Yes, that’s Cindy Margolis strapped to a gurney while getting an earful from Jeff Jarrett. This one’s weird, folks.
Previously on the Vintage Best and Worst of WWF Smackdown: Kane ran amok over the whole show, parting ways with X-Pac and attempting to light Triple H on fire before their WWF Championship match. Also, the tag team titles were defended in a Buried Alive match, the conclusion of which saw Stone Cold Steve Austin’s debut for the Blue Team.
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And now, the vintage Best and Worst of WWF Smackdown for Sept. 16, 1999.
Best: Zebra Lives Matter
So, this week on Raw, the main event got so out of hand that Earl Hebner has decided to organize a strike. Practically every referee that was sent to the ring got clobbered, so until WWF referees get a guarantee on better workplace standards, you can find them picketing in the parking lot. I’m giving this the Best because I like occasional moments when referees don’t just feel like props, but also because this walkout results in REFEREE ROULETTE ’99. For the duration of the night, we get a rogues’ gallery of scab referees, with some being more effective than others. Considering that we’re in Las Vegas this week, I’m surprised we didn’t get a Godfather Ho in a sexy referee outfit from Spencer’s.
Worst: The Way This Guy Spells “Ayatollah”
I-O-TOLLA. When this guy’s coworkers have a conversation about Iran, he probably interjects with “Dude, I love A Flock of Seagulls!”
Best: Triple H As The GQ Terminator
“I need your clothes, your boots, and your tinted sunglasses.”
Stone Cold Steve Austin starts the night proper by letting WWF Champion Triple H know that he’s a marked man, even though Austin came up short in his title match on Raw. Instead of giving Austin another shot, Triple H says he’s giving a championship match to an opponent of his choice, with the one caveat that it must be a man who’s faced Austin beforehand. The commentary team spends the majority of the night guessing who it could be, and shockingly, they’re wrong all night.
Over the course of the show, Triple H is flanked by an outlandish number of security guards to protect him from Austin. Unfortunately, if you’ve ever seen an episode of WWF television where Stone Cold is hunting somebody, you’ll know that he usually wins. Why did we never explore this Master Tracker side of him? Can we put him on an island with a few shipwreck survivors, Most Dangerous Game style? Actually, I think that might have been the plot of The Condemned.
Best/Worst: What, You’re Too Good For These Streets?
Watching this match made me realize just how much I want to see the Mean Street Posse starring in the most pathetic New England crime movie ever. It’s a very cinematic idea: Their de facto leader, Shane McMahon, has seen the light and left them behind in the interest of being the best brother and son he can be. It’s that question of whether or not you can ever really leave the mob, except in this case, the mob is three doughy idiots with hella cardigan money. I’m picturing The Town, except it’s starring The Lonely Island and Bill Hader.
The Worst in this comes from the chaos of the aforementioned revolving door of referees, but it’s such a mess that it’s still oddly enjoyable. First, it starts with no referee at all. Eventually, Gerald Brisco hits the ring in ref gear, but the Posse takes him out pretty quick. Pat Patterson follows suit, with a referee shirt tucked into khaki shorts reminiscent of The Rock’s last week.
Then he gets tossed out and Shawn Stasiak becomes the final referee of the contest, making the three-count when Shane pins Joey Abs with something that looks a lot like Twisted Bliss. (If this means Alexa Bliss grew up as a big Shane mark, it suddenly makes all the sense in the world why she got drafted to Smackdown.)
Worst: Ivory May Have Aged Gracefully, But This Segment Hasn’t
Okay. So … Cindy Margolis. Listen, I’m only 27 years old, and everything I’m about to explain in this section makes me feel ancient enough to recall Ed “Strangler” Lewis matches at the Milwaukee fairgrounds.
Tonight’s Celebrity Fan In The Audience is Cindy Margolis. Had Instagram and Snapchat existed in 1999, Margolis would’ve had that on lock, because she was maybe the first woman to make a career out of being pretty on the internet. I guess you can call her an innovator for that, but that would also mean she’s indirectly responsible for Vine stars. It’s a butterfly effect thing, I suppose. Even around the time I started watching wrestling, I didn’t really get her, mainly because I knew there was racier stuff available online. Also, everyone in my family shared a crappy Compaq Presario with terrible dial-up, so I wasn’t downloading much of anything at the time.
Anyway, WWF Women’s Champion Ivory is not about to get upstaged by the internet’s most beautiful woman, so she calls her into the ring and coerces her into striking some pin-up poses. Suddenly, He-Man Woman Hater Jeff Jarrett hits the ring, where he puts Cindy and Ivory in successive figure-fours. It’s … uncomfortable. The only redeemable part about this is the interview he gives after the fact, where he makes it abundantly clear that he doesn’t know how the internet works. He’s one step away from calling it a series of tubes, it’s amazing.
