Man, that’s a lot of nines in the title.
Previously on the Vintage Best and Worst of WWF Smackdown: Al Snow unknowingly ate his dog. I mean, other stuff happened too, but this is what everybody remembers. No one looks back on the Sept. 2, 1999 Smackdown and thinks about a two-minute Val Venis match, they think about the implications of Big Boss Man skinning and cooking a chihuahua.
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And now, the vintage Best and Worst of WWF Smackdown for Sept. 9, 1999.
Best: Well, That Escalated Quickly
The first two episodes of Smackdown have been registering pretty low on the Things Actually Happening quotient, so I found myself wishing for a bit more of an eventful episode this time around. That said, we should occasionally be careful what we wish for, because there is so much going on this week. Less than 90 seconds into the broadcast, we already have a parking lot brawl on our hands, which is pretty much the polar opposite of a long-winded opening promo.
Kane is attacked by Triple H and Chyna, who appears to be wearing a tracksuit that she stole from Ali G. The Undertaker and Big Show break things up, Big Show takes a low blow for his trouble, and the whole thing just smash-cuts to the first match of the night. This takes less than 30 seconds. It’s a pretty good indicator of the pace they’re setting for the remainder of the night, because it sometimes feels like this episode started as a Raw script that had to be condensed by an hour. Yes, I realize Raw hadn’t gone to three hours yet, but you get the idea. It’s weird to see a parking lot brawl that can fit on an Instagram video, but I’ll take that over authority figures rambling any day of the week.
Best: Every Dog Has His Day
First up, we get Big Boss Man bragging about his recent culinary exploits. From the sound of it, there wasn’t really any ill will that drove this feud of the deep end, Boss Man just wanted to prove that he was crazier than Al Snow. I should know better than to look for logic in these things, so I guess I just have to live with the reasoning that Boss Man just does terrible things regardless of motivation. I would call him a dog chasing cars, but that may be a sensitive metaphor at this time.
Boss Man issues an open challenge for his Hardcore Championship, and lo and behold, the British Bulldog answers! At this time, Bulldog is just coming off his ill-fated second stint in WCW, not to mention the still-recent death of Owen Hart, so this is kind of a big moment for him. Naturally, Bulldog takes Boss Man to the woodshed and wins the title after clotheslining him with his own nightstick. I think WWF missed an opportunity by not making him an avenging canine spirit summoned by the traumatic loss of Pepper, but it’s still a big return nonetheless.
By the way, here’s something I learned about the WWF Hardcore Championship: Apparently, you can just give it away! Al Snow shows up after the match, deep in the throes of WWF’s version of PTSD, which really just consists of time-traveling through your past gimmicks. Bulldog takes pity on the poor man wearing Leif Cassidy’s singlet, and just gives him the title for the heck of it. Are these the kind of precedents we were setting for the DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight title? Man, we were careless.
Best/Worst: Good Ingredients, Terrible Packaging
From there, we move to Edge and Christian versus Matt and Jeff Hardy. Let’s get something out of the way first: The New Brood was never going to work. I don’t think there’s ever been a stable that was improved by a simple palette-swap of a pre-existing character, so Gangrel kind of set himself up to fail by doubling down on the Hardys. I appreciate him taking time out of his schedule these days to teach Reby Sky the harpsichord, though. (That totally happens in my head. Just let me have this.)
Even though the alignments are all wrong, you can’t really fault an E&C/Hardys match. We’re seeing them just before their peak as performers here, and it’s a real treat. As noted last week, WWF crowds love Edge and Christian, especially with their through-the-crowd entrance, which was cool enough to be stolen by The Shield.
Oh, by the way, Edge and Christian bring an insurance policy with them to ward off Gangrel in the form of Stevie Friggin’ Richards, complete with his own version of the Gothic Puffy Shirt. And speaking of shirts, there’s a weird moment where the Hardys decide to hulk up by taking their shirts off. Was that ever a thing? Did Matt and Jeff ever gain power from exposing their torsos? Is it like Taichi taking off his breakaway pants? I’m confused.
Worst: X-Pac Decides He Doesn’t Want A Giant Firebending Bodyguard
So, in case the title of this column didn’t give it away, this is a Kane episode. He’s present on so much of the episode that he’s essentially the main character. It kind of makes me wish that modern WWE was set up like the Game of Thrones books, switching between POV characters.
