Most helpful positive review
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Five stars? Indeed it is.
on 9 September 2010
1999's Royal Rumble is a better event than I remembered it, but still packed tight with flaws. Most notable of these is the shift in focus of the Rumble itself, which now comes with a cash prize for the man who eliminates Stone Cold Steve Austin as part of the whole Austin/ McMahon story (still trundling along). This aspect is so heavily emphasized that the real prize of the Rumble - a spot at the top of the bill at Wrestlemania - is all but completely forgotten. The eventual winner of the match further devalues the event. The progress of the match (particularly the non-elimination backstage brawl that so dominates it) is so indicative of the Attitude era's often-successful shaking up of wrestling institutions, but here it seems as a bit of a mockery. The final four lineup of Big Boss Man, Owen Hart, Stone Cold and D-Lo Brown is hardly inspiring, either. It is also worth noting that there are a minority of wrestlers that appear in the 30-man match that still had jobs at the next year's event, and rightfully so: who cares to remember the Oddities, most notably the absolutely dire Kurrgan.
The show and undercard begin with a surprisingly excellent match between Big Boss Man (yes! Two appearances) and Road Dogg, with an inexplicable amount of heat (perhaps moreso than the antipathetically-received The Rock later that evening). This match is also notable as one of two instances where the heel interacts directly with Jerry Lawler from the ring. Ken Shamrock will do the same during his uninteresting bout with Billy Gunn. Sable and Luna enjoy a skipping from me, while Kevin Kelly interviews superstars backstage in a full tuxedo, for no obvious reason. Teddy Long can be witnessed with no questioning making a three-count a good few minutes before the end of a match, too.
The match that this event is most remembered for is perhaps the I Quit title bout between Mankind and The Rock, which really isn't any way as memorable as people make it out to be (its sequel at the next month's St. Valentine's Day Massacre is far more entertaining), and doesn't even get that interesting until the much-covered chairshot onslaught at the end (and that's including the fall into the electric circuits that shorts out the arena lights). Props also to Vince for taking an unprotected chair shot from Austin during the main event (which also proposed to make history by having the first female Rumble entrant, Chyna. Who was, naturally, eliminated within seconds by the company's top guy).
J.R. was at his peak back then, and is sadly replaced here by the frankly unfit Michael Cole, whose relentless undermining of by the King I can vicariously savour.
Onto 2000's Royal Rumble, an near-flawless event to kick off the best year in WWF history. The freshness comes from the lack of Stone Cold, who'd been stuck in the same badass versus the boss storyline for close to two years until being written out in late '99. As Triple H points out (in character, but nonetheless legit for it) in a later PPV, it is he that benefits most from Austin's absence, rising to the top of the roster and delivering one of the finest heel runs in the company's history. Those that scoff at his clear practice of sleeping his way to the head of the company can't deny he's got the star power to back it, no more obvious than here, where he delivers his first truly excellent match as WWF Champion. More on that later.
From the opening moments this event is off to a great start. Mercifully, J.R. has long since returned and his back beside King where he belongs. The opening match is left in the more than capable hands of Kurt Angle (his star ever rising) and the debuting Tazz, master ring technicians both. While the match is short, it culminates in a surprise finish, and serves to make one marvel at how underused Tazz would be in the coming months. On then to the tag team tables match between the Hardy Boyz and the relatively fresh Dudleys. Shorter than I remember, it is nevertheless chock full of great spots and really makes you realise that in terms of in-ring personality, Edge and Christian never had anything on these two teams (this is of course long before their comedy angle).
Chris Jericho is next witnessed backstage confusing the Hebners ("Earl!...Dave!") before a disposable triple threat encounter to unify the intercontinental title, effectively ending his satisfying program with Chyna. Also Bob Holly appears, but as ever is barely used, a continuing shame in itself.
The less said about the Miss Rumble contest the better. Same goes for the three-minute encounter between- shudder- The Acolytes and The New Age Outlaws. Where I find myself most disappointed here is in the reteaming of Road Dogg and Mr. Ass, as the former had enjoyed relative success as a singles performer the previous year and proven himself a worthy draw. Mr. Ass, former King Of The Ring, well, athletic he may be, but that's about all he has going for him. Still, it's better than Billy And Chuck...
Now then. The Royal Rumble is arranged so the title matchup always precedes the Rumble itself. That said, there is no way to describe the street fight between Cactus Jack and Triple H as anything other than a main event. A match of considerable violence, it is no doubt the reason for the 18 cert on the box. It also benefits from enormous heat going in, and solidified Triple H as a worthy champion. Its greatest success though is delivering on the preceding return of the Cactus Jack persona. Mick Foley has been wrestling for the WWF for nigh on four years, mostly as Mankind and Dude Love. His last appearance as Cactus Jack was in fact against the same man in the same arena three years earlier, though this isn't mentioned once. The character, who Foley had wrestled some of his most impressive matches as worldwide for years, had been retired, and his fun-loving goof Mankind character had been dominant from then on.
The fact that you buy Cactus as another man completely, not one month on from Mankind's last match, is a testament to just how well this storyline was conceived and executed. Triple H reacts to the same person in two completely different ways, but it just further established that Cactus Jack is more myth than man, and a last resort of a desperate man, a force not to be easily dismissed. Forgive my marking out, but Mick Foley is a hero of sorts to me, and it all started watching this, my first exposure to WWF on Channel 4 back in the day. To say they steal the show is an understatement: they nearly steal the year, with another eleven televised events still to go.
As for the Rumble itself, thankfully the focus is back on winning it to go to Wrestlemania, and the big beef going in was between The Rock and The Big Show. Rocky's promo, pre-match, in which he worries about encountering Crash Holly and Headbanger Mosh singled them out to me as forces to be reckoned with, so new was I to the stories and sarcasm (oddly though, I knew The Rock was the real deal from the first time I saw him). The match is peppered with sporadic appearances from Kaientai and the Mean Street Posse, who make little impact (other than eliminating the one decent member of The Acolytes, Ron `Faarooq' Simmons). It's odd hearing Christian's unique theme (prominently featured on WWF: The Music Volume 4) as he makes his way to the ring as I don't recall him having any other singles bouts until his split with Edge in 2001. The match ends with something of a trick finish (involving what came to be called the HBK rule, owing to events five years prior) that would feature prominently in the run up to Wrestlemania (the weak link in a chain of great PPVs). Overall though, a great Rumble and a great excuse to see the your Boss Mans and Gangrels in action, albeit at times for less than 20 seconds.
The extras include a pointless recap of Miss Rumble, a video explaining the Rock and Big Show's feud, and another explaining the event's aftermath that would be used at the next month's No Way Out. Also included is a ten-minute highlight reel of 1998's Rumble match (!).
I have to recommend this release. 2000's Rumble on its own would be worthy of purchase, and 1999's is no stinker either.