Worst: I’m Glad Mark Henry Beat His Sex Addiction
Here we have the first Smackdown appearances of both Mark Henry and Steve Blackman. Pretty much everyone loves Henry these days, but let the record state that I’m a big fan of Blackman as well, especially his “Drums in the Night” theme. If you don’t remember it, here are the lyrics:
[guy throws heavy object at room full of taiko drums]
Henry and Blackman are having a match for the European title because Henry bailed on a tag team match with Blackman on Raw. We later learned on a GTV segment that Henry was holed up in his locker room, paying The Godfather for table dances from his … employees. The first sign of true addiction is when you let the addiction interfere with your job, so with the benefit of hindsight, I think Mark Henry is now a positive story of inner strength and recovery. He even went on to open his own Hall of Pain!
This match is short and dumb, unfortunately. Val Venis runs in and continues his bad blood with Blackman, hitting him in the nuts with a kendo stick. After Henry picks up the cheap win, former European Champion D’Lo Brown shows up and puts the hurt on him, just to solidify that we are indeed messing with the real deal now.
Best: Chris Jericho Continues To Ether Ken Shamrock
Hey, remember Curtis Hughes? He’s back, and Y2J is lending him shiny shirts now! Hughes never stuck around the WWF for a long time during any of his stints there, and here he’s just a temporary solution to Jericho’s equally temporary Shamrock problem.
As we’ve come to expect by now, Jericho is solid gold on commentary. Even in 1999, he’s finding the most eloquent way to call people idiots. Also, he instructs Michael Cole to address him as “The Role Model and Hero of the World Wrestling Federation, The Savior Y2J Himself.” Magic.
Hughes is taking on Shamrock under the supervision of Jericho’s personal lucha referee “El Dopo,” which is obviously Spanish for “The Dopo.” Continuity nerds like myself will instantly realize it’s Howard Finkel, because he’s wearing the exact same mask he did last week to enter the arena undetected. Everyone else watching realizes it’s Finkel when he starts talking in his ultra-distinct voice and calls for Shamrock to be disqualified, in pidgin Spanish no less. “Disqualificada, el Señor Shamrock.”
Naturally, this causes Shamrock to snap, ripping the mask off Fink. Jericho and Hughes retreat, because they have far more sinister machinations. Let’s just say this: I hope you weren’t buying Unforgiven 1999 specifically to see Ken Shamrock.
Best: AMERICAN BAD-ASS ORIGINS
Next is a five-man Royal Rumble rules match, or a “Somewhat Dignified Rumble.” It’s significant for a few reasons. First of all, The Rock draws the #1 position and gets on the mic to give us a Las Vegas-specific item for our list of Things The Rock Threatens To Turn Sideways And Stick Straight Up Your Candy Ass:
5. The payout from an imaginary slot machine
But more importantly, LOOK AT THE UNDERTAKER. I believe this is the first time WWF audiences ever saw him completely drop the 2spooky act entirely. Homeboy is coming to the ring in a BLACK LABEL SOCIETY shirt, for crying out loud. Forget Limp Bizkit, Bikertaker should have entered to “Horse Called War.” (Yes, I know that was technically Pride and Glory. Don’t test me on Zakk Wylde projects, because you won’t win.)
Behind the scenes, Undertaker is just about ready to check out here. He’s injured at this time, which explains why he’s doing more commentary than wrestling lately. He cares just enough to nonchalantly win this match, but beyond that, get ready to say goodbye to him for a few months. Also, maybe buy some stock in Harley-Davidson.
Worst: Chyna Doesn’t Know Anyone Who Isn’t A Total Jerk
First of all, shame on me for wondering, “Why is Earl Hebner back in the ring if he’s outside protesting?” I totally forgot about Dave Hebner, Earl’s twin brother. Man, imagine if they’d been around for the earliest Bella Twins storylines. It would have been chaos, I tell you.
As for this match, Hardcore and Crash Holly finally decide to sack up and accept Chyna’s challenge. It starts as a handicap match, but eventually Billy Gunn runs to the apron and declares himself Chyna’s partner. They pick up the win, but Chyna’s pretty far from grateful, which prompts Billy to bail. The instant this happens, Jeff Jarrett runs back in for some additional woman-beating. Seriously, Gunn was still in earshot and did nothing. The League of Nations could have beaten DX at this point. Yes, either League of Nations. Take your pick.
Horrible as it sounds, I can’t help but laugh when Jeff Jarrett goes uber-heel here. He KO’s Chyna and gives her an apron, frying pan, and soup ladle… and then proceeds to go “HEY CHYNA, I JUST GAVE YOU AN APRON, A FRYING PAN, AND A SOUP LADLE.” It’s the least subtle thing I’ve ever seen. I think Jarrett’s true gimmick was that he was his own narrator. I hope it carries over to his personal life. “HERE I AM AT THE OFFICES OF GLOBAL FORCE WRESTLING. THINGS ARE NOT GOING WELL. I MISS DIXIE.”