After getting bludgeoned in the parking lot, Kane indulges in a bit of attempted murder by soaking Triple H and his car in gasoline. Failing to incinerate the WWF Champion, he then shows up after Edge and Christian win to take his frustration out on Gangrel and the Hardys. At the same time, X-Pac arrives late to the arena and starts cluelessly asking about the whereabouts of his tag team partner. HE’S BEEN HARD TO MISS TONIGHT, DUDE.
X-Pac confronts Kane with some typical little-man insecurity. He was trying to make it on his own, and he feels insulted that Kane won’t let him fight his own battles. Normally, I’m one for pride and self-worth, but if the good lord gives you a 7-foot buddy with liquid hell in his veins, it’s your duty not to look that gift horse in the mouth. X-Pac ditches the Big Red Machine and does the sad Incredible Hulk walk up the ramp towards irrelevance, where he will remain until the half-hearted nWo reboot. Kane, on the other hand, is now in the worst possible mental state leading up to his WWF Championship match with Triple H. More on that later.
Best: Jericho y Finkel, Luchadores Mysteriosos
Chris Jericho and Howard Finkel are still on the run from Ken Shamrock, hence the lazy disguises here. Jericho’s mask says he’s “El Vaca Loco,” which is wrong for two reasons. Number one, vaca is a feminine noun. And number two, any Jericho fan worth their salt will know that he’s actually Corazon De Leon. Finkel, on the other hand, is debuting his brand new lucha libre gimmick, which should probably be called La Voz Estupenda.
Yes, I’m already fantasy-booking them on Lucha Underground, shut up.
Best: Final Fantasy VIII Is Now Available On PlayStation!
No real wrestling insight here, I just wanted to point out that this episode of Smackdown includes ads for Final Fantasy VIII, Magic: The Gathering, and Duke Nukem: Zero Hour. Can we bring this kind of synergy back, please? I want to give Johnny Curtis a Final Fantasy IX gimmick so we can start calling him “Vamo’ alla Fandango.”
Worst: Me Tarzan, You Jane
Oh boy. The Holly cousins, ladies and gentlemen. This is right in the middle of their “superheavyweight” gimmick where they went around looking for only the most physically imposing challengers. Yes, the perfect payoff for this is an eventual match where Hardcore Holly takes on Braun Strowman, but alas, ours is not a perfect world.
Chyna surprises the Hollys by accepting the challenge as a warm-up for her upcoming Intercontinental title match, but Hardcore declines for the most 1999 Heel reasons imaginable. You know, she’s a woman who does woman things in womanly fashion. So naturally, he sees this as beneath him, which I believe means that Andy Kaufman is automatically more hardcore than Hardcore Holly. Oh man, now I just want to see Andy Kaufman versus Chyna.
Anyway, Chyna grabs Crash Holly’s scale and clocks Hardcore with it, which is apparently the cue to start a wrestling match, because the bell rings and we’re off! It’s a whole lot of nothing, unfortunately, with Jeff Jarrett quickly running in and assaulting Chyna to give her the DQ win. Crash, in the meantime, thinks it’s hilarious that his cousin was getting his ass handed to him, which prompts Hardcore to start throwing haymakers at him. So, everyone’s fighting and none of it matters. Thanks a lot, patriarchy.
Best: Emo Kane Is Not Handling The Breakup Well
I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with this isolated, 6-second shot of Kane staring wistfully into space. I assume he’s got earbuds under the mask and he’s listening to Simple Plan. How could this happen to meeeeeeee …
Worst: I Can’t Stop Laughing At Mick Foley
First, just take a second to bathe in the glory of The People’s Khaki Shorts. You can’t see it in this image, but he’s also wearing sandals here. The Great One wants to make it very clear that he’s from Miami.
We’ve already covered the fact that the Rock and Sock Connection is not a healthy relationship. The Rock is constantly dumping on Mankind, and Mankind loves it. We learn that they both came to the arena in a limo, except Mankind was riding in the trunk. The Rock is a terrible person, and we were all enabling him. Never trust a man in khaki shorts and sandals, that’s what I’m trying to say.
