Thursday Night WWF Smackdown!
But with the growing popularity of the WWF throughout 1998-99, I decided to give in and watch wrestling. And I got hooked! The characters and storylines were addicting. It was must-see TV with cartoonish violence, like Jeff Jarrett smashing old ladies like The Faboulus Moolah with a guitar. The women were attractive, the athleticism was impressive, and you just never knew what The Rock was going to say next, or what Austin was gonna do, or who The Undertaker was going to sacrifice in an unholy ceremony.
Anyway, here are some of the characters and storylines from August- September '99 that got me hooked on wrestling.
Triple H & Chyna
I thought Triple H made a great villain and a good WWF Champion. His finishing move, The Pedigree, may sound like a delicious brand of dog food, but to this day it is my favorite signature wrestling move ever.
I briefly mentioned Chyna earlier and I thought she and Triple H made a great team. You rarely saw one without the other, and Chyna always had his back. There was something special about their relationship. It wasn't the typical “boy/girl” romantic relationship. It seemed like something on the verge of more....something new, but I can't really put into words what I mean. But you see and feel it when they interacted with each other. It could be because Chyna really did love the dude that much, and the heartbreak over their real life breakup was the beginning of her eventual demise, but that's another story for another time.
There was also something far-reaching about Chyna herself. She had bulging muscles, but I can look past that and focus on her voluptuous body and sexy dominatrix outfits. She was nice to look at, and I was rooting for her against Jeff Jarrett, who was going on an anti-women hate spree at that time and everyone was behind Chyna to teach the male chauvinist a lesson. Therein lies the secret to the shows' success...genius writing with villains like Jeff Jarrett and Triple H doing everything in their power to make you hate their guts, and it made you root for the good guys even more. Chyna eventually won the Intercontinental Championship from Jeff Jarrett. The storylines were really unpredictable and always kept you guessing.
The Gr8 One
I thought he was just alright, but didn't become a fan until his catchphrases began to catch on. “IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!!” “The Rock's gonna lay the smackdown on your roody poo candy ass, jabroni!”
The man was just cool, and you never knew what he'd say next. Mankind was bugging the hell out of the guy at this particular time, almost forcing the Rock into a tag team with him called The Rock & Sock Connection. Mankind even got them some ridiculous jackets. Their interactions were hilarious...Rock was just a charismatic bully who wanted to be left the hell alone, and stinky Mankind just wouldn't let up.
The partnership of 'Taker and Big Show shows how quickly alliances can be made. Just a few months prior, Big Show literally chokeslammed Undertaker through the ring. The two hated each other almost all year, but were now the most destructive tag team on the roster.
The same goes for The Rock and Mankind. At the start of the year The Rock was the top villain in the company and he and Mankind were beating the crap out of each other for the championship on a regular basis. Fast forward to September 1999, they were a team, and The Rock was far from a bad guy now...his popularity was reaching Stone Cold levels.
Other storylines and wrestlers
Chris Jericho was new to the WWF at this time and was a straight up sissy. He began by messing with random targets like The Rock, Undertaker, Big Show and Road Dogg. Now he had his sights set on The World's Most Dangerous Man, former UFC Champion Ken Shamrock. Looking back at things now, Ken lacked charisma. He just wasn't that interesting or convincing on the microphone. But it was Jericho's charisma as a heel that made you want Shamrock to kill him. Bad. On one classic episode of Smackdown, Jericho locked himself in a cage to hide from Shamrock, but insisted that the cage was to protect Shamrock from Jericho. Jericho played a great cowardly punk, and you just couldn't wait for Shamrock to finally get him in the ring and break his ankle. Unfortunately it never happened.
Val Venis was also a favorite. For about a month, he picked on Mankind for seemingly no reason at all. He just bullied the guy, and even smacked him upside the head with his own book. I missed it back then, but I realized recently that Val hated Mankind because Mankind caught Val stuffing a sock into his tights. Val had the gimmick of being a well-endowed porn star, so the two had a rivalry over the simple fact that Mankind discovered that Val's bulge was fake. Who writes this stuff? Vince Russo probably. It's silly, but it's brilliant.
And then there was Billy Gunn, who called himself "Mr. Ass." I still don't know what to say about that gimmick. I guess some things are just better left unsaid.
And who can forget the hilarious commentary team of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler! Let's just face it; without these two arguing and King's perverted comments and yelling, “PUPPIES!” a lot of those classic wrestling moments would not be the same.
In this writer's opinion, my favorite episode of Smackdown is September 9, 1999. Everything about the show was perfect, especially the ending. The storylines were neatly interwoven into each other, and Triple H was gunning for everyone who was a threat to his title. Meanwhile, Stone Cold made an unforgettable appearance to get revenge on The Game.
Another memorable episode was September 23, 1999, right before the Unforgiven PPV. As punishment for HHH's recent actions against him, Mr. McMahon (who was now getting cheered, and got help from Stone Cold to beat HHH for the title) forced HHH into a gauntlet of seemingly impossible matches to win against the top guys - a "chokeslam" challenge match with Big Show, an inferno match against Kane, a boiler room brawl against Mankind, a casket match against The Undertaker and a Brahma Bull-rope match against The Rock. All in the same night. If HHH won 3 out of 5, he could participate in the Six-Pack Challenge match at Unforgiven for the WWF title. Due to luck and people cheating for him, Triple H managed to survive the gauntlet and went on to win the title at Unforgiven with a devastating Pedigree on The Rock, with special enforcer Stone Cold forced to count the pinfall.
Weeks later, HHH claimed a rattlesnake bit his face thanks to Stone Cold and gave a heartfelt speech about quitting, only the whole thing was a charade to get Austin's guard down. Great stuff.
My favorite episode of Raw Is War during the Attitude Era is October 25, 1999. At the end, X-Pac and The New Age Outlaws stunned fans everywhere by joining Triple H and resurrecting DX, leaving Stone Cold and The Rock laying in their wake. If you had told me just a month earlier that DX would reunite, I wouldn't believe you. But it happened. This show was like a drug...so unpredictable.
The company had so much going for it...you had a guy (Charles Wright) portraying a PIMP named The Godfather who brought HOES to the ring! You had a group of vampire characters who arrived in flames and called themselves The Brood. You had Stone Cold Steve Austin giving the finger and doing the most offensive things he could to Mr. McMahon. You had a PORN star wrestler named Val Venis. You had a fat wrestler named Rikishi whose signature move was to RUB. HIS. ASS. IN. YOUR. FACE. You heard me right, and the move is called The Stink Face.
I could go on and on.
Anyway, those are some of my favorite Smackdown memories from the fall of 1999! What are yours?