With the 33rd Edition of the WWE’s annual WrestleMania Event due to take place this upcoming Sunday, I decided to step away from video games this week and instead take a look back at one of the previous incarnations of the “Showcase of the Immortals”.
There have been many great WrestleMania Events over the years, but WrestleMania XV is sadly not one of them. Emanating from Philadelphia on the 28th March 1999, WrestleMania XV took place during the WWE’s famed “Attitude Era”, and featured a blockbuster of a Main Event as Stone Cold Steve Austin took on The Rock for the companies World Championship.
Austin had been cheated out of the title back in September of the previous year, and WrestleMania presented the end of near 6 month odyssey for “The Texas Rattlesnake” where he had overcome obstacle after obstacle in hope of wearing the prestigious title belt once again.
The Rock had aligned himself with evil company owner, and Austin’s nemesis, Vince McMahon on route to securing the title. Both he and Austin were indisputably the two biggest stars in the industry, and thus the show was a big hit at the box office as wrestling fans the world over slapped down the dosh to see them do battle.
Thankfully, Austin and Rock delivered a good, if not spectacular, performance and the show at least ended on a high note as Austin vanquished his foe to reclaim the title. However, despite this happy ending, WrestleMania XV is not a good show, owing mostly to a rushed and thrown together undercard that feels like it was written on a serviette over a slap up lunch at greasy spoon café.
For instance, the Tag Team Champions of Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett didn’t have an actual program or storyline going into the event. Instead, a battle royal was held earlier in the evening with the remaining two wrestlers getting paired up to face the champions in a title bout.
This led to the thoroughly random pairing of D’Lo Brown and Test surviving to the end, only to then promptly lose to the champs in less than 4 minutes after squabbling with one another. This was not only a waste of a very good tag team in Jarrett and Owen, but it also made the tag belts seem unimportant and also wasted a very good worker in D’Lo in a short nothing match when he actually could have contributed something more to the show.
You might wonder why the WWE’s premier babyface tag team of The New Age Outlaws were nowhere to be seen in the tag team title picture at this point. Well this was because the WWE, and especially it’s then head writer Vince Russo, were renowned for doing a lot of M. Night Shyamalan style twists and turns in their storylines at this point in time and, like the aforementioned director, a lot of the time they seemed to be twists for the very sake of it.
Case in point, at the start of the year Billy Gunn and Road Dogg of The Outlaws both started to go after singles championships after a long period of targeting exclusively tag team gold together. Road Dogg decided to try his luck in the violent Hardcore Division, whereas Gunn set his sights on the Intercontinental Championship.
Road Dogg was the first of the two to win gold, as he defeated Big Bossman to win the Hardcore Championship early in 1999. He was due to defend the title against Al Snow at the February Pay Per View Event, but he suffered an injury which meant that the title had to be vacated. Snow instead took on his former stable mate Bob “Hardcore” Holly, with the title going to Holly after the two brawled into the nearby Mississippi River. As a result of this, Road Dogg was scheduled to come back and get a chance to regain the title he never lost against Snow and Holly in a Triple Threat bout at WrestleMania.
Meanwhile, Gunn failed to defeat Intercontinental Champion Ken Shamrock at the 1999 Royal Rumble but he came mighty close. Shamrock not only had an issue with Gunn but also Porn Star turned wrestler Val Venis, due to Venis putting the moves on Ken’s sister Ryan Shamrock. As a result, Shamrock and Venis took on each other for the title at the February Event, with the added twist of Gunn being the special guest referee.
Shamrock made the mistake of antagonising Gunn in the bout, leading to Gunn costing him the match and sending the title Val’s way. However, Gunn left Val lying after the match also, thus giving a reason for the three to still have an issue with one another. The storyline then proceeded to get even weirder as Val kicked Ryan to the curb, only for her to end up with “The Bizarre One” Goldust, who already had a previous rivalry with Venis.
With everyone having both
A. A connection to Ryan Shamrock
B. A desire to hold the Intercontinental Title
It was decided that they would all face one another at WrestleMania in a Fatal Four Way Elimination Match, which I can only assume would have led to Gunn finally bagging the title and maybe even Ryan into the bargain as well.
Then about a week out from the show, WWE booked Gunn to win the Hardcore Title and Road Dogg to win the Intercontinental Title, thus putting the shaft to both storylines and essentially making both matches pointless. They did this for no other reason that I could see other than to surprise everyone, washing away about 3-4 months of storylines in the process.
So the matches still happened but with Gunn and Dogg swapped around, thus meaning neither of them had any heat or crowd interest as consequence.
Other “highlights” of the undercard included Bart Gunn getting knocked out in a Toughman contest by Butterbean in 35 seconds, Triple H and Kane having a match that was as dull as it was tedious and then Undertaker and Big Bossman having perhaps the worst Hell in a Cell match of all time.
This match clocked in at less than 10 minutes and was (no pun intended) deathly dull. Following one of the more lethargic ticks in the win column for Undertaker at WrestleMania, he then decided to tie a noose around Bossman’s neck and hang him from the top of the cell, because why not? Once Bossman was hung the director cut away to a commercial and, when the broadcast came back, the ring was empty and no mention was made of the situation again for the rest of the evening, even though Undertaker had essentially just committed attempted murder in front of millions of witnesses.
Only one match on the undercard was actually any good, this being the bout between Shane McMahon and X-Pac, which will hopefully be a good omen for Shane O Mac’s battle with AJ Styles at this year’s Wrestlemania.
Not surprisingly, outside of Austin Vs Rock little is really remembered from WrestleMania XV, and it’s probably for the best. If it’s not the worst WrestleMania of all time, it’s certainly in the running. Let’s hope this year’s event is better, eh?
Thanks for reading
And if you are watching WrestleMania this year;