Backstory: WWF Chairman Vince McMahon hated Stone Cold Steve Austin and hated the fact that he was WWF Champion even more. So, after the title was held up, he rigged Survivor Series '98 so that The Rock would win the WWF Championship tournament and be the new champ. Vince McMahon himself won the '99 Royal Rumble under bizarre circumstances, earning the right to go to Wrestlemania XV and face the champion, but he declined the right to do so. So, WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels decided that Austin would go instead (severely pissing off McMahon). Thus, the stage was set for The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin.

And on another note, I had just gotten back into wrestling three months before this event. The buildup to it (Royal Rumble '99 and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre) is what got me hooked again.

And we're LIVE from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 28, 1999. Your hosts are Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler.

Match 1: Billy Gunn v. Hardcore Holly v. Al Snow for the WWF Hardcore Championship. This was the result of a bizarre switch where Gunn, who had been pursuing the Intercontinental title, won the Hardcore belt while his tag team partner, Road Dogg, who had been pursuing the Hardcore belt, won the IC title. Thus, neither guy really has any heat. Match sucks, standard WWF hardcore fare of the period. Holly wins by pinning Al Snow.

Match 2: Owen Hart & Jeff Jarrett v. D'Lo Brown & Test for the WWF Tag Team Championship. Test was subbing for the injured Mark Henry here, if my memory is correct. Very bizarre, because D'Lo and Henry were faces and Test was in the Corporation and a heel. I think there was some battle royale where the last two men standing would face the champs, and they were it. A whopping marathon match at four minutes long; Hart and Jarrett retain in an uninspired finish.

Brawl for All Match: Butterbean v. Bart Gunn. HAHAHAHA! This was the result of the Brawl for All tournament, which was a semi-legitimate boxing tournament the WWF held (the first round was not rigged, the rest almost definitely was). Gunn won and had the "honor" of taking on legitimate Toughman Butterbean. Gunn gets knocked out in about ten seconds flat.

Match 3: The Big Show v. Mankind for the right to referee the Main Event. Big Show just generally sucks and Foley desperately needed to take some time off for surgery = This Match Sucks. Wight chokeslams Foley on two chairs to get himself disqualified, and Foley needs to be taken to the hospital so it's not clear who the referee of the main event will be. Big Show kinda sorta turns face after the match when Vince McMahon comes out to yell at him about letting the Corporation down.

Match 4: Road Dogg v. Ken Shamrock v. Goldust v. Val Venis for the WWF Intercontinental Champsionship. The second half of the silly role Road Dogg/Billy Gunn role reversal that ultimately went nowhere. This match came about because Ryan Shamrock, Ken's sister, was a slut and slept with everyone in the match. Except Dogg, because it was supposed to be Gunn in here in the first place and she slept with him too. Dogg wins, I guess because he's pure and chaste or something.

Match 5: HHH v. Kane. Kane tombstones Pete Rose for the second year in a row before the match. They try some "wrestling" for a while, which is my cute way of saying they stall until the overbooking is due to commence. Chyna runs out, turns face by ditching Kane and walloping him with a chair. Awww, how cute, Chyna and HHH are back together. Audience eats it up.

Vince McMahon appoints himself special referee of the main event since Foley is in the hospital.

Match 6: Sable v. Tori for the WWF Women's Championship. This is even worse than most women's matches of the period. I think Nicole Bass got involved somewhere here, but I couldn't be bothered to stop fast forwarding long enough to check.

—Backstage interview with the full Degeneration X now that Chyna's back.

Match 7: Shane McMahon v. X-Pac for the WWF European Championship. Everyone and their mother positively KNEW that X-Pac was going to get the title back here after chasing Shane for MONTHS, and so the WWF did a swerve that made absolutely no sense and completely killed the prestige of the European belt once and for all. In fact, Shane retired the belt after this match. It wouldn't be seen again for months, brought out of mothballs by, of all people, Mideon. ANYWAY, this is a decent little match. Test runs in to help Shane. The Mean Street Posse runs in to help Shane. Finally, HHH and Chyna run in to help X-Pac, but then turn on him (after just turning babyface TWO MATCHES AGO) and help McMahon get the win to retain his title.

Match 8: Big Bossman v. Undertaker in a Hell in the Cell match. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to stick these two in a match together at a Wrestlemania should be forced to work for WCW, exposed as a complete crackhead, and then humiliated at every opportunity. Oh wait, that would be Vince Russo, and that's exactly what happened. Let's just say that the WWF doesn't like to talk about this match when they talk about the "storied lineage of the Hell in the Cell matches". It ends when, obviously, Edge, Christian, and Gangrel rappel down from the ceiling and HANG the Bossman on a noose. Miraculously, Bossman would shrug off this minor neck injury and appear on RAW the next night.

Jim Ross comes down to the ring to take over for Michael Cole and announce the main event.

Match 9: The Rock v. Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWF Championship. Ah, forget all that undercard crap, this is what every single person in the arena came to see. Vince McMahon comes out to be the special referee, but Shawn Michaels (the WWF Commissioner at the time) decides that only HE can decide who referees at Wrestlemania, and thus normal a referee gets to ref instead. They go into the crowd to brawl for a bit, as has become standard in the main event matches. Yada yada yada, ref #1 gets knocked out and someone else comes in to ref. More wrestling, ref #2 gets knocked out and ref #3 comes to ringside. McMahon also comes back out sometime around here to help The Rock out. But no, as Mick Foley has apparently been released from the hospital and cleared to referee, so he comes out and kicks McMahon's ass. Rock Bottom, but the People's Elbow misses! Stone Cold Stunner, and that's all she wrote—Mick Foley counts the pinfall and Austin regains the WWF Championship. This match was pretty good, but they'd go on to have a better one the next month at Backlash. Earl Hebner celebrates with Austin after the match by drinking beers on the turnbuckles with him. McMahon confronts Austin in rage and gets a Stunner for his troubles. Austin 3:16, baby!

Not a very good card. I really enjoyed it back in '99, but probably because we were all just sitting through the undercard in anticipation of the main event--which was decent enough, but everything else sucked.

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