REVIEW: Wrestlemania XV (1999)

Adorable Adrian Adonis usually takes on the old WWF pay per views, but I’ve secured his blessing to tackle this one.

 

March 28, 1999

In stark contrast to their competitors at WCW, the World Wrestling Federation is thriving. we’re in the midst of the Attitude Era, and several of it’s top stars are now among the most popular wrestlers in history. The Mr. McMahon-Stone Cold Steve Austin feud isn’t at the fever pitch it was at when it began, but it’s still a top feud. McMahon has guaranteed that Austin will never again win the WWF Championship, now held by The Rock. But Mr. McMahon has other issues: The Undertaker has formed a cult called The Ministry and has been terrorizing McMahon, his Corporation stable, and his family. Big Boss Man has stepped out to face Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match. Mankind and The Big Show Paul Wight will have a match to determine who will be the special guest referee for the Austin-Rock main event.

 

SUNDAY NIGHT HEAT

 

We start with Sunday Night Heat from the First Union Center in Philadelphia. Vince McMahon comes out with Paul Wight and is greeted with the familiar “ASSHOLE” chants that he hears every time he steps into his ring. He announces that the WWF Championship match between Rock and Austin will be a no disqualification match. Big Show cuts a promo on Foley and on Austin. Show sets up a chair by the back door waiting for Austin to arrive.

 

IVORY W/D’LO BROWN VS. JACQUELINE W/TERRI RUNNELS

A rare thing for this time period: two women who where damn good wrestlers. Unfortunately after a promising beginning, Jacqueline hits one decent move and the match is over after about two minutes. They looked damn good to start but then out of nowhere the match just ends. That sucks. Then again, it’s pretty much the norm for women’s matches at the time. I’ll give it an extra medal for the really good action at the start.

Match Rating: Two Gold Medals

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The Mean Street Posse is introduced, they’re in the front row. The crowd is not happy about that.

The DX music hits, and out come HHH, X-Pac, and the New Age Outlaws. They all cut promos on their Wrestlemania opponents. HHH gets Kane, X-Pac has a European Championship match against title holder Shane McMahon, while Billy Gunn and Road Dogg will defend their Hardcore and Intercontinental Championships, respectively.

The Rock does an interview and hits all his trademark lines. He was the greatest ever on the mic.

 

BATTLE ROYAL

The last two wrestlers in the ring will get a Wrestlemania match against Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart for the WWF Tag Team Championships. Some of the participants include The Godfather, Steve Blackman, D’Lo Brown, Test, Droz, Tiger Ali Singh, Viscera, Mideon, Faarooq, Bradshaw, the Legion of Doom, Gillberg, DOA, The Hardy Boyz, Too Sexy, and Public Enemy. We find out the Jarrett and Hart got their match placed second on the WM card so that the survivors of this match won’t have much time to recover. Sad to see Brian Christopher in this match. D’Lo Brown and Test end up being the final two, and Hart and Jarrett immediately attack. It’s hard to have a good battle royal, they all pretty much end up being the same, for the most part, so this was as entertaining as it could be.

Match Rating: Four Gold Medals

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Another dead wrestler, Big Boss Man, comes out to cut a promo on his Hell in a Cell opponent, The Undertaker. The lights go out, Undertaker’s voice fills the arena, and The Brood attacks. Boss Man gets one of their famous blood baths.

Backstage Big Show is throwing shit around, for some reason. Foley comes in, has words with his WM oppenent, and he and Show go at it right there. Austin walks by unnoticed as Heat transitions into….

 

WRESTLEMANIA XV

TAGLINE: The Ragin’ Climax

 

Philly’s own Boyz II Men does an incredible rendition of America the Beautiful, the Freddie Blassie narrates a video package that kicks off the Showcase of the Immortals. Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler have the call, as JR is still doing is shitty heel gimmick following his return from his bout with Bell’s Palsy.

 

HARDCORE CHAMPIONSHIP TRIPLE THREAT MATCH: AL SNOW VS. HARDCORE HOLLY VS. BILLY GUNN (c)

This was prior to the 24-7 rule that the Hardcore Championship became known for. Also I just checked the length of this show, and it’s going to be shorter than an episode of Raw. Man, times have changed. These guys for most of the match never got more than a few feet from each other. They were all on the outside, or they were all in the ring. Exactly how a triple threat match should be. The only time anyone went to the outside was to get another weapon. The Philly crowd chants “ECW” as Al Snow channels some Sabu with a chair jump into the corner. Al goes through a table shortly after, and then takes a Fame-Ass-Er on a chair. Hardcore Holly breaks up the pin attempt with a chair shot on Billy Gunn and pins Al Snow himself for the win. This was a terrific triple threat match as well as a terrific hardcore match.

