Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The History of WWE Royal Rumble (1999)

The Vince Russo-iest of all Vince Russo Royal Rumbles....

 Royal Rumble 1999 - Arrowhead Pond - 1/24/99

You can take just about any WWF PPV from January through September 1999 and point to it as highly indicative of how awful Vince Russo's booking had become.  After a record-shattering 1998 that featured some of the freshest WWF programming ever, 1999 was the year their product went creatively off the rails and exposed Russo as someone who clearly needed a guiding hand for his ideas to be effective.  This Rumble card (and several other shows that year) felt very disorganized and at times nonsensical.

The show opened with Hardcore Champion The Road Dogg vs. The Big Bossman....in a regular match.  Ummm, why would you book the HC Champ against a hated rival on PPV, without the HC Title on the line?  This was one of the more boring 12-minute matches I can remember.

Next up was I-C Champion Ken Shamrock, in the midst of a monster Title run, against Billy Gunn.  Early '99 was a period where the company really tried to push Billy as a future main eventer, and he repeatedly proved he was better as a tag teamer.  This was mediocre.

The one good midcard match on this show saw European Champ X-Pac defend against Gangrel.  An enjoyable, fast-paced bout that sadly only got six minutes.

A Women's Title Strap Match was next as Sable defended against Luna Vachon.  Luna had attacked Sable on the preshow, so the big story was "can Sable still compete?"  The suspense was short-lived though, as Sable won the bout in under five minutes.


The '99 Rumble card had one and only one classic match, and it was the infamous I Quit match for the WWF Title.  Unlikely new Champion Mankind defended against The Rock, in one of the most brutal brawls I've ever seen.  These two fought all over the arena, working in multiple creative spots, before Rocky handcuffed Mankind and proceeded to bludgeon him with a chair for several minutes.  The agreed-upon scenario of five chair shots became an excessively violent climax featuring eleven unprotected shots to Mick Foley's head.  It made for an amazing Match of the Year candidate, but given what we now know about concussions (and the fact that Foley's kids were in the front row), this match is a little hard to watch now.

The prerecorded "I quit!" was one of the more creative match finishes.

The Rumble match itself was a convoluted mess of overbooking, loose rules, and an unnecessary surprise finish.  The big story centered around the Austin vs. McMahon feud, and these two were the #1 and #2 entrants.  Clearly Austin was the favorite to win the Rumble and challenge for the Title at 'Mania again, but the company decided to add some wrinkles to the story.  Unfortunately said wrinkles came off as swerves-for-the-sake-of-swerves - a classic problem with Russo Era booking.  Austin beat the snot out of Vince for the first portion of the match and then both men wound up fighting all over the arena.  Now precedent dictates that when a participant leaves the ring during a Rumble match he only has a certain amount of time to get back in or he's disqualified from winning the Rumble.  But Austin and Vince spent more time outside the ring (Vince was on commentary for much of this bout) than inside.  Austin was ambushed in the bathroom by Vince's stable of heels and was taken to the hospital, only to return later in the match.  Umm, if being taken out of the building doesn't eliminate a guy from the Rumble, what does?  The match eventually boiled down to Vince, the returning Austin, and a few other guys.  When the dust settled it was Austin vs. Vince again, until The Rock showed up to distract Austin, allowing Vince to dump him over and win the Rumble.  Yup, Vince McMahon booked himself to win the Royal F*cking Rumble.  Nevermind that the way Rock's interference was booked made Austin look like a total dolt, a non-wrestler should simply never win a Championship or a major match like the Rumble.  Just terrible.

Yup, this happened.

Participants: Steve Austin, Vince McMahon, Golga, Droz, Edge, Gillberg, Steve Blackman, Dan Severn, Tiger Ali Singh, The Blue Meanie, Mabel, Road Dogg, Gangrel, Kurrgan, Al Snow, Goldust, The Godfather, Kane, Ken Shamrock, Billy Gunn, Test, Big Bossman, Triple H, Val Venis, X-Pac, Mark Henry, Jeff Jarrett, D'Lo Brown, Owen Hart, Chyna
Final FourVince McMahon, Steve Austin, Big Bossman, D'Lo Brown
Long Man: Vince McMahon & Steve Austin (56:38)

Things were more or less set right a few weeks later - Vince relinquished his 'Mania Title shot, allowing Austin to succeed him; Austin challenged Vince to a cage match at the next PPV with his Title shot on the line; Austin went on to defeat The Rock at 'Mania.  But this Rumble match just kinda cheapened everything that makes the Rumble great.  The #1 and #2 entrants were the last two guys at the end but hardly spent any time in the ring, the field was chock full of midcarders, and the owner of the company won the whole thing.  This PPV is remembered for one match, and that's the I Quit match.  Everything else is skippable Russo Era drivel.

Best Match: Mankind vs. The Rock
Worst Match: Road Dogg vs. Big Bossman
What I'd Change: Vince really should've been eliminated near the beginning and then they could've shown him paying off the other participants to target Austin, with only a few of the babyfaces rebuffing his bribe.  The final four should've included four potential winners, not Austin, his boss, and two midcard heels.  If they really wanted to have Austin lose at the last second, have someone like Shamrock win it, and then figure out a way for Austin to beat Shamrock in February to earn back the Title shot.  I dunno, something.
Most Disappointing Match: The Rumble - Watching this as it happened I sort of dreaded how predictable an Austin win was going to be, and hoped they'd be more creative.  Then the match played out the way it did, and I wished for them to just give Austin the straight-ahead win.
Most Pleasant Surprise: That Mick Foley wasn't seriously injured
Overall Rating: 4.5/10
Better than WresteMania XV, SummerSlam '99 and/or Survivor Series 1999? - Yes, No, Yes


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