Now we’re getting into my childhood. It’s the 4th April 1999 and we’re in the Nassau Coliseum of Long Island, New York for an episode of WWF Sunday Night Heat! Your main event tonight: Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart issue an open challenge for the Tag Team Championships!
Who doesn’t love Heat? There was a time when this show basically had Smackdown’s position as the secondary TV avenue for the WWF, and this is that time: a week after Wrestlemania 15, so arguably a year into the Attitude Era. Steve Austin is champ, his feud with Vince McMahon has turned the tide of the Monday Night Wars irrevocably and Heat is still an avenue for actual story progression. This particular edition is of the kind that is essentially a hype-show for the Raw that would take place the next day, but has plenty of matches all of its own.
Attitude opening, late-90’s title screen with the hammer theme and we are welcomed to Long Island by a very young Michael Cole and Kevin Kelly. Last Monday Stephanie McMahon was abducted by the Undertaker, and Vince will be interviewed about that later.
“No chance…” and Shane McMahon, our European Champion, is out with the Corporation: Triple H, Chyna, and heel Rock, who is holding Stone Cold’s smoking skull title belt, that he has recently stolen. With Vince at home, Shane is in charge tonight. Red hot crowd chants “Asshole”. Shane says he has nothing to prove, being undefeated, but after much contemplation, he is going to retire the European title, which he dumps on the floor of the ring. As I recall they would re-activate it a few months later by just handing it to Mideon. Shane moves onto DX, and proclaims that Triple H is the true leader of that group, and he also happens to be the latest “acquisition” of the Corporation. Haitch on the mike now, and claims he owns all of DX’s gimmicks and moves, including their “attitude”. “HBK” chants, but don’t expect him New York. The Game says he was tired of carrying DX around, that they just wanted to be cool and “over” – straying into WCW territory here – and that without him and Chyna, DX is just three little boys playing in the backyard. He has a match with X-Pac at Backlash coming up, and he will “break you down”. Two words, you know what they are, and Shane is back on the mike.
This show is only 45 minutes long, do we need this long of an intro? He calls attention to the Rock and the belt he stole, which draws huge “Austin” chants. Says Austin will get the chance to get the belt back, in a match at Backlash, and such a match deserves a special guest referee. Guess who? The crowd boos Shane’s announcement, and now the Rock gets a go. He wants what is rightfully his, and that’s the WWF Title. He’s iconic, an immortal, legendary, and the best champ there ever was. He wants to prove to you “and the millions…don’t do that” he says when the crowd fills in the missing part. He’s going to shove the title in Austin’s monkey ass, and when the crowd tries to join in in his catchphrase he notes “this isn’t sing along with the champ”. They couldn’t keep him heel for much longer, the crowd just adores him too much.
Shane back on the mike again, and says tomorrow night on Raw – which is this night as far as I know – he’s going to prove a lesson to “the Big Show Paul Wight”. And that’s it. A full third of this show has come and gone, and I think there are four matches for the half-hour left? Cole and Kelly say we will see Big Boss Man later, while JJ and Owen Hart will be issuing an open challenge for their tag titles.
Backstage, Tori is getting ready for a match with Jaqueline. “Is there PMS in her future?” asks Kelly. He means the faction, but still, yeesh. After a break we see the McMahon family getting ready for their interview.
Tori vs Jacqueline w/Terri Reynolds
Tori got a pin on Jacqueline in a tag match the previous Monday after a Sable betrayal, hence this match. Why isn’t Jacqueline fighting Sable then? Backlash is brought to you by motor oil, because this is the perfect time to tell you this. I don’t recall Tori being much of a wrestler, so not sure what to expect here. Aside from it being short.
Tori gets two off a backslide straight away. Clotheslines, chops, then Tori distracted by Terri so Jacqueline takes the advantage. Big kick to the midsection, another, a third, then Tori locks on a sleeper. Terri in to pull Tori off by the hair, and the ref calls it in less than 90 seconds.
Winner (by DQ): Tori. Ah, so that’s how they are fitting in four matches in a half-hour.
Verdict: Nothing match, that was meant as nothing but that.
Jacqueline attacks from behind – “This is where PMS is so dangerous!” – to the top and hits a splash, and I swear it looks like Jacqueline goes for a pin after. Terri has a cigar lit up that she is planning to burn Tori with, Ivory hits the ring, and the faces chase the heels off. Surprisingly over-booked for the women’s division.
