Thursday, 28 March 2019

PPV REVIEW: WWF Wrestlemania 15

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: Event poster
March 28, 1999, 
First Union Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Originally, Retro Pro Wrestling began simply as a place for me to review a couple of WWE DVDs that I owned before I got rid of them. 

Then, I got it into my head that it might be a fun idea to review not only those DVDs but in fact every single WWF Pay Per View between Wrestlemania 1 and Wrestlemania 30.

As regular readers will know, it's since turned into a lot more than that. On RetroProWrestling.com we've been reviewing WWF shows, every WCW PPV from Bash at the Beach 1996 onwards (and a few from before that time), pro wrestling movies, games, albums and much more.

Why do I mention this now?

Because despite all those extra things we've looked at, the goal is still to review all the PPVs from the first 'Mania to the thirtieth one and that means that today, as we sit down to look at Wrestlemania 15, we're exactly halfway there.

How's that for exciting?






Ladies and gentlemen, let's celebrate hitting the half-way mark by heading to Philly for The Grandaddy of Them All: Wrestlemania 15 - The Ragin' Climax.

Welcome to Wrestlemania: The Showcase of the Immortals

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: Boys II Men performing at the event
Philadelphia's own Boyz II Men kicked things off tonight with a gentle rendition of America The Beautiful. This was followed by a poignant and compelling opening video package narrated by an ageing Classie Freddie Blassie.

Blassie likened the heroes of the World Wrestling Federation to Greek gods and warriors who would stir our emotions and ensure we never, ever forgot them.

It was a particularly captivating opening video that perfectly set the scene for tonight's show, a show Blassie called The Showcase of the Immortals.

With the video over, we got the usual opening crowd shot and pyro, followed by Michael Cole and Jerry 'The King' Lawler welcoming us to Wrestlemania 15.

World Wrestling Federation Hardcore Championship Three-Way Match
WWF Hardcore Champion Bad Ass Billy Gunn vs. Al Snow vs. Hardcore Holly

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: WWF Hardcore Champion Bad Bum Billy Gunn
And so we kicked things off not only with the Wrestlemania debut of Al Snow, but also the first time the WWF Hardcore Championship was defended on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

As opening matches go, this one was certainly nothing special. For the most part, it consisted of little more than Snow going around and hitting both Hardcore Holly and defending champion Bad Ass Billy Gunn with a broom handle.

Though not exactly boring, it was hardly the high level of excitement you'd expect to kick off the biggest show of the year.

Still, despite Snow's best efforts, this wasn't to be his night. At one point, he got hurled through a table by Billy Gunn and then hit with the Fame Asser onto a steel chair.

Sadly for Gunn, it wasn't to be his night either.

Making the post-FameAsser cover, Bad Ass Billy was hit with a chair by Hardcore Holly who won the hardcore title for the second time in as many PPVs.
Your Winner and NEW WWF Hardcore Champion: Hardcore Holly

Up next, we were reminded that D'Lo Brown and Test were the last two men standing in a battle royal which took place earlier on Sunday Night Heat.

That afforded them a shot at the tag team titles that was about to take place.

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart (w/ Debra) vs. D'Lo Brown & Test (w/ Ivory)

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: Jeff Jarrett w/ Debra
Wearing a glistening, silver bikini and coattails, Debra looked insatiable as she cheered on her men, Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart in a short but fairly entertaining contest.

D'Lo took most of the punishment for his team while on the outside, Test got caught up in an argument between Debra and Ivory.

This led to Terri Runnels and Jacqueline coming down. The two had been feuding with Ivory. Earlier, on Heat, Jacqui had pinned the former GLOW star in a brief match before Terri had stabbed her in the face with a lit cigar.

Now, the two just kind of looked at Ivory as she and Debra argued and Test just hung around. This distracted the referee long enough for Jarrett and Owen to double team D'Lo.

The referee turned around and Jarrett got the pinfall.
Your Winners and still WWF Tag Team Champions: Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart.

Post-match, D'Lo and Test took out their frustrations on each other in the laziest, most half-assed brawl imaginable.

Speaking of brawling...

Time to shoot

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: Bart Gunn vs. Butterbean
At D-Generation-X: In Your House 19, Butterbean had competed in his one and only WWF contest, a worked boxing match against Marvelous Marc Mero.

Tonight, the Toughman fighter was returning to the World Wrestling Federation to take on Bart Gunn.

Gunn had recently won the ill-fated Brawl For All Contest that had put so many WWF superstars on the shelf and -apparently- derailed the main event push of Dr Death Steve Williams.

