In one of the great angles of the decade, Mick Foley resurrected his Cactus Jack persona after months of Triple H tormenting Mankind. The result was a hellacious brawl at Madison Square Garden that saw Hunter solidify himself as a main eventer while leaving Cactus a bloody, thumbtack-laden mess. Cactus Jack demanded one more rematch, and to get it, he put his career on the line.
Also, WCW's loss was the WWF's gain as the rival promotion began to disintegrate before our very eyes and a number of unhappy superstars – namely, Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko – showed up on Raw as "The Radicalz." Although it meant a lot of midcard talent got shoved aside, the move shifted the focus from storylines and trash TV to in-ring product.
I should point out that this PPV opens with perhaps the greatest promo in wrestling history (no exaggeration) from Mick Foley.
"It will be soon, but not tonight (I'm not quite ready). Though my nights are sleepless, I still dream. I've won and lost many things in my career (championships, blood), but I've never main-evented at WrestleMania. This is my chance (my last chance).
In my way, there is a man, and that man has my gold (my ticket to WrestleMania). He may be the Game. He may be the champion. He may be the best in the industry today (I should know), but he is no Cactus Jack (and he never will be!).
Fifteen years I've been chasing this dream. Dozens of fractures. Hundreds of stitches. Countless nights I've bled! You may say, 'This is no dream. This is a nightmare.' Maybe, but it's my nightmare, AND I DECIDE WHEN I WAKE UP!"
Wow. I count that among the top ten things I've seen in wrestling.
On with the show.
February 27, 2000
Live from Hartford, Conn.
Your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.
Opening Match, Intercontinental Title: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Jericho (w/Chyna).
Chyna gets her own entrance for unknown reasons. Kurt was already the European Champion at this point, but he wanted a real title belt, so here you go. He had not yet reached the deity-like level that he would from 2002-2005, but then he was only three months into his Fed career. He drop toeholds Jericho into the ropes, but Chris backdrops him over and hits a springboard dropkick. To the floor, Jericho bangs his arm on the post with a missed clothesline to set up some later psychology. Jericho moonsaults off the ringsteps and catches Kurt in the face. He goes up, but Kurt crotches him and hits a belly-to-belly to take over. Jericho blocks a backdrop and hits the butterfly backbreaker, but Kurt stays on top with a chinlock. The crowd informs him that he sucks. Jericho fights out and explodes with a spinning wheel kick. He follows up with a flying forearm for two. Jericho blocks a huracanrana and hits a double powerbomb. Kurt reverses the cover to a cross armlock. It's commonplace now, but that was some innovative wrestling (if you count ripping off UFC as innovative). Jericho makes the ropes and puts Kurt in the Walls of Jericho. Angle makes the ropes and heads to the floor. Jericho follows, but Chyna gets bumped trying to keep Kurt from using the belt. Jericho suplexes Angle back in, but Kurt blocks the Lionsault with the belt to pick up the win and become Eurocontinental Champion at 10:14. Referee Earl Hebner tries to convince Tim White to reverse it, but White refuses. Kind of shocking for the time because Jericho was considered an heir apparent to the babyface throne. ***
Bubba Dudley, who was still working the southern accent, tells everyone to prepare for new tag champs.
WWF Tag Team Titles: The New Age Outlaws vs. The Dudley Boyz.
The Dudz were rapidly getting over by putting chicks through tables. The Outlaws had already outlived their usefulness, and this would be their last match as a regular tag team until they reunited in TNA half a decade later. How's that for a stale act? The Dudz hit the Wazzup Drop (although it wasn't yet named) and isolate Road Dogg. Roadie plays heel-in-peril before going low on Bubba. Billy, who was nursing a shoulder injury, hits the Fameasser, but Bubba WHACKS him with a lead pipe to give him a storyline reason to take time off. Roadie eats a 3D (which used to look much more dynamic because Bubba would run across the ring to hit the Cutter). The Dudleyz pick up their first WWF Tag Team Titles at 5:21. Nobody really expected much with Billy being injured, and everyone watching at the time knew it was time to transition to the young guys in the tag division. *
Kurt Angle spazzes out and celebrates with his fans.
Viscera vs. Mark Henry.
Oy. Viscera attacked and splashed Mark's girlfriend Mae Young and nearly cost her the baby. Seven years later, and they're a tag team. Henry slugs away at him but runs into a rolling kick. To the floor, Vis tosses Henry into the steps. Big "boring" chant. Back in, Viscera hits a Samoan Drop, but Mae Young runs in, displaying more agility and quickness than either guy involved in the match. Viscera shoves her down, but Henry cuts off the big splash. Henry bodyslams him for the win at 3:47. 1/4*
Chris Jericho assures us that there is no friction between Chyna and him. He threatens to get rid of Kurt Angle if he continues being a douche.
Elsewhere, Billy Gunn gets checked out by the trainers.
#1 Contender's Match: The Hardy Boyz (w/Terri Runnels) vs. Edge 7 Christian.
