Wrestling Review: WWF SummerSlam 1999 feat. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Triple H vs. Mankind

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WWF SummerSlam 1999

At the time of WWF SummerSlam 1999, we were well into the Attitude Era. But unlike the 1998 edition, which is a vintage show from that crazy time period, the 1999 card doesn’t receive the same acclaim. Hell, I was and still am a massive Attitude Era fan, and even at the time (watching it live on Sky Sports 1), I felt a bit disappointed. But what makes this event so underwhelming? Let’s take a trip down memory lane to find out.

WWF Intercontinental & European Championship Match
D’Lo Brown (C) vs. Jeff Jarrett

D’Lo had captured both the European and IC Titles in the weeks preceding this show. While Mideon never received a rematch for the Euro crown, Double J did get his opportunity at revenge, and for both belts no less. That confusion aside, this was a fun opener between two of the Federation’s most notable mid-carders. I’m not sure where D’Lo would have slotted into the main event mix at that point, given the star power that the WWF had, but many believe he still should have gone further. As it turned out, this brief run with two titles would mark his apex in the WWF. And Brown ended up leaving SummerSlam with nothing: as Debra provided a distraction (which began to sow the seeds of a break-up between her and Double J), Mark Henry ran in seemingly to help Brown, but with Vince Russo booking, you know that it’s SWERVE time! Yes, Henry turned on Brown, giving Jeff a victory that was somewhat cheap, but earned him both belts nonetheless. Jeff actually gave Mark the European Title the next night, because it clearly meant nothing to Double J.

Tag Team Turmoil

Fun fact: this unique concept, essentially a tag team winner-stays-on contest, made its first appearance here at SummerSlam ’99. A shot at the WWF World Tag Team Titles was at stake here, though I honestly cannot remember whether the winning team actually got their crack at the gold, considering that the belts would change hands at an incredibly fast rate in the weeks to come. The first portion continued the feud between Edge & Christian and The New Brood a.k.a. The Hardy Boyz, and it was the highlight of the entire Turmoil outing. E&C came out on top against the then-heel Hardyz, and they were also able to outlast Mideon and Viscera. In addition, they overcame the combo of Droz and Prince Albert (the former making his last PPV appearance in the ring due to him sadly being paralysed in a match in early October). But Edge and Christian couldn’t quite make it to the finish line, as they fell to the brutish combination of Faarooq and Bradshaw a.k.a. The Acolytes. There was still one more team left, that being Hardcore Holly and his cousin Crash Holly (who had only debuted on Raw the previous week), but The Hollies spent more time arguing with and fighting each other, which meant that in the end, it was a relatively easy win for The Acolytes. This provided a decent snapshot of the WWF tag scene prior to The Dudleyz and Too Much being repackaged as Too Cool, but it achieved little else.

WWF Hardcore Championship Match
Big Boss Man (C) vs. Al Snow

Before the next match, Road Dogg came out to provide commentary, but he was interrupted in his usual routine by newcomer Chris Jericho, who cut a promo from the top of the Lion’s Den cage (more on that shortly). Y2J and Dogg exchanged some fun banter, as was the trend during the Attitude Era, before Jericho disappeared as Dogg focused on calling Boss Man vs. Snow. And since this was a time where Hardcore bouts ended up going way beyond ringside, RD chose to follow the action first-hand, with a microphone in hand. In this Fully Loaded rematch, Boss Man and Snow did all sorts to one another, and they ended up in a bar across the street, which was intriguing to say the least. Boss Man repeatedly pounding Al’s head off a wall in the bar made me laugh far more than it should have. In the end, Dogg cracked BBM, and Snow whacked him with balls off a pool table to get the pin and reclaim the title. Afterwards, back in the Target Center, Snow prevented The Blue Meanie and Stevie Richards from stealing his dog Pepper in an unnecessary add-on. Boss Man and Al would continue their rivalry with some of the most notorious moments of the entire Attitude Era.

WWF Women’s Championship Match
Ivory (C) vs. Tori

I’m going to skim through this because it was a really poor match: Ivory simply pinned Tori in a bout that has to be seen to be believed for how bad it was. Then again, that would mean you having to sit through this “effort”. Luna Vachon prevented Ivory from stripping Tori down after the match, but the feud was not over between the combatants, sadly.

Lion’s Den Match
Ken Shamrock vs. Steve Blackman

The Lion’s Den match was the WWF’s not-so-subtle answer to the UFC’s Octagon fighting environment (especially since Shamrock competed in each of the very few Lion’s Den matches that the Federation staged). It was a circular cage on canvas, around ten feet high, situated far away from the actual ring, and with no ropes. Here, Ken was squaring off against Steve Blackman to conclude their rivalry, and it was actually a well-executed hybrid of WWF wrestling and MMA fighting. It was a work of course, but the very nature of the match allowed it to stand out. Shamrock beat the hell out of The Lethal Weapon with a kendo stick to earn the win by stoppage. I’d like to see the Lion’s Den concept return at some point (it would be ideal for Brock Lesnar to compete inside), but it wasn’t only the stipulation that left WWF screens here. A few weeks later, Ken Shamrock would depart the WWF, making this his PPV swansong, and though there were often rumours of him returning, he never did reappear in the company, not even on a nostalgia show.