Prior to their legitimate shoot fight, we saw clips of both Gunn and Butterbean in action, with the former WWF Tag Team Champion promising to hold his own against the  IBA Super Heavyweight Champion.

We also saw those associated with Gunn predicting how long he'd manage to go with Butterbean.

Not one of them got it right.

Introducing the officials

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: Gorilla Monsoon's last on-screen appearance
As the ring was being set up for this contest, we went into the crowd where we first saw Isaac Hayes, who had performed the previous night at the company's Rage Party, a sort of pre-Mania fan-get together similar to today's Axxess events.

We then saw Rodney and Pete Gas of the Mean Street Posse sitting in the crowd, although earlier, on Sunday Night Heat, we'd actually seen all five members of the Posse sat in the crowd.

Don't worry, I'd completely forgotten that the Mean Street Posse started out with five people in it as well.

Howard Finkle then introduced us to referee Vinny Pazienza, and to the outside officials. These included Mike Tyson's trainer Kevin Rooney, Chuck Wepner, who had both boxed against Muhammed Ali and wrestled Andre The Giant, and finally, Hall of Famer Gorilla Monsoon.

Looking very thin and very old, Monsoon was barely recognisable as the man who had been the WWF President only a year or two beforehand.

Sadly, this was to be his last on-screen appearance, and I won't lie that it brought a little tear to my eye to know that we'd never get to see the legendary Gorilla at his best ever again.

Brawl for All Shoot fight
Butterbean vs. Bart 'The Hammer' Gunn

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: Bart Gunn faced Butterbean in a shoot fight
And so, after all that hype, after all that hoopla, after bringing out the big names to officiate, you'd expect something big here, right?

An epic brawl for the ages, right?

A long, drawn-out fight in which two legitimately tough men waged war on each other, right?

Wrong.

Adopting the nickname 'The Hammer' for one night only, Bart Gunn was punched about six times and then knocked out.

The bell rung, and the whole thing was over in 34 seconds.

Honestly, it took longer for the two combatants to make their way to the ring than it did for this fight to be over.

Talk about anti-climactic.
Your winner: Butterbean

Afterwards, as Butterbean was leaving the ring, a man in a chicken costume ran out.

Michael Cole told us that this was -and I quote- "The World Famous Chicken."

I question how true this was because, in this part of the world (England), this man in a chicken costume certainly isn't (or wasn't) famous.

Regardless as to how well known he may or may not have been, The World Famous Chicken tormented Vinny Pazienza and got punched out for his troubles.

Pazienza knocking out the chicken lasted about as long as the previous Butterbean/Gunn match.

Try and have a nice day

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: Kevin Kelly interviews Mankind
Up next, Mankind would take on The Big Show Paul Wight to determine who would be the referee in tonight's main event between The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Wight, who had debuted a month earlier at St. Valentine's Day Massacre, was part of Vince McMahon's Corporation and had a serious grudge against Stone Cold.

Earlier, on Heat, Big Show had been waiting for Austin to arrive at the building when Mankind attacked him, giving Austin the chance to saunter into the building.

Now, we were shown a clip of that before being taken backstage, where Kevin Kelly was standing by with Mankind himself.

The former WWF Champion said that he'd done everything that had been asked of him in order to get his chance to referee the main event of Wrestlemania, and was prepared to go through Big Show too.

Finally, Mankind promised to punish the man once known as The Giant and urged his opponent to try and have a nice day.

The Big Show Paul Wight vs. Mankind

No doubt this will be one of the few reviews we ever do in which we get to use Big Show's real name.

I mention this because it was more interesting than just about anything that happened in the match itself.

After some relative non-descript back-and-forth action, Paul Wight set up two chairs in the middle of the ring and chokeslammed Mankind through them, leading to the DQ.
Your Winner via Disqualification: Mankind

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: Big Show threatens to choke out Vince McMahonBy losing all control and letting his anger get the better of him, Wight had, of course, given the right to referee the main event straight to his opponent.

This pissed off Vince McMahon, who had been counting on Wight being the official to help him keep the title around The Rock's waist.

Post-match, McMahon came to the ring and admonished Big Show, even going so far as to tell the former WCW star that he was nothing.

Understandably annoyed by such words, Show wrapped his fingers around McMahon's throat and threatened to chokeslam him, only to think twice about it.

McMahon then yelled at Show some more and even slapped him, prompting Mr Wight to finally knock the boss out with a big old punch.

