Friday, March 20, 2020

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XV

1999: Vince Russo leaves a turd in the WrestleMania bowl....

First Union Center - 3/28/99

'Mania 15 holds the distinction, at least according to me, of being the most disappointing WrestleMania in history.  Never before or since has the WWF/E possessed all the tools, talent, and momentum to put on an unforgettable PPV only to completely squander it in almost every possible way.

First the good (there isn't much): The main event of The Rock defending the WWF Title against Steve Austin is a fine match.  Full of crazy brawling and guest referee shenanigans, it captured perfectly the peak of the Vince Russo era, for better or worse.  Rock and Austin would be hard-pressed to have a bad match, so this was just fine (though they would go on to top this match on PPV not once, not twice, but thrice).  It felt more like a good RAW match but given how bad the rest of this PPV is, I'll take it.

This match is the only reason to watch 'Mania 15.

The only other decent matches on this show are Shane McMahon vs. X-Pac, which far exceeded my low expectations (though it really should've been Test in Shane's spot), the Owen/Jarrett vs. Test/D-Lo Tag Title match (which was good but way too short), and the 4-way I-C Title match of the Road Dogg vs. Ken Shamrock vs. Goldust vs. Val Venis.  Now originally Billy Gunn was supposed to be the I-C Champion going in, and Road Dogg was the Hardcore Champ, but Vince Russo decided to swerve everyone and have them switch places, which made no sense and hurt the opening Hardcore Title match.

The other good thing to come out of this show was the Triple H/Chyna double heel turn angle.  During Hunter's match with Kane, heel Chyna turned on the Big Red Monster to reunite with Hunter.  Then during X-Pac's match, they both turned heel on Mr. Waltman, joining the Corporation.  It bordered on convoluted (as did pretty much every angle of the time), but it was a nice double-twist.
The rest of the show consisted of matches that were either too short (Mankind vs. Big Show), forgettable (Sable vs. Tori), or just boring (Undertaker vs. Big Bossman in the worst Hell in a Cell match of all time).

What a shitshow

The most mind-boggling inclusion was Bart Gunn vs. Butterbean in a boxing match.  Bart Gunn had won the legit Brawl for All boxing tournament in 1998, much to everyone's surprise, and so the WWF decided to have him fight Toughman Competition star Butterbean several months later, by which time we had all forgotten about the BfA tournament.  This segment ran a good 10-15 minutes, all for a fight that lasted 35 seconds and exposed the "toughest" WWF wrestler as a pushover for the actual fighting star.  An utterly pointless match, and yet another example of a celebrity guest being a detriment to the product.

'Mania 15 illustrated perfectly that while the WWF's ratings were still crushing WCW's, the Vince Russo era was becoming stale.  At this time the PPV events tended to raise more questions than they answered, and were designed to get viewers to tune into RAW, rather than the other way around.  It was a business model that couldn't possibly hold up long-term and led to some pretty awful storyline payoffs.  Fortunately Russo left the WWF six months later and the following year the company got back to focusing on the in-ring product rather than overly complicated angles.

Best Match: The Rock vs. Steve Austin
Worst Match: Bart Gunn vs. Butterbean (I'm still not sure why they felt this belonged on a WrestleMania card.)
What I'd Change: I'd have cut two matches off the card and given more time to the remaining eight, and kept the storyline-focused stuff to a minimum.  This was the biggest PPV of the year and should've paid things off in the ring, not featured multiple angles and swerves.  I would also have included a match for The Brood.
Most Disappointing Match: Mankind vs. Big Show - This was a major dream match at the time, and quite possibly the bout I was most looking forward to on this card.  And then it was only given six minutes and ended with a senseless DQ.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Shane McMahon vs. X-Pac
Overall Rating: 4/10


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