Love Her Or Leave Her Greenwich Street Fight
Test vs. Shane McMahon

When we think of relationships in the Attitude Era, we often think the worst in terms of graphic content. But the romance between Test and Stephanie McMahon was tackled with relative grace by the standards of the time, and their bond was more akin to something from Coronation Street than Celebrity Juice. It didn’t stop Shane O Mac having a problem with his sister getting cosy with a fellow wrestler, though (he had no idea what was coming in his future). The solution: a Street Fight where the lovebirds would either separate if Shane won, or remain together with McMahon’s blessing if Test won. And it was a really good brawl, the highlight of the event from an in-ring standpoint. This was partly because Shane defied expectations to have his first powerful in-ring showing, which included the debut of his top rope elbow drop through the announcer’s table. Ultimately, despite Shane’s best efforts and interference from The Mean Street Posse, Test was able to overcome the odds and drill Shane with an elbow drop of his own off the top rope for the win. Stephanie celebrated with Test afterwards, and within a week, they would become engaged. You probably know what happened next.

WWF World Tag Team Championship Match
Kane & X-Pac (C) vs. The Undertaker & Big Show

I really liked the Kane/X-Pac odd couple tandem, as it brought together two very different personas to form a unique bond, and their combination of size and speed led to a fair few exciting matches. This wasn’t one of them, but not because of their own attempts to put on a performance. Undertaker was riddled with injuries at this point, and relative WWF newcomer Show was struggling to get to grips with his change of scenery. The upshot was that, aside from a few spots that grabbed the crowd’s attention, this was utterly forgettable and fairly dull. Undertaker Tombstoned X-Pac to earn him and Show the gold, but five weeks later, Taker would disappear from WWF television for months. When he returned, all healed up, he had been transformed into the American Bad Ass.

Kiss My Ass Match
The Rock vs. Mr. Ass

Speaking of “Ass”, well, the signs are pretty obvious aren’t they? Billy Gunn, now officially named Mr. Ass, had turned heel, gone solo, won King Of The Ring and caught the ire of The Rock, who responded with some of his best ever promos. On this night, the loser would quite literally have to kiss a rear end, but Gunn revealed that if he beat Rock, it wouldn’t be his own arse being kissed, but that of a huge, fairly old woman. After a match which was okay but didn’t feel like the semi-final of a major PPV whatsoever, we had the big pay-off, as Billy brought said female into the ring and had her bend over, only for Rock to rebound and to shove Billy’s face in … well, as Jim Ross said on commentary, “The Rock just shoved Billy Gunn’s face into that large woman’s ass!” And she liked it! The match-winning Rock Bottom was academic. This was the Attitude Era folks, but dammit this scene was more memorable than 85-90% of SummerSlam 2019 will seem in the years to come.

WWF Championship Triple Threat Match – Jesse “The Body” Ventura Is Special Guest Referee
Stone Cold Steve Austin (C) vs. Triple H vs. Mankind

Ventura popping up here seems very random, but this show was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Jesse had become the Governor, so this cameo was actually a very big deal for the already super-popular WWF. In the meantime, HHH was attempting to establish himself as the next “guy”, and as a major threat to Austin’s prize. In the build-up, though, he somehow lost his title opportunity to Chyna, who then lost it to a returning Mankind. In a subsequent match, HHH and Mankind had a double-pin which led to this being made a three-way. It was certainly different, and it probably didn’t help the challengers really, but it definitely made for some exciting television during a red-hot summer.

The match itself is alright; compared to Austin’s other major PPV encounters during this period, it isn’t the greatest match that you will see, but it definitely has its moments. Jesse’s spots as the referee, in particular where he asks the crowd if there had been cheating by HHH, give this a 1980s feel, which depending on your point of view is either a positive or a negative. At one point, Shane ran in to try and help H, only for Ventura to toss him out to the floor and shout “That’s for your old man, you little bastard!” If only our UK Governors acted the same way. At this point, Austin actually got stuck in the ropes, with HHH trying to unravel him while attempting to make it look like he was trying to hurt him. This has become a popular comedic scene to be replayed in recent years, and this along with Jesse’s outburst on Shane are what this match is most remembered for, except for the outcome: Mankind surprisingly pinned Austin cleanly with a Double Arm DDT for the win. Afterwards, HHH pounded Austin’s knees with a chair to put him on the shelf for a little while, and the next night on Raw, H pinned Mankind to win his first WWF Championship.

Now, the interesting side-story here is the rumour that HHH was supposed to beat Austin in a straight singles match to win the gold, but Stone Cold rejected the proposal, hence the three-way and HHH getting the gold one night later. That has never been confirmed, though Shawn Michaels hinted at this scenario at the time (what a hypocrite Shawn was), and others have suggested that it was true. Mick Foley stated in his book Foley Is Good that he was brought in to help because of Austin’s knee injury (which he did get surgery on after the bout, hence the post-match beating by HHH with the chair), and a three-way allowed for Austin to do a little less than usual. Neither HHH nor Austin have ever confirmed whether the story of him not wanting to lose to H was true or not, so it’s one of those urban legends, I guess. It’s worth noting that Austin did lose to HHH several times beyond this night, so make of that what you will. I should also mention that during the week when Chyna had been temporarily inserted into the match in H’s place, there were discussions to not only have Austin face Chyna, but to have Chyna win and become the WWF World Champion. Can you imagine if that had transpired???

Summing this up, WWF SummerSlam 1999 is your typical B-level Attitude Era PPV, with the problem being that this was an A-level show. There is a lot of entertainment to be found, due to the crazy characters and their wild shenanigans, the brawling that was in vogue during this time, the energy of the mostly-adult male crowd, and the chaotic, unpredictable nature of the product as a whole. But the action itself is largely left wanting, with the Hardcore and Lion’s Den matches being entertaining, and the opening and closing matches being decent, but with the remainder of the card being totally skippable in terms of actual wrestling. So, SummerSlam 1999 is worth a look if you want to see what the Attitude Era was like, but there are definitely supershows which portray this significant chapter of WWF history in a better light.