Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Ramblemania Rewind 15 - WWF Wrestlemania XV: The Ragin' Climax (1999)

Date: March 28, 1999
Venue: First Union Center, Philly, PE
Attendance: 20,276

(Note: The following post was written prior to the McMahon lawsuit from January 2024).

Last year, Wrestlemania kicked off a period that would be the most profitable period in the WWF's history, the Attitude era. It also kicked off a bunch of controversy in relation to pushing the envelope, but it got the job done in promoting the promotion as a fast-paced, edgy product that WCW could never pull off. While the storylines on WWF television made little sense at time, it helped that the writing and action was a tad better and more intense than what was being offered on WCW, who were merely content showing off the same stars that made them famous and not making any conscious effort to make any new stars. Because of this, along with the incredible Austin/McMahon rivalry that dominated WWF television among other factors, the WWF was able to change its fortunes and reclaim its spot as the top wrestling promotion in North America.

A year after Wrestlemania XIV, which was an awesome in itself, we got Wrestlemania XV. And if there was any show that served as the very epitome of "Russorific"... THIS would be it.

I've once said that Wrestlemania XV is like the village idiot: filled with such stupid shit and yet you can't help but laugh at its plight or pleasure. Watching recently, it's painfully clear that this show has aged terribly over the years and the stuff that's been floating around here is pretty wretched. Mania's first Hell In A Cell match featured a hanging that was disturbing (whereas a hanging would be greatly welcomed at THIS year's Cell match), a wrestler who got lucky in a boxing tournament got his lights knocked out by Butterbean, Pete Rose got tombstoned by Kane once again, and on top of all that, we had Nicole Bass... whose manly physique would give Chyna a run for her money... or something.

If there was any saving grace, it was Rock/Austin. A good main event with a satisfying finish even with all the bullshit taking place. But their Backlash encounter the following month would be a much better affair.

Where to, Stephanie? To the scrapheap!

This was during the height of the Attitude era, back when Vince on TV as a despicable asshole was pure genius and not a tiresome attempt at past glory... but that didn't excuse the number of stupid ideas scattered here. Like I said before, this show hasn't aged well and is pretty unbearable to watch.

Bob Holly defeated Al Snow and Hardcore champion "Bad Ass" Billy Gunn in a Hardcore Triple Threat match to win the WWF Hardcore Title... okay, so Billy Gunn was feuding with some guys over the IC title and Road Dogg was feuding with some guys over the Hardcore title. And then Vince Russo decides that we gotta SWERVE EVERYONE, BRO! by switching both Outlaws so that Billy would win the Hardcore title while Road Dogg would win the IC title. Spoiler Alert: Roadie would retain the title and lose it on RAW a night or two later, I don't recall. In any event, Al would win the title the following month at Backlash if I recall correctly. And I recall that match being pretty wild. You know what match wasn't wild? This opening match. This was... a thing that happened.

Trying to be nice here.

WWF Tag-Team Champions Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett defeated D-Lo Brown and Test in a ridiculously short match (almost four minutes long) to retain the titles. D'Lo and Test were the last two remaining in the pre-show battle royal and as such, they were the wacky tag-team of partners who couldn't get along challenging for the tag titles at the Grandest Stage Of Them All... and they naturally lose. I want to say that this almost reminds me of the shoddy WCW booking in 99 and 2000, but Russo hadn't left the WWF to work on those shows yet... I'm wondering if I'm being too harsh because I've subjected myself to one too many bad Russo-penned PPVs over the years or if this show is actually worse with each passing viewing. I wouldn't put it past myself to believe either to be the case.

And then we have Bart Gunn vs. Butterbean in a Brawl For All match.

The Brawl For All Match.

That Brawl For All Match.



So, here's the deal: John Layfield a.k.a. Bradshaw a.k.a. JBL was talking shit about how he could beat up everyone in a straight fight. This prompted Vince Russo to suggest that they hold a tournament on RAW where wrestlers whose job is to pretend to fight actually have to fight each other. They made a Dark Side Of The Ring episode about this thing, so I won't recap here because the whole thing is so egregiously stupid and convoluted that it made everyone involved (and I do mean EVERYONE INVOLVED) look like a fucking moron. Long story short; the winner of the tournament ends up being Bart Gunn, the other Smoking Gunn who isn't Billy and thus doesn't have quite the storied career. Bart wasn't the guy people wanted to win the thing, but rather it was Dr. Death Steve Williams, whom Bart KO'ed in the second round of the tournament, which no doubt caused some bad blood. I'll reserve my feelings for this thing at a later date and continue onwards.

So, after winning the tournament of fake fighters having real fights and thus having real injuries because some moron thought it was a good idea to have real fights with real people... Bart would end  up being off TV for months before being brought back to have a match against famed toughman fighter Butterbean. We got some video packages hyping up the match and what ends up happening is that Butterbean would knock out Bart Gunn roughly 30 seconds into the first round in the most lopsided fight that there ever was. 

