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Saturday, 23 May 2009

WWF Over The Edge 1999 - Retro Review

This coming Saturday marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Owen Hart. Owen fell to his death during the WWF’s Over The Edge pay-per-view, and now, for the first time since that day, I’m going to take a look back at the show, to see if I still feel the same way I felt then, and to see if I can once again answer the question that’s been asked for ten years - should the show have gone on?

The show begins with the latest in the storyline involving the Corporate Ministry, and Vince McMahon taking Steve Austin’s place in a match with Mideon on Sunday Night Heat, the original match having been ordered by Shane McMahon. We see footage of the Ministry attacking Vinny Mac, with Mideon smashing Vince’s knee with a steel chair.

Then it’s on to the first match, with the odd couple of Kane and X-Pac defending their WWF Tag-Team titles against D’lo Brown and Mark Henry, accompanied by Ivory. The first thing that kind of shocked me here was the realisation that Mark Henry has been a WWF/E star for over a decade. Has it really been that long? One other thing of note is how Jim Ross went to great pains to tell us all how small X-Pac was. Ironic considering that he was the same size then that someone like John Morrison is now. But anyway, back to the match. The exchanges between X-Pac and Brown looked great, but, sadly, Mark Henry soon got involved, and showed just how green he was. Kane was, well, Kane, making his transition from monster to human. Thankfully, the big red machine took care of the world’s strongest man, getting the title retaining pin after a choke slam on the big man. A very good match to begin the show with…well, three of the four men didn’t do too badly.

Backstage, Michael Cole gave an update on Vince McMahon, telling the fans that McMahon’s ankle is injured, and that he may not be able to serve as the second special referee in the title match between Steve Austin & The Undertaker.

Kevin Kelly then interviews Hardcore Holly, in full promotional mode as he promises to defeat Al Snow and regain his Hardcore title.

Then it’s on to the match itself, with Hardcore Holly challenging Al Snow for the Hardcore title. Snow, of course, is accompanied by Head, and his deer’s head Pierre. It’s an entertaining brawl that takes in the entire arena and beyond, with numerous weapons shots, including a tub full of cakes! It makes you realise just how great some of these hardcore matches were at times. Of course, wrestlers make the matches, and Holly and Snow were two of the best back then, and that’s what made this match. Snow ended up retaining his title, after countering Holly’s attempt to put him through a table with a powerbomb that put Holly through the wood, ending a very enjoyable brawl.

Cole returns with more on Vince’s ankle. Gerry Brisco and Pat Patterson say that Vince’s ankle may be broken, and that he’s been taken to hospital.

Then the hype for the Godfather/Blue Blazer Intercontinental title match, followed by a video package hyping the Blazer. They then cut back to the graphic hyping the match, before we go to a pre-recorded interview with the Blazer, with Jim Ross’ famous words; “we got big problems out here.”

After the interview concludes, we cut to a long shot of the crowd, before Jim Ross gives the bad news to the world, telling of how Owen Hart fell from the ceiling into the ring, and that paramedics are attending to him. “This isn’t a part of the entertainment. This is as real as real can be.”

So with Owen being attended to in the ring, we see a promo video for the next match, an inter-gender match pitting Val Venis and Nicole Bass against Women’s Champion Debra and Jeff Jarrett. When the video finishes, Ross gives another update on Owen’s situation, of how he’s still being attended to by paramedics are still attending to Owen in the ring. Ross does his best, but you can tell by looking into his eyes just how worried he is. He’s soon rejoined by Jerry Lawler, whose words “he doesn’t look good at all” speak volumes as Owen is carried away from the ring.

Backstage, Kevin Kelly interviews Jeff Jarrett and Debra. Both are clearly distressed after what’s happened to Owen, and are almost in tears as they leave to go to the ring.

Then it’s on to the match, Jeff Jarrett and Women’s Champion Debra against Val Venis and Nicole Bass. The crowd is almost silent as Jarrett and Debra come to the ring. It should also be noted that Debra is actually wearing high-heeled boots for this match. Despite what’s just happened, Jarrett and Venis put on a great display, but things get a lot worse when the two women get involved. Thankfully, their involvement is somewhat minimal, the best bit being when Debra tried to hit Bass with Jarrett’s guitar. In the end it all backfired, as Venis got the pin after a money shot from the top rope. Afterwards, Bass locks in the lip lock on Venis, who likes what he gets. Well, considering what happened, this one wasn’t that bad.

Backstage, as Vince is being carted into an ambulance, Shane McMahon appears to gloat, saying that he’ll be an impartial referee in the main event.

A video package follows, documenting the break-up of the New Age Outlaws, of how Billy Gunn turned his back on X-Pac and the Road Dogg. Kevin Kelly then interviews the Road Dogg, who says his praying for Owen Hart, before going into hype mode for the match. Road Dogg then makes his way to the ring in his usual style, doing his own introduction, before Kelly interview “Mr. Ass” Billy Gunn, who gives us the usual hype stuff.

Then it’s on to the battle of the former partners, with the Road Dogg taking on “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn. These two were actually quite good back in the day, but Jim Ross’ statement that they were the best tag-team in WWF history was stretching matters a little. As for the match, it wasn’t too bad. Gunn looked quite good, although it’s ironic to note another of Ross’ statements about Gunn being capable of going all the way to the top. The ending came with Gunn cheating to win. Having failed to put the Dogg away with the time keeper’s hammer, he unwrapped some of the tape from his wrist, thrust it into the Dogg’s face, and then finally took him own with the fame-asser.