Val Venis is interviewed backstage, when Ryan Shamrock rocks up asking if he’ll come home. Venis is uninterested. Man, remember this plot-line? Where Ken Shamrock’s real-life girlfriend was playing his kayfabe sister? Shudder.
Time for the WWF Rewind, sponsored by Bop It. Last Monday the Big Show gave Test a big clothesline. I can’t remember why. Back in Long Island…
Val Venis vs Shane Blackman
The crowd, and the women in the crowd specifically, loves the Big Valbowski, and it has been so long since I have seen this gimmick. He’s on the mike of course, but only gets to say “Hello Ladies”. For the puns you have to watch Raw I presume. Cole and Kelly plug some terrible sounding USA shows – Silk Stalkings anyone? – and away we go. Lock-up, Blackman with shots, and Venis takes a hard whip into the corner. Back with a big Spinebuster, knees to the gut, then a Side Russian Leg Sweep. Good action, but commentary more into describing Stephanie’s abduction at the hands of the Undertaker, with Kelly egging it on hilariously by saying “everyone watching held their children a little bit closer”. I’d say it was more of a “What the hell are you watching?” response myself.
Gyrations from Val, but Blackman back with a backbreaker. Half Boston Crab, with a hand on the rope to gain leverage. Heel Blackman doesn’t work for me. Venis gets a break, big elbow sends Blackman down, but then Val gets a thumb to the eye. Venis with a counter-powerslam off a charge, to the top, Money Shot, and that’s the 1, 2, 3 in under three-and-a-half.
Winner: Venis’s gyrating hips.
Verdict: Quick but decent.
Blackman ambushes Venis after the bell, and then lays in with some yellow martial arts sticks. Gives one very hard looking shot to the back of the head, hmm. Blackman stalks off as refs see to Venis. Cole and Kelly plug the McMahon interview again.
Backstage the Tag Champs are on their way to the ring. “Looks like they want to get something off their chest” says Kelly, as JJ covers Debra’s cleavage. Good Grief. An ad for Chef Boyardee featuring Mankind follows, that actually gets a Network bookmark.
There follows a brief black-and-white look at a house with a postbox marked “Cleavage” for a few seconds, while goofy music plays. Cole is confused, as am I, wiki tells me this is prelude to the truly awful “Beaver Cleavage” gimmick they foisted on Mosh of the Headbangers for a bit.
Anyway, out come the Tag Champs with Debra. Odd combo really, and seeing Owen this close to his death – less than two months – does bring a lump to the throat. Owen on the mike asking for some competition. Jarrett says they have none, and they are issuing an open challenge to anyone who wants a shot. The lights go out, familiar organ plays, and here comes the Big Red Machine. “Things could get very hot for the Tag Team Champions”. Please Kevin.
Kane emerges from the other side of the ring to ambush the champs. They scatter, and JJ says they will accept Kane’s challenge for later tonight, so I guess it’s a handicap match?
After the break, time for another match.
DroZ vs Big Boss Man
Oh man, I wasn’t ready for this. DroZ around five months away from that awful injury. This is BBM’s first appearance since that forgettable Hell In A Cell match with Taker at Wrestlemania 15 when he got literally hung, and we see a few still images. DroZ attacks as Big Boss Man enters. Boss Man floors him with a high shoulder block, right in the throat. Shots, DroZ dumped out, ringside brawling. Scoop Slam to DroZ, and BBM jawing with commentary. Boss Man rips DroZ’s nose ring out and presents it to Kevin Kelly, which is awesome.
DroZ bleeding freely, maybe a bit too freely, I’m thinking “viscous liquid”, as we head back in, BBM hits what Cole calls a Sidewalk Slam but is really more of a Black Hole Slam, and that’s it in just over a minute-and-a-half.
Winner: With eyes that are sad, and cheeks that are soaked, I’m sorry to hear, that in HIAC you got choked.
Verdict: Squash that accomplished its objective of rehabilitating Boss Man a bit after the Wrestlemania disappointment.
And now, the Rescue of the Week, brought to you by the US Coast Guard. It’s Austin stunning Rock, then Big Show coming out to save him from the Corporation. I could do with more Rescue of the Week.