Worst: This Screencap Is More Entertaining Than Bradshaw Vs. Bubba Ray Dudley
Much like Chyna and Hardcore Holly, this one’s just straight-up nothing. I understand if we’re trying to set up an eventual feud between the Acolytes and the Dudleys, but maybe a one-on-one encounter isn’t the way to go about it, especially if it just ends up as an uninteresting brawl in the general area of the ring. But once again, I have to mention that I appreciate Teddy Long as the referee here. We were given years of foreshadowing setting up the man’s love of tag team wrestling, and we just didn’t realize it. It’s like the first time you rewatched The Sixth Sense and started noticing all the times no one was paying attention to Bruce Willis.
Worst: Shane McMahon Gets Booed For Owning Up To His Mistakes And Apologizing
Here in 2016, I only have to rewind a few weeks to prove just how cyclical wrestling crowds can be. Remember when Rusev and Lana were honeymooning on Raw? Here comes Roman Reigns, the human equivalent of a prolonged sigh, thinking that it would just be the best damn thing to ruin the celebration of the happy couple. But give him credit for being able to read the room, because the audience also thought it was hilarious to see the bride with the questionable accent get cakefaced.
Here in Wrestling Land, it seems that emotions are reserved for villains and ladies. This explains why Shane McMahon gets a chorus of loud boos when he apologizes to his sister for trying to ruin her engagement by sending his yuppie friends to beat up her fiancée. He hits all the notes of a sincere, competent apology — he’s sorry, he was just trying to protect his family, he hopes Test always treats her right — and the crowd reacts like they’ve seen footage of Big Boss Man arriving at an animal shelter. Of course, it’s probably right to not trust Shane with your whole heart. He is his father’s son, after all, and there’s every possibility that he’s just maneuvering here. But Stephanie and Test accept the olive branch, and their wedding will be in four weeks’ time on Raw. The countdown begins, boys and girls!
But yeah, quick reminder to wrestling fans here: If you hate Roman Reigns, take a look in the mirror. There’s a distinct chance you are Roman Reigns.
Best: The Beginning Of The Rock’s Weird Relationship With Lilian Garcia
Lilian is trying to get Rock and Sock’s thoughts on the main event, which will be a Buried Alive match for the tag-team championships. But first, The Rock has to go Johnny Bravo for a second and be weird to her. The joke was always that Lilian was kind of into him, and Rock would lead her on before rudely excusing her and taking The People’s Microphone. This went on for years, in case you’d forgotten. I’m still not 100 percent sure what gaslighting is, but I think he was doing it pretty fiercely here.
Speaking of the night’s Buried Alive main event, let’s take a moment to add to our Things The Rock Threatens To Turn Sideways And Stick Straight Up Your Candy Ass archive.
4. A shovel
By the way, has The Rock ever specified which axis he’s turning these objects on? Conventional wisdom suggests he plans on turning them perpendicular to the … uh … point of entry, in order to maximize discomfort. But we exist in three-dimensional space, and we can’t afford to assume such things. Can we get Neil deGrasse Tyson to clear this up with a few annoying, heavy-handed tweets?
Worst: Tim White Is Not A Good Referee
The first thing that happens in this WWF Championship match is Chyna teaming up with Triple H to stomp the daylights out of Kane. One would think this would be an instant disqualification, but one forgets that one is watching a match officiated by Tim White. He tends to make mistakes, that’s what I’m saying. I hope he’s taken this criticism in stride, though. And in the event that such criticism still weighs heavy on him, I hope he can resolve the psychological burden in a healthy, proactive manner.
(Don’t look at his Wikipedia page. I swear to God, don’t do it.)
There’s not a whole lot to talk about here. Chyna ends up dropping Kane with the sledgehammer, so it’s like a lot of other 1999 Triple H victories. The Undertaker and Big Show are still pretty miffed about the whole parking-lot mess, so they prevent Triple H and Chyna from doing any more damage. Honestly, I was kind of distracted by the guy in the front row taking his shirt off when Kane hit his chokeslam. Must’ve been a fan of the Hardys.
Best: Chris Jericho, Cagey Veteran
Have you noticed that Ken Shamrock is … not great with words? He cuts a disastrous promo here, giving Chris Jericho two options and promptly mixing the two up. But Jericho, ever a man of his own, selects a third option and decides to confront Shamrock FROM INSIDE A SHARK CAGE. We have witnessed the television debut of the Jericage 5000. It is absurdly expensive.