Following several replays of this, we finally went backstage where Mr McMahon demanded a phone so that he could call the cops so that he could, and I quote, "have that big son of a bitch arrested."

All of that was more entertaining than anything that happened in the actual match.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship Four-Corners Elimination match
WWF Intercontinental Champion Road Dogg Jesse James vs. Ken Shamrock vs. Val Venis vs. Goldust (w/ Blue Meanie & Ryan Shamrock)

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: Goldust w/ Blue Meanie and Ryan Shamrock
Though not a highlight of the show by any stretch, this one was at least surprisingly better than you might have expected.

Fast paced and hard hitting, all four men put up a decent amount of effort to deliver a very enjoyable contest.

After a lengthy battle, Ken Shamrock and Val Venis both got themselves counted out, prompting Shamrock to throw one of his usual tantrums and attack both Goldust and Road Dogg.

The two remaining combatants then fought on for a minute or two more, after which Goldust went to whip Road Dogg into the ropes were Ryan Shamrock would trip up the champion.

Of course, Road Dogg reversed the irish whip and tripped up her man Goldust, allowing Road Dogg to get the cover, the count, and the fall.
Your Winner and Still WWF Intercontinental Champion: Road Dogg

Post-match, Goldust berated Ryan Shamrock and sent her backstage in a flood of tears.

Bye-Bye Big Show

Outside the arena, Paul Wight was accosted by what looked like every police officer in the state of Philadelphia.

The 500-strong police force ushered Wight into the back of a car. Big Show was clearly unphased by his arrest.

Kane vs. Triple H

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: Kane battled Triple H
Prior to this one getting underway, The World Famous Chicken ran back out. Kane lifted the head of the chicken costume off to reveal Pete Rose, who had taken a beating by The Big Red Machine back at Wrestlemania 14.

Going 2-0 against the legendary baseball star, Kane picked Rose up again and tombstoned him into oblivion.

Unfortunately, the Corporation member wouldn't fare as well as arch-rival, Triple H.

The two fought a long, hard-hitting contest which, though hardly spectacular, was certainly decent and for the most part enjoyable.

At one point, Chyna made her way out to the ring. Her recent association with Kane led everyone to believe that she was out there to help him win the match, but instead, she hit him over the back with a chair and reunited with Triple H.

Though not the best match on the card, this one was certainly a good effort.
Your Winner via Disqualification: Kane

Out in the back, Kevin Kelly told us that Big Show had been arrested and Mick Foley had been taken away to a medical facility, meaning neither man would get to referee the main event.

Vince McMahon then showed up and told us that he just so happened to have a referee's shirt in his bag, so he'd do the honours.

World Wrestling Federation Women's Championship
WWF Women's Champion Sable vs. Tori

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: WWF Women's Champion Sable
Sable was doing this whole thing where she was letting the success of her recent Playboy issue go to her head. She had an arrogance about her, she said things like "this is for all the women who want to be me and then men who came to see me," and she took every opportunity she could to grind her hips around.

To be fair to the women's champion, she and challenger Tori were ambitious in what they were trying to do here. If they'd been able to pull it off, it would have been a short, fun match.

Sadly, however, neither woman had the skill set required to match their ambition,  meaning this instead turned into about five minutes of sloppy-arse moves that would have been enough to fill an entire episode of Botchamania.

Towards the finish, Tori accidentally took out referee Jimmy Korderas. At this point, Nicole Bass made her WWF debut by attacking Tori.

Sable hit the Sable Bomb, and this one was -thankfully- over.
Your Winner and Still WWF Women's Champion: Sable

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: Chyna temporarily reunited with DX
Backstage, Kevin Kelly caught up with the D-Generation-X, who were now once again reunited with Chyna in the fold.

Kelly asked X-Pac about his upcoming match with Shane McMahon, but Triple H answered instead, telling us all about how DX were stronger than ever.

Finally, Pac did get to tell Shane that he was about to bring the pain.

World Wrestling Federation European Championship
WWF European Champion Shane McMahon (w/ Test) vs. X-Pac

Though far from a technical classic, this fast-paced match was a great deal of fun to watch.

The inexperienced McMahon proved that what he lacked in finesse and finely-tuned skills, he was more than prepared to make up for by bumping like his life depended on it and being thrown around with gusto.

Indeed, for the most part, it looked as though X-Pac would truly get the better of his rival, even with Test running interference.

Then, however, it all broke down.