DroZ is backstage getting his nose seen to. He ain’t happy. But, you know, shouldn’t wear a nose ring to a wrestling match. Commentary throw us to a video recap of the Undertaker/Stephanie stuff from Raw. It was delightfully mental, from Vince’s breakdown, Taker’s creepy phone call, a blood soaked Ken Shamrock Ankle-Locking Stephanie’s location out of a very young Christian, and the fact that it’s all set-up for a much crazier episode of Raw to come (“Where to Stephanie? AHAHAHAHAH”). To the McMahon family interview, conducted by Jerry Lawler.
I’m always stunned to see Stephanie at this time, with this “Girl Next Door” vibe. She’s a few months still from turning, and I have no idea if she’s just an amazing actor or if this is what she was just like at the time. Vince does most of the talking here, about how Stephanie has been stalked, been sent threatening messages, that the McMahon family home had been invaded. Stephanie sells the whole situation – to repeat, that she is the target of an undead revenant and his apocalyptic cult of pro-wrestlers – like it is the most deadly serious thing in the world, so more credit to her. Interesting bit where Jerry asks if the Undertaker is “living his gimmick”, which is so odd to hear coming out of a WWF mouth on-camera. They also refer to Taker as “Mark”. What, they want people to think it was a shoot kidnapping? Stephanie says the only place she feels safe is when she is with her Dad, and I’m having flashbacks to Survivor Series 2003.
A recap of the Kane/Hart & Jarrett encounter from earlier, and that main event is next.
Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart (c) w/Debra vs Kane (WWF Tag Team Championships) (Handicap Match)
So, if Kane wins does he get both belts then? Only three minutes left in the broadcast, so I foresee a non-finish. The champs attacking in unison, and Kane slams Jarrett and Cactus Clotheslines Owen. Big boot to Jarrett, and awkward moment where Kane clearly sees Owen isn’t in position for a drawbridge spot and waits, then pretends not to see him preparing for it. Kane out, beats up Owen, and a jawbreaker to JJ when he tries to intervene. Champs trying to work Kane over together, going for a double suplex, that Kane reverses into one of his own, to a bog pop. Jarrett goes for a ride with a chokeslam, Owen dodges a big boot, enziguri, which Kane no-sells. Looking for another chokeslam, JJ has the guitar and even though Kane no-sells the shot the ref calls it less than two minutes.
Winner (by DQ): Kane, missing out on being the first sole Tag Team Champion
Verdict: So short it’s hard to rank it. I guess it was meant to make Kane look powerful, so in that sense it was mission accomplished.
Heels beating Kane down, but here comes X-Pac to make the save. Pac and Kane clear the ring, and then Kane has X-Pac by the threat, but releases him eventually. These two did have a hell of a story that year as I recall, and might have the Tag Titles the next night? That’s it for this one.
Best Match: They were all short, but I guess Venis/Blackman was the only one that wasn’t a squash.
Best Wrestler: Let’s give it to Kane, the surprisingly athletic big guy.
Worst Match: The women’s encounter at the start was barely one.
Worst Wrestler: Jeff Jarrett hit Kane with a guitar and that was about it.
Overall Verdict: Fine 45 minute viewing. Sure, they could have gone with one less match and three longer ones, or maybe cut down on that opening promo, but this is grand for what it was, an elongated advertisement for the company and for Raw. Watchable.
Quick Thoughts On Fastlane 2021
Riddle/Ali – Fine, typical kick-off fare. Odd that they are running a break-up angle on Retribution on the kick-off though. Inessential.
Womens Tag – This Banks/Belair team went on way too long. Match was fine, nothing special. Skippable.
Big E/Crews – Too short, even if it was designed as filler ahead of a Mania match, plus a botched finish. Miss.
Strowman/Elias – This story with Shane O is fairly lame, and this was just filler. No need to see it.
Rollins/Nakumura – Was good, lacked something story wise but it’s nice to see Shinsuke having decent matches again. Give it a look.
McIntyre/Sheamus – Decent hossfight, should have been a #1 contenders match or something. Sheamus made to look good, McIntyre can move on, it’s all good. Check it out.
Orton/Bliss – The cinematic matches have crossed the line now, and this was fairly lame. Not “AEW Deathmatch” lame, but pretty lame nonetheless. Not needed.
Reigns/Bryan – A little slow and probably too long, but had a decent last act what whetted the appetite for Reigns/Edge. Or maybe Reigns/Edge/Bryan? I’m down either way. Must see.
Overall – An underwhelming show with only a few matches worth seeing. Onto to Wrestlemania.
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