow down ten minutes after the opening bell when The Rock puts Austin through a table with a Rock Bottom. This leads to Rocky talking some trash on the Spanish announcer’s headset before talking the fight to the people one more time and then bringing it back to the US commentary table and one of the greatest exchanges I’ve seen since the day I started watching wrestling.
Rock lays Austin on the table and proceeds to take a camera and give us a Rock-O-Vision eye view of the action. It doesn’t matter that you can tell it’s not a real WWF Television camera (the image and colours are out of synch with the rest of the footage), the sequence is just pure genius regardless. The Rock gets on the table, points the lens at Austin and talks a boatful of trash. He then aims the camera at the crowd to get a good shot of the people before bringing it back to “Stone Cold”… who has now got to his feet and is giving him the bird. Cue a shocked “Great One” talking a Stone Cold Stunner while still keeping a firm grip of the camera. It was ideas like this that made the Attitude Era what it was; and it’s ideas like this that is why it will never be repeated.
The finish is the usual overbooked mish-mash that the time-period was known for, but it works beautifully because it was so fresh and new to us all back then. The crowd lap it up and the last few minutes is real edge-of-the-seat stuff as the near-falls rack up and Vince McMahon makes an appearance to actually help Austin (which makes a mockery of the claims at Wrestlemania X-Seven that Jim Ross thought he’d never see the day that Austin and McMahon would be on the same page).
The main-event of the PPV isn’t the close of the show, however, as the shot changes to one in the parking lot. There, we see that Stephanie is in the limo and ready to leave the arena. Unfortunately for her, the Acolytes and Viscera make an appearance, forcing the car to leave without Vince. Steph asks the driver to stop… revealing that Undertaker is the one, literally, in the driver’s seat. The show closes to the sound of Undertaker laughing and Miss McMahon screaming. We then come back to the WWF Champion having a beer bash.
It’s a strange end to a great PPV… although it isn’t the end; at least not for owners of the DVD. The copyright logo appears and the broadcast ends, but us lucky folk get two pretty good post-show interviews with The Rock and Austin. Rock’s is the better of the two, but Austin does have Triple H and Chyna out of character in the background, so it’s all good.
These double-disc Tagged Classics have been a fantastic idea (so kudos to whoever thought of it). No blurring of the logo, no dubbing of WWF, original music for the talent (in some re-releases, guys like Demolition have had their theme dubbed over with a generic piece of music, whereas with these collections, the themes are intact) and a great chance to build a back catalogue of titles you either loved the first time around or that you’re eager to see what the fuss is all about.
This particular set is one of the best in the collection. At heart, they are simply two “B-Level” PPVs from the late 90s, but they’re much more than that, they’re a window to a time when pro-wrestling was the hottest thing on the planet. Every wrestler was super-over, the angles were dangerous, fresh and exciting and the business was booming to the point of taking over everything.
Backlash is the stronger of the two and is, arguably, the best non-Big Four PPV of the era. St. Valentine’s Day Massacre has its moments too, but the card is slightly weaker.
Overall, events for the price of one can’t be sniffed at. When it’s two events the calibre of these two, it becomes a no-brainer. The only really duff bout is the Undertaker/Shamrock encounter at Backlash; the rest are either too short to become dull or exceed low expectations due to the wrestlers involved (Mideon v Bossman for example).
A great way for newcomers to catch up with the Attitude Era and for older fans to relive it, this two-disc set is a must have in any wrestling fan’s collection.