Triple H and Chyna came to the ring, teasing that they were there to help Pac even the score.

Instead, Chyna distracted the official while Hunter did the unthinkable - hitting X-Pac with a pedigree.

Trips positioned Shane on top of Pac, Chyna released the referee, and three seconds later, this one was over.
Your Winner and Still WWF European Champion: Shane McMahon

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: The three remaining members of DX after HHH's heel turn
Post-match, The New Age Outlaws ran down to try and help X-Pac, but they too were beaten up by HHH, Chyna and Test.

Finally, Kane came looking for revenge from earlier and chased the heels off. The remaining three members of DX regrouped by the ropes, with Road Dogg promising us that "that big-nosed son of a bitch is finished."

Ladies and gentlemen, we had just witnessed the start of the main event push for The Game.

Hell in a Cell Match
Big Boss Man vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)

The Undertaker really had a 90s of two halves. There was the first half of the decade when he had a lot of dull, boring matches with dull, boring workers, and then there was the second half, when he was finally allowed to tear it up with the likes of Bret 'The Hitman' Hart and Shawn Michaels.

Although we were well into the second half of the 1990s here, tonight's Hell in a Cell match against The Big Boss Man more closely resembled one of his earlier matches.

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: Undertaker hangs Big Boss Man
It was slow, it was dull, and nothing much happened.

In fact, the two men could have simply stood still in the middle of the ring for ten minutes and it would have been about as exciting as this.

After several minutes of absolute nothingness, The Undertaker hit the tombstone to go 8-0.
Your Winner: The Undertaker

Afterwards, Ministry of Darkness members Edge, Christian, and Gangrel descended from the rafters like something out of The Lost Boys.

They lowered a noose into the ring which 'Taker used to hang Boss Man as The Brood were pulled back up into the rafters.

It was unsettling, especially as Ray Traylor is no longer with us, and especially as the whole "descending from the ceiling" thing would have tragic consequences just two months from this show.

The Sherrif's in Town

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: WWF Commissioner confronts Mr McMahon
After a quick clip of the previous night's Wrestlemania Rage Party, Vince McMahon was introduced as the special guest referee for tonight's main event.

However, before the action could get underway, Commissioner Shawn Michaels rode into town to tell Vince that, according to the WWF rulebook, only one man could appoint a special guest referee, and that one man was The Heartbreak Kid.

Michaels then sent McMahon packing, though not before banning The Corporation from ringside and warning Vince that if any of his goons showed up, HBK would fight McMahon backstage.

World Wrestling Federation Championship No Disqualification Match
WWF Champion The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin

WWE / WWF Wrestlemania 15: WWF Champion The Rock faced Stone Cold Steve Austin in the main event
I should also point out here that Jim Ross replaced Michael Cole on commentary for the main event. Jerry Lawler seemed genuinely delighted to have Ross back. It was actually very sweet.

What wasn't "sweet" was this match. It was fast paced, it was violent, and it was, to put it bluntly, nothing short of incredible.

Both champ and challenger waged an absolute war on one another in what was one of the best Wrestlemania main events in years, if not ever.

The No DQ stipulation really helped too. It gave them the freedom to really go all out in creating an epic battle for the ages, destroying each other, and three separate referees, in the process.

The original referee, Mike Chioda, got took out with a chair. His replacement, Tim White, took a rock bottom, and his replacement, Earl Hebner, got beat up by Vince McMahon.

This prompted Mankind to reappear and deck McMahon. He then referred the rest of the match, with ended with Stone Cold hitting a stunner and capturing the WWF title in the main event of Wrestlemania for the second year in a row.
Your Winner and NEW WWF Champion: Stone Cold Steve Austin


Afterwards, Austin celebrated his big victory by clocking McMahon and having the longest celebration in history, sharing several bears with a clearly ecstatic Earl Hebner.






And so, another Wrestlemania was in the history books and Retro Pro Wrestling is officially halfway to completing the goal of reviewing every WWE PPV between Wrestlemania 1 and Wrestlemania 30. 

As we hit this half-way part, it occurs to me that while Wrestlemania 15 was often lacklustre from an in-ring standpoint, the reliance on overbooking and storytelling actually made it one of the more entertaining Manias of the past couple of years. 

Sure, only the main event was really worth watching, though the Intercontinental title match and even X-Pac/Shane were relatively enjoyable. 

All in all, a fun show from an Attitude Era/entertainment standpoint, but if you're looking for classic wrestling, maybe skip everything else and just go straight to Austin/Rock.  




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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.