Match Rating: Eight Gold Medals

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WWF TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: TEST & D’LO BROWN W/IVORY VS. JEFF JARRETT & OWEN HART (c) W/DEBRA

Two more dead wrestlers in this match. It’s really upsetting. Ivory and Debra inevitably got into it during the match, and it was hilarious to see every single cameraman and photographer rush over to that scene. The champs used that distraction to retain. That was a great match, especially when Owen Hart was in the ring. He was one of the best performers of all time.

Match Rating: Seven Gold Medals

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BRAWL FOR ALL: BART GUNN VS. BUTTERBEAN

Bart Gunn won the Brawl for All tournament, universally panned as one of the worst ideas in wrestling history. The fans hate it. They announce Gorilla Monsoon as a judge for the match, and he looks awful, so frail. Yet another dead wrestler. Anyway, Bart Gunn’s prize for winning the Brawl for All is a match against a real professional boxer and Toughman champion. Gunn gets knocked down within 30 seconds, then takes an absolutely BRUTAL knockout the second he gets up. He had to be out cold.

Holy shit. That was a terrific KO and made this a worthwhile match. Afterwards, match referee Vinny Pazienza fought someone in a chicken suit. Seriously.

Match Rating: Five Gold Medals

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BIG SHOW VS. MANKIND

WINNER BECOMES SPECIAL GUEST REFEREE FOR AUSTIN VS. ROCK MAIN EVENT

Socko made an appearance of course, and then disappeared down Big Show’s throat. Earl Hebner allows Big Show to beat Mankind with a chair without disqualifying him. Show choke slams Foley onto two chairs, and Hebner finally calls for the DQ. Vince is furious. He gets in Vince’s face, and Show goes to choke slam him, but lets him go. Vince slaps him then gets knocked right the fuck out. The match wasn’t anything special. The big news out of it is that Mankind will be the special ref in the Rock-Austin match, giving Austin a much better chance of winning. Also that Vince McMahon got knocked out by Big Show. Hell yeah. Maybe Foley won’t be the ref, because he’s being taken out on a stretcher.

Match Rating: Four Gold Medals

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INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP FOUR CORNER ELIMINATION MATCH: VAL VENIS VS. GOLDUST (W/BLUE MEANIE & RYAN SHAMROCK) VS. KEN SHAMROCK VS. ROAD DOGG (c)

King says “Ryan’s had more hands on her than a door knob.” Road Dogg and Goldust are more known for their character work, but they are both terrific workers. Val Venis’ ring work is also underrated. It takes a while for the first eliminations to happen, and it occurs when Shamrock and Venis fight up the ramp leading to both of them getting counted out. It leaves Road Dogg and Goldust to fight for the title, but Shamrock gives each of them a belly-to-belly suplex before leaving. Ryan Shamrock screws up and grabs Goldust’s leg. She claims she was going for Road Dogg. Road Dogg gets a roll-up win to retain the title. Good match with really good action from all four men.

Match Rating: Six Gold Medals

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KANE VS. TRIPLE H

The chicken comes out again and this time attacks Kane. It’s Pete Rose, who received a tombstone from Kane at last year’s Wrestlemania. History repeats itself, and he gets another tombstone. Triple H’s music hits, and instead of coming down the ramp, he comes through the crowd, and hits Kane in the balls from behind before the bell rings. Excellent. It took me a while to notice that Teddy Long is the ref for this match, playa. Just a Triple H seems to be closing in on a win, Chyna comes walking down the ramp. Shes been allied with Kane and Corporation and feuding with HHH, but has been out since Kane accidentally shot her in the face with a fireball while aiming for HHH.

With both men down in the ring, she pushes the steel steps into the ring. Kane goes to use the steps on HHH but they get kicked back into his face. Chyna turns on Kane and hits him with a chair, giving him a DQ win. Triple H pedigrees Kane onto a chair then Chyna jumps into HHH’s arms. Cute. Good match from two of the best.

Match Rating: Six Gold Medals

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With Mankind now at the hospital, Vince McMahon announces himself as the referee for the Austin-Rock match.

 

WWF WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: TORI VS. SABLE (c)

Tori was Sable’s biggest fan, but Sable treated her like shit then turned her back on the fans. Sable is awful. Tori is wearing a full body cat suit. The wrestling was AWFUL. Tori somehow botched a CHOP. Sable did the worst cross body I’ve ever seen. The bumps were terrible. They tried some chain wrestling with multiple pin attempts that was one of the most painful exchanges there’s ever been. Tori countered a Sable Bomb by falling on her ass. After a ref bump, Nichole Bass showed up for the first time in WWF and gorilla pressed Tori. Sable hits the Sable Bomb and gets the pin. Thank god that’s over. Holy shit.

Match Rating: Zero.

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WWF EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: X-PAC VS. SHANE McMAHON (c) W/TEST

Patterson and Brisco tried to attack X-Pac on his way to the ring. As usual, they failed miserably. Shane gets help from Test, a low blow, and a belt to get the upper hand, but the ref isn’t disqualifying him and letting him get away with keeping his title that way. I wish refs today would use their judgment more like that. The Mean Street Posse get involved from their seats when X-Pac ends up on the outside. Really good heel tactics from Shane. Test takes himself out when he runs into the stairs after X-Pac moves. X-Pac gets the whipping belt and goes to work on Shane, and the ref continues to let it go. The crowd goes nuts for a Bronco Buster.