Backstage, Michael Cole interviews Shane McMahon. Shane claims innocence in the attack on Vince, an promises to be an impartial referee in the main event.

The eight-man elimination match follows, with the Corporate Ministry team of The Acolytes, Viscera and the Big Boss Man going up against The Union team of Mankind, Test, Ken Shamrock and the Big Show. The eliminations came pretty quickly in this one. Test was the first one to go, taken out by Bradshaw’s clothesline from hell. Bradshaw himself soon followed after tapping out to Shamrock’s ankle lock. A short time later, Shamrock lost it. As he applied the ankle lock to Farooq, the Boss Man pulled him into the ropes. However, Shamrock refused to release the hold, and ended up attacking the referee, earning himself a disqualification. Within seconds, and with a replacement referee (current Smackdown GM Teddy Long), the Big Show had taken Farooq out with a choke slam to get the pin. It was a few minutes until the next eliminations, and those came as Viscera and the Big Show were counted out as they brawled backstage, leaving Mankind and the Boss Man as the last two men in the ring. This was actually the first time Mankind had done anything of note in this match, and eventually Mankind won the match for his team as the Boss Man submitted, courtesy of Mr. Socko. Quite an entertaining match this.

As soon as the match ended, we cut to a shot of a grim looking Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross as they make the announcement that shook the wrestling world, that Owen Hart had died. Even after all of these years, this still sent a shudder down my spine.

We then cut to a video package chronicling the latest in the everlasting feud between Triple H and The Rock, including the Game breaking his arm. In a piece of sick irony, they show Triple H shoving the Rock into a casket and then destroying it with a sledgehammer. Kevin Kelly then interviews the Rock, but it distracted by Chyna. This is just a distraction, as Triple H attacks from behind and tries to take off the cast on the Rock’s arm. Mankind runs in for the save, but ends up getting clobbered with a metal pipe.

The next match follows, with Triple H, accompanied by Chyna, going up against The Rock, broken arm and all. Before the match begins, Triple H grabs the microphone, instructing the referee to count the Rock out. Seconds later, the Rock appears, and the match is on. I actually lost count of the number of times these two faced each other on pay-per-view, but the chemistry between these two was apparent for all to see, and although this wasn’t one of their better encounters, it was still pretty good. The storyline involved Triple H working over the Rock’s broken arm as he managed to get the cast off early on. However, despite dominating the match for the most part, Triple H got himself disqualified. After the referee stopped Triple H from using a steel chair that Chyna had given him, the two began to argue, with Triple H clobbering the referee, earning himself an automatic disqualification. After the bell rang Triple H tried to clobber the Rock with the chair again, but failed, and ended up on the receiving end of the chair shot himself, opening him up. Both men began to brawl in and around the ring, with Chyna getting involved briefly, before the Rock finally took his man down with the Rock Bottom, and he was about to deliver the People’s Elbow when Chyna grabbed his leg. This gave Triple H time to recover as he grabbed the chair again and brought it down on the Rock’s back. The attack was only halted when Mankind came running into the ring, metal pipe in hand, with the Corporate Ministry members running for cover.

A video package follows, chronicling the events leading up to the main event match, with the Undertaker kidnapping Stephanie McMahon, and Steve Austin making the save, as well as how Shane and Vince McMahon becoming the special referees.

Main event time, with The Undertaker, accompanied by Paul Bearer, challenging “Stone Cold” Steve Austin for the WWF title, with Shane McMahon as the special referee, with Vince McMahon absent because of what happened before the show. But to the surprise of Shane, Pat Patterson comes down to the ring to replace his boss. Patterson doesn’t last long though as the Undertaker takes him out as soon as he enters the ring. The slow, methodical approach is the order of the day in this match, with Shane trying to help his the Undertaker in any way he can with some very biased officiating and slow counts. The match eventually leads to a brawl up the aisle, before they return to the ring. It isn’t long before Austin looks like he’s about to get the winning pin, but Shane stops when he reaches two. Austin then gives Shane a verbal battering while the Undertaker grabs a steel chair, an attack which ultimately backfires as Shane takes an accidental hit. Then, after Austin takes Undertaker down and has him pinned, Gerald Brisco comes down to the ring in a referee’s shirt, but it isn’t long before he goes the same way as Patterson. Moments later, a limping Vince McMahon comes down the aisle to take his place as referee, but just as Vince is making the count after Austin scored with the Stunner, Shane stops the count. Shane then pushes Vince into Austin, and as the Undertaker makes a cover, Shane makes a fast count, and the Undertaker is crowned the new WWF Champion. It’s an okay match, but much like the previous match, I’ve definitely seen better matches between these two.

In conclusion - as far as match qualities go, there have been better ones on pay-per-view. They were entertaining, but not outstanding.

But the thing is, having viewed this show again for the first time in ten years, it’s now obvious that the show should have ended after Owen’s accident, or at least after it was announced that he’d died. Credit to the wrestlers and the other workers for performing the way they did, but it was obvious that their minds were elsewhere.

It seemed to be the same for the fans as well. Although they were vocal at times, they were nothing like they normally are. There seemed to be an uneasy tension in the air, and it had an effect on everyone in the audience.

The 1999 version of Over The Edge will always be remembered for the death of a decent family man and one of the best wrestlers this business has seen. But the old saying that the show must go on is wrong in this case, very wrong. I only hope that the powers-that-be realise what a huge mistake they made on that night ten years ago.

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