Side note: Additionally, I wanted to give Debra and Miss Kitty some flak for being so complicit in Jeff’s degradation of a woman. However, seeing multiple female pundits on TV leaping to defend Donald Trump’s rhetoric leads me to believe that this kind of thing happens more often than you’d think. Pro wrestling is only as fake as the hearts of the people watching it.
Worst: Me Too, Lilian. Me Too.
Bad news: This episode of Smackdown is a mess. Good news: Vince Russo’s departure for WCW is less than a month away.
Big Boss Man, ever the pragmatist, is not one to let good chihuahua meat spoil. Naturally, this means we’re having a Pepper on a Pole match, in which the last of the leftover dog meat is put up on a pole, and whoever retrieves it is the winner. Sorry, I’m looking at that last sentence and I’m starting to think that my time in college may have been a complete waste.
Under the watch of guest referee Sgt. Slaughter, it looks like Big Boss Man is about to defeat Al Snow, when suddenly the British Bulldog heads down to the ring flanked by several Rottweilers and their handlers. Yes, this is the prelude to that Kennel From Hell match which has gone down in such infamy. Apparently, Boss Man gets a bit psyched out by dogs that can’t fit into a carryout bag, and Al Snow retrieves what’s left of his buddy.
If I’m Al, this kind of seems like a match I don’t want to win. I mean, the prize for victory is cooked bits of a dog that used to live in your house. That’s gross, but I guess Pepper gets a somewhat proper burial now. Ugh, this storyline sucked.
Worst: Behold, The Prestigious Intercontinental Championship
Test is a pretty chivalrous guy at this point in time, and he’s not cool with internet models being put in the Figure Four, so he and Jeff Jarrett are scheduled to have an Intercontinental title match. The image above is taken from that match. I count nine people: Test, Jarret, Pete Gas, Rodney, Shane McMahon, Shawn Stasiak, Gerald Brisco, Pat Patterson, and whoever the scab referee was for this.
So yeah, in case you couldn’t tell, this is still all about the Mean Street Posse wanting to screw with Test, even though Shane is cool with him marrying Stephanie. Not much else to say here. Although, someone needs to ask Baron Corbin if he stole Deep Six from Test, because it looks like Test used it from time to time.
Worst, I Think?: Babyface McMahons Are Always Weird
I need to throw a supplemental Worst at Triple H here. As he’s listing people who will not be challenging for his WWF Championship, he puts Kane on this list and, uh… refers to him by a certain R-word. I don’t remember if Triple H is the one who started it, but I’ve already seen a few signs in the audience that would swiftly be confiscated in 2016. Not cool, everyone involved. Super not cool.
For reasons that will become explicitly clear in a few weeks, it’s necessary to shift away from Austin/McMahon as the white-hot feud and start setting up HHH/McMahon. To do this, Triple H selects Shane as the referee for the main event and also picks Vince as his opponent for the title. Vince has been banned from the ring since Fully Loaded, and he’s been trying to rehabilitate his image and his relationship with his family. But of course, he’s still Vince, so all it takes to egg him on is a couple of digs at his age and his “sexually frustrated” wife. For real, Triple H implies he’ll bang Linda just to get a fight out of Vince. Between this and the Kane thing, ’99 Hunter is a real dirtbag.
But even with Shane as guest referee, Vince doesn’t stand a chance, right? He’s horribly outmatched, he starts bleeding everywhere, and it’s just an impossible scenario to begin with. What, like the chairman of the company’s going to win the title on free TV?
Well, let’s give credit where credit is due here. As established previously, Stone Cold Steve Austin is ridiculously efficient at finding his target. The entrance ramp is blocked by Triple H’s security guards? No problem, just come in through the crowd! And on that note, I don’t think there’s a louder entrance pop in all of wrestling than Austin’s. Within a millisecond of that shattered glass sound effect, there’s a cheer strong enough to register on the Richter scale. It doesn’t matter if it’s 15,000 in Las Vegas or 100,000 at Jerryworld.
So yeah, Triple H is about to give Vince the Pedigree while Chyna practically rubs Linda’s face in his blood, but Austin hits the ring right in the nick of time. Stunner for Triple H, Stunner for Chyna, Vince gets rolled into place, and Shane counts the 1-2-3. And here’s the crazy thing: Since he’s technically still banned, he does the honorable thing and vacates the title on the next Raw. No wonder Vince Russo is leaving — how are you supposed to write Vince McMahon as an actual human being?