Unfortunately, cage lowering and raising duties have been bestowed upon Howard Finkel, who deserts his post to get into an argument with Lilian Garcia. This gives Shamrock time to go full Robocop and bend the bars of the cage to a point where he can grab Jericho. Y2J only gets a reprieve when referees swarm to the ring to separate the two, but at this point, the damage has been done between Jericho and Finkel. The Fink is unceremoniously fired in the parking lot, which I wasn’t aware could happen in a mentor-mentee relationship.
Worst: Jeff Jarrett
If you thought Hardcore Holly was going to have the night’s most disparaging comments toward women, Double J’s got a nasty surprise for you. He’s an old-school guy, I get that. Old-school heels tend to go with old-school tactics, and the whole “get back to the kitchen” routine is pretty tried and true. The really sinister part is how Debra and Miss Kitty just stand behind him with giant Stepford Wife smiles as he says that women are just baby factories. Between his rhetoric and his Earth-Two Guy Fieri image, I can’t help but think that ’99 Jeff Jarrett would be pretty popular on certain portions of Twitter.
To really drive his point home, he invites Fabulous Moolah into the ring and ends up smashing his guitar across her head. Mae Young tries to help out, but Mae Young was old when the cosmos were new, and she gets a figure-four leglock for her troubles. This is the tipping point for Debra and Kitty, who finally realize that their man is kind of a jerk. Not enough to leave him or anything, but just enough to be disappointed in him. That’s the thing about bad boys — you can totally save them if you try hard enough. Right?
Worst: You Don’t Want To Know Where Those Nunchucks Have Been
Okay, so a couple of things here:
- Val Venis just got humiliated by Ken Shamrock, so now he’s provoking Steve Blackman. That’s like saying, “Yeah, I got wrecked by that shark, so I think I’m going to pick a fight with this school of piranhas.”
- Why did Val’s vignettes screw with the aspect ratio? Was porn still being shot in letterbox or something?
- Please tell me that this isn’t the same hotel room where they filmed Al Snow eating Pepper. That blanket looks way too familiar.
- One of my biggest pet peeves about wrestling is the proliferation of the word “nunchucks,” by the way. They’re nunchaku, people. Sorry to get all Matt Striker on you.
Worst: Triple H Interrupts A Main Event To Literally Bury Someone
Here’s a first: A tag-team Buried Alive match, and on free TV to boot. It’s all over the place (as a Buried Alive match has the right to be), and I found myself bored most of the time. There are a few high points though, mainly when Big Show HURLS Mankind into the grave from the edge of the stage with all the grace of a Shaquille O’Neal free throw. Mankind bounces, I swear.
Aside from those few bright spots, things get really disjointed, especially when multiple wrestlers head backstage. The Rock and ‘Taker start brawling back there, but Triple H gets involved because he hates The Rock. Then Undertaker bails and heads back to the grave, which allows Kane to start beating up Triple H. Chyna is basically just a distraction for Kane at this point, allowing Triple H to head back to the grave. Sorry, this is all a bit confusing. Let me draw up a diagram.
That’s better. Basically, it all ends when Triple H sledgehammers The Big Show and continues Show’s burial of Mankind already in progress. Why does the WWF Champion feel he needs to be the deciding factor in a match for the tag-team titles? That’s a heck of a question! Anyway, an ambulance backs in, presumably to carry away Mankind or Show. You know what happens when an ambulance backs into a wrestling venue, right?
Best: It Was At That Moment Triple H Knew … He’d F*cked Up
Look at that image. That right there is an instant classic moment. All it’s missing is a “To Be Continued” arrow and the opening riff of “Roundabout.”
He’d been on a pre-taped segment earlier, but here’s where we finally get the true Smackdown debut of Stone Cold Steve Austin, accompanied by a nuclear babyface pop. Surprisingly enough, he and Triple H don’t get along well. Who’d have figured? Stone Cold throws him in the back of the ambulance and drives off. Spoiler alert: They’re not heading to a coffee shop to talk about their feelings.
That’s right, the last thing we see is Austin commandeering a semi truck and ramming the ambulance a few times. This marks two separate occasions on one night in Albany where Triple H nearly died in this parking lot. I think I finally know why Triple H seems to live in his office these days. It’s not because he’s a workaholic, it’s because parking lots still terrify him and he can’t bring himself to leave the building.