Wrestlemania 15 brings us to 1999, where pro wrestling is the highest rated show on cable and the industry is in the middle of the Attitude Era so you’d expect from hype alone that this would be a top notch show. Surprisingly, that isn’t the case as this event was more sizzle than substance and more hype than quality content. In short, this show is a booking mess with Vince Russo’s finger prints all over it. The opening match for the Hardcore title was Al Snow vs. Bill Gunn vs. Hardcore Holly in a triple threat match. There were some decent spots and it was kept short, but overall this was an entertaining brawl to kickoff the pay-per-view. Sure, the WWF hardcore division was a total rip off of ECW, but it provided some entertaining TV and gave mid-card guys something to do that would featured them on television when they might’ve not had the opportunity otherwise.
D’Lo Brown and Test won a battle royal on Sunday Night Heat prior to the pay-per-view to earn a shot at the tag team titles. This match had some good spots and proved how good of a team Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart were, but it was only a few minutes so there’s not much to say about it.
The Butter Bean/Bart Gunn boxing match was memorable for all the wrong reasons, as Bart was violently KO’ed within thirty seconds, and all things considered, it was probably irresponsible for the WWF to even book this bout. As was profiled recently on the Dark Side of The Ring series, The entire Brawl For All concept was a total disaster that went against everything that draws money in pro wrestling. One of the advantages that sports entertainment has over other sports is that a result can be designed to attempt to draw as much money as possible. Another extremely important aspect is that the choreographed nature of pro wrestling allows for the risk of injury to at least be less than combat sports because you can’t draw money when the stars are injured. There are well-documented examples of how the Brawl For All ruined the chance to draw money, specifically with Dr. Death Steve Williams, but this WM 15 bout fumbled any chance that anything could be redeemed from the train wreck of a concept. At the very least, Bart landing a KO on a few of his co-workers could’ve been used to repackage him to establish something useful from the dreaded tournament. Instead, after he won, he more or less disappeared from TV until he resurfaced to fight Butter Bean. Obviously, after Bart was knocked out, he had no momentum or hype so it was basically the end of his WWF career. As far as scheduling the bout, it’s completely ridiculous to book someone with no actual boxing experience against a professional boxer. Very similar to the Brawl for All tournament, this one-off bout at WM 15 had no payoff either because Butter Bean wasn’t going to be signed to a contract.
The Mankind vs. Big Show contest was brief and nothing spectacular. The bumps Mick takes here will make you cringe, and it’s odd that Big Show uses a chair about half way through the match and the referee doesn’t call for the bell, but when he choke slams Foley through two chairs for the finish, it’s considered a DQ. Mick is scheduled to be the special guest ref for the main event as a result of the win, but that’s in doubt as he was stretchered from the building. Road Dogg won a four way match against Goldust, Ken Shamrock, and Val Venis to retain the IC title. This match had some decent action, but it was essentially a thrown together bout without much of a storyline so there’s not anything major to discuss for it.
The Kane/Triple H contest was really good and had some great spots. Kane’s agility, including a dive over the ropes to the outside, was remarkable here. This had the potential to be a great match, but it was ruined with the Russo booking. Prior to the match, the San Diego Chicken did a run in and tried to attack Kane before the bell. It was revealed that it was Pete Rose trying to get revenge for the tombstone the previous year. Pete Rose got another tombstone for his WM return. Kane, who was initially a heel for the corporation, had accidentally sent a fire ball at Chyna’s face. Chyna had turned heel against DX and joined the corporation previously so technically, Triple H is supposed to be the baby face. Still following along? The review clips prior to the match show Kane as the sympathetic figure as he carries Chyna from the ring and agonizes that he accidentally sent the fire ball at her. At a point in the contest, the steel steps were used, but it wasn’t called a DQ. The finish of the match saw Chyna double turn and attack Kane before Triple H used a chair, which was somehow considered a DQ after the steps weren’t a reason to call for the bell earlier. So, Chyna turned against the wrestler that tried to take her to safety, but in the process she rejoined DX so that would theoretically make her a baby face again. Stay tuned, this series of events will get even more ridiculous.
Next up was another example of why Sable’s only qualification to be in the wrestling business was to model t-shirts. She defended the women’s title against Tori in a terrible match that had several botches. Sable’s promo before the match sounded very robotic and her attempt to be a heel included an attempted twerk move. After the referee was knocked down, Nicole Bass, a former female bodybuilder, attacked Tori, allowing for Sable to get the victory. This is direct from the Russo playbook, which would explain why it was lame.
Shane McMahon vs. X-Pac for the European championship was a decent bout that could’ve been better, but it was another match on the card that was ruined by Russo booking. The finish saw Triple H and Chyna turn on X-Pac and both joined the Corporation. So Chyna turned baby face and then turned heel again about 20 minutes later. This “swerve” was nothing more than nonsense that added illogical angles at the biggest event of the year.
Speaking of matches that were ruined by terrible booking, The Undertaker vs. Bossman HIAC match is known as probably the worst HIAC match in history. The bout was less than 10 minutes and the conclusion was The Undertaker hanging the Bossman from the roof of the cell. This was as ridiculous as the spot that implied Mickie James was murdered on Impact a few years ago. Either The Big Bossman was hanging on live pay-per-view or it was a completely ridiculous spot that insults the audience because there’s no logical explanation for how Bossman returned to TV a few weeks later.
The main event was solid, but featured a lot of generic brawling in the crowd earlier in the bout, which is something that was seen in almost every pay-per-view main event at the time. The action picked up with some good back and fourth spots toward the conclusion, but Russo tactics tainted some of this bout as well. There were three ref bumps in this match, bring the total to four ref bumps on the show before Mankind returned to the arena. Stone Cold won the title after he hit the stunner and Mick Foley counted the pin. As mentioned, this show was overbooked and lacked quality because of the booking for most of the event.
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Until next week
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