I mean, shit, if this wasn't a cleverly designed plan to humiliate poor Bart for taking out "JR's Boy" as some folks would refer to Dr. Death, then fuck me if you ain't full of shit, son, because anyone with one eighth of a functioning brain and a triple dose of Bells' Palsy could tell that this was a premeditated execution of one Bart Gunn... because not long after this, Bart Gunn was gone from the WWF and we never had another Brawl For All. Quite frankly, I'm surprised Russo didn't try to revive this thing in TNA or something. But yeah, this was a total waste of fucking time. Much like that whole Brawl For All, but I digress.

Three matches, almost an hour in, and I fucking hate this show.

Mankind defeated "Big Show" Paul Wight via DQ when Show chokeslamed Mankind through two chairs. The stipulation for the match was that whoever won would officiate the main event WWF title match and since Show got DQ'ed, that meant Mankind would be the special ref. This brings out Vince McMahon, who berates Show loudly enough - or through some clever hidden mic work that allows the home audience to listen in - but then Vince makes the mistake of slapping Show, who punches him out in return. Long story short, Show would be arrested, McMahon would name himself special ref, but would end up being denied by Comissioner Shawn Michaels, who would appoint a stock ref in the title match and my brain hurts... I think back in the day, I didn't question it and was sure that it made sense. Russo shows weren't designed to make you think, contrary to whatever claims he'd make.

Intercontinental Champion Road Dogg defeated Goldust, Ken Shamrock, and Val Venis in a fatal four-way match to retain the title. My brain just farted while watching this match. Then I fell asleep. And when I woke up, Road Dogg was celebrating with the title. I considered rewinding to watch the match again, but thought better of it because that would extend the pain of this show further.

Out comes Kane, who is attacked by the San Diego Chicken, who turns out to be Pete Rose, who gets tombstoned for his troubles. Well, they killed that gimmick dead.

Kane defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley via DQ when Chyna ran in and whacked Kane with a chair, seemingly rejoining DX. Kane ponders Chyna's fifty turns before he gets pedigreed by HHH, who is happy to have his partner back... or something. Whatever. I don't care. I fucking hate this show.

WWF Women's Champion Sable defeated Tori (not that Torrie) with an assist from the debuting Nicole Bass (big, tall, muscular lady). This was a five-minute match that went four minutes and fifty nine seconds too long. Also, what a difference a year makes. At Mania 14, Sable came across as something of a competent competitor and now she does a silly dance that would be best described as sex UN-appeal. I fucking hate this show.

European Champion Shane McMahon defeated X-Pac with an assist from Triple to retain the title. So yes, Chyna turned on Kane so that she can rejoin Triple H so that he can turn on DX and join the Corporation. And then, Kane, no doubt flummoxed by the stupidity of this entire scenario, comes out to run off the heels and I am Big Show while my brain is Shane McMahon, who fled the scene while this garbage was taking place and I'm left wondering "WHICH WAY DID HE GO? DER-HERP! DER-HERP!" Just about the only saving grace was that the match actually wasn't all too bad. Shane was mostly the human punching bag at this point while X-Pac did most of the work, but you know what? The dynamic worked until the finish, which turned out to be a good move since it was the first step in evolving Triple H from goofball DX leader to The Game that he'd eventually become.

The Undertaker pinned Big Boss Man in a ho-hum Hell In A Cell match that was notable for two things. First being the ending that saw Boss Man hung by a noose in the middle of the ring... I guess this was supposed to signify a face turn of sorts, but then he'd end up rejoining the newly merged Corporate Ministry. And the second thing being the idiotic claim of Michael Cole, whose claims of the Cell being such a dangerous threat to human life that you could get your fingers caught in it continue to be the source of ridicule to this very day.

Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated WWF Champion The Rock to win the title in a main event that was filled with run-ins galore, brawls outside the ring, brawls inside the ring, outside interference up the whazzu, wardrobe malfunctions - Austin came out in a shirt rather than a vest; my guess is they wasted all the show's budget on Sable's boob job. But hey, Austin walked out with the title, he got to stun ol' Vinny Mac, have a beer with Earl Hebner, and everyone went home happy. The match itself wasn't bad, but their rematch at Backlash the following month blows this out of the water.

Wrestlemania XV is not a good show and it's almost shocking how much worse off it is with each subsequent viewing. There's a lot on this show that baffled me and annoyed me, but at the end of the road, there was a light at the end and we got a decent main event with a happy ending. And yes, I absolutely fucking hate a good chunk of this show while a smaller good chunk of this show was just boring shit... but I'm debating whether this or Wrestlemania 2000 is the worst of the Attitude Era bunch. Oh, that's going to be fun.

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