With the ref’s back turned, Test waffles X-Pac with the championship belt. Shane crawls over but X-Pac kicks out before three. After X-Pac takes out Test with a Bronco Buster, DX comes down to even up the odds. X-Pac hits the X-Factor, but Chyna distracts the ref while Triple H pedigrees X-Pac and pulls Shane on top of him for the win. That’s a god damn shocker. The New Age Outlaws come down and get beaten down by Test, HHH, and Chyna. The fans chant H-B-K, but they get Kane, who chases all the heels out of the ring and up the ramp. It seems DX is dead. Tear.

The match was damn good and the swerve at the end was even better.

Match Rating: Nine Gold Medals

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HELL IN A CELL: BIG BOSS MAN VS. THE UNDERTAKER

 

 

Undertaker has an especially creepy variation of his theme song for this show. I might be going against popular opinion, but Ministry of Darkness Undertaker is my favorite iteration of the character.

Big Boss Man handcuffs Undertaker to the cell and goes to work on him with his nightstick, but as Undertaker fell to the floor it broke the handcuffs. Taker’s forehead is busted open and bleeding pretty badly. I always hate handcuff spots. Boss Man is busted open too, both guys are a bloody mess. Undertaker gets the win with a tombstone after a pretty entertaining match.

Match Rating: Five Gold Medals

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The Brood then drops down from the ceiling and break through the top of the cage. The drop a noose into the ring and Taker puts it around Boss Man’s neck as the Brood is raised back up to the rafters. Paul Bearer lifts the cell with Boss Man tied to it by the neck. Yes, Boss Man is being hanged from the cell. I can still remember my initial feeling of disgust and sickness when I first saw it, and that has not changed almost 20 years later.

 

It looks like JR’s heel turn is over, because he took Michael Cole’s spot for the main event and tipped his hat to Cole on his way down the ramp.

 

WWF CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN VS. THE ROCK (c) W/VINCE McMAHON AS SPECIAL GUEST REFEREE

As McMahon gets to the ring, Shawn Michaels’ music hits and the place goes insane. The commissioner tells McMahon to take that Jack LaLanne physique and get the hell out. He has assigned a normal ref to the match, and bans the Corporation from ringside.

I’ve never heard reactions louder than the cheers that Stone Cold got during this run. The no DQ aspect of the match plays out within the first 2-3 minutes as they quickly ended up fighting through the crowd. These two fought everywhere they could. Inevitably the Spanish announce table went sayonara after Austin put Rock through it, and they finally get back in the ring for the for the first time since the match started. That’s certainly not a complaint, and they immediately get back to the outside.

Rock had his moments in the early part of the match but Austin controlled 90% of the match for the first 5-10 minutes. When they get back in the ring, Rock hits a Rock Bottom out of nowhere, and Austin barely kicked out at two. Rock brought a chair into the ring, Austin got it from him, went to hit the Rock, and ended up getting referee Mike Chioda square in the head.

After countering a Stunner, Rock takes to Austin’s injured left knee with the chair, then knocks him right between the eyes. New ref Tim White counts two but Austin kicked out at the last possible moment. The action pretty much stayed in the ring from this point, with Rock firmly in control for the new few minutes. He doesn’t like Tim White’s count and gives him a Rock Bottom. He turns around into a Stunner but there’s no referee. Earl Hebner comes running in, but by the time he gets there, Rock kicks out at two. It’s pandemonium! It’s chaos! It’s Vince McMahon!

Vince comes walking down the ramp and taunts Austin, who grabs has a chair, but when he goes to use it, Rock hits a low blow. McMahon gets in the ring, takes out Hebner, and starts stomping on Austin. Mankind! comes running down the ramp in his referee shirt and takes out McMahon. We had to lose three other referees, but we finally got the right guy. Rock hits another Rock Bottom, but instead of going for a pin, he goes for a People’s Elbow and misses. He counters a Stunner, then Austin counters a Rock Bottom, then Austin hits a Stunner for the 1-2-3!! New champ! McMahon is crying. Austin does the four corners salute to the fans, then Mankind presents Austin with his prize as the crowd goes nuts. What’s left to do but call for some Steveweisers and chug them with Earl Hebner? Well, of course one thing: give Vince McMahon a Stunner.

This match was perfection. There’s nothing else to say about it.

Match Rating: Ten Gold Medals

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The Mankind-Big Show match wasn’t great, the Sable-Tori match might be the worst match ever, and Boss Man hanging from the cell was Katie-Vick-level bad. Other than that, this was an incredible show, and the main event was everything a Wrestlemania main event should be. Go back and watch this classic, it’ll take you less time than an episode of Raw, and it’s WWF in its prime.

Overall Show Rating: Seven Gold Medals

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