Earlier on Heat, Terri hired the Acolytes to protect her because the Dudleyz had been putting women through tables. Well, that was the ostensible reason. Both of these teams were babyfaces, which is odd because both the Dudleyz and Outlaws were heels. Edge attacks Jeff from behind, and Jeff misses the Whisper in the Wind. The Hardyz isolate Christian and run through their usual doubleteams. They were still fresh and innovative back then. Matt & Jeff taking their shirts off gets a bigger pop, which is why they've stayed over so long – the wrestlers were more over than the moves. For an example of the opposite, see Papi Chulo. Matt talks trash and stomps Christian down. Interesting how the Hardyz are playing subtle heels here. Poetry in Motion gets two. A doubleteam facebuster gets two more. Matt goes for a Crucifix Bomb, but Christian squirms out of it. Edge gets the hot tag and clears Matt out of the ring with a spinning wheel kick. Christian adds a springboard plancha. In an odd moment, both teams totally switch roles as Jeff plays face-in-peril while E&C get heelish. Cool spot as Edge counters a backslide to a piledriver for two. Jeff hits a rana but runs right into a SICK powerbomb. And that's what Edge does to people he *likes!* Edge & Jeff slam each other's heads into the mat. Christian comes in for some cheating, but Matt flies off the top with an elbowdrop while the ref is distracted. Jeff gets two off that and cuts off Edge's dive with dropkick. HOT TAG TO MATT! Matt gets two off a sleeper drop. Cool Mid-Atlanticish spot as the Hardyz miss a Doomsday Device, but Jeff switches up and crossbodies Christian on the landing as Edge rolls up Matt. The ref counts both pins, but they only get two. Edge cuts off Poetry in Motion with a spear but misses a second. Jeff goes up, but Terri hops up on the apron and shoves him off, turning heel. Christian shoves Matt out of the Twist of Fate, and Terri adds a slap. Matt is so stunned that Christian is able to finish him with the Unprettier at 15:16. If you thought that these two teams only had good ladder matches together, then check this out. ***3/4
After the match, Terri tries to celebrate with Edge & Christian, but they're as surprised as the Hardyz and just walk out. The Hardyz go after Terri to get an explanation, but Faarooq and Bradshaw are still on the clock so they destroy the pretty boys. Faarooq nearly ends Jeff's career with a botched Dominator. DAMN!
In the back, Christian says he never expected to win like this. Edge tells him the Hardyz would have taken a win the same way.
The Big Show tries to convince us that he shouldn't even have to face the Rock tonight for the right to go to WrestleMania.
Tazz vs. The Big Bossman (w/Prince Albert).
Is it any wonder that Albert never got over after being saddled with the sidekick role for the better part of his career? Big brawl in the aisle to start. Tazz takes him down into a wakigatame. To the ring, Tazz cuts off a charge with a lariat and T-bones him onto his head. Tazmission, but Albert runs in for the DQ at 0:49. Albert and Bossman give Tazz a working over, but he won't stay down. Finally, Bossman just breaks the nightstick over his head. Tazz *still* won't stay down, so Albert hits him in the nuts. The idea was to put Tazz over as a tough guy because he could take a beating, but the character of Tazz was always that he was an offensive powerhouse, not a punching bag. 1/4*
Recap of Kane and X-Pac's falling out. Much of this has actually been retconned. DX took Kane's mask off and were scared by his hideous, burned face, but later we found out that the scars were only emotional. Also, Tori left Kane because he couldn't get it up due to the burns all over his body, but he later fathered Lita's child.
No Holds Barred: Kane (w/Paul Bearer) vs. X-Pac (w/Tori).
Kane storms the ring and clears X-Pac out. Pac and Tori make a run for it, but Kane catches up with them, and they brawl near the entrance cage. They fight through the crowd with X-Pac getting the worse of it. Kane misses a shot with the ringsteps and takes the ringbell to the face. X-Pac picks up a chair, but Paul Bearer knocks him down and gets him some of Pac. That's actually pretty funny. Tori makes the save but gets chased by Bearer. Not surprisingly, she has no problem escaping. Back in, X-Pac hits a Broncobuster, but Kane does the Zombie Situp. Boy, he's pissed. X-Pac dropkicks him in the knee and takes him down into a spinning toehold. Kane shoves him away and goes for the Tombstone, but X-Pac slips out of it and goes low. That sets up the X-Factor, but Kane shrugs it off and hits the flying clothesline. Tori gets on the apron, but Kane ignores her and chokeslams X-Pac. Tori hops on Kane's back but takes a Tombstone. Oooh. Right on the melon. Kane picks up the steel steps, but X-Pac dropkicks them back in his face and covers for the win at 7:49. Brief, energetic brawl. **1/2
The Radicalz are insulted because Michael Cole asks if they're nervous.
Six-Man Tag: Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn (w/Eddy Guerrero) vs. Rikishi Phatu & Too Cool.
Note: This would be the first time I've reviewed, or even seen, a Benoit match since the murders. Not gonna lie, it's a bit uncomfortable, even if I do have a different take on that situation than most people. The Radicalz storm the ring, but Rikishi squashes Malenko. Guerrero, who was nursing a dislocated elbow, tries to cheapshot Rikishi with a pipe. 'Kish sees him coming and hits Eddy right in the arm. Eddy runs away in pain, making it a fair fight. Sexay and Scottie dominate the Radicalz early. Funny spot as Rikishi is cleaning house and Malenko scurries away in fear. Benoit takes the Stinkface (I believe the debut of that move outside of house shows). The Radicalz finally target Rikishi's bandaged leg. Scottie goes for the Worm, but Malenko absolutely LEVELS him with a running elbow. Lawler cracks up at the violence. The Radicals isolate Scottie again. Their stuff is incredibly crisp compared to what the WWF midcard was producing with guys like Val Venis, Al Snow and Hardcore Holly (all of whom I consider to be good workers in their own rights). Benoit and Malenko are especially good, and while it was good to see Benoit find singles success in 2000, it's too bad we didn't get more of the Benoit/Malenko team, especially with the Hardyz right there waiting to get their asses handed to them for our amusement. Scotty and Benoit clank heads, allowing Rikishi to get the hot tag. He cleans house and drops Saturn on his head with the Rikishi Driver. Malenko clips his leg, though. Sexay follows with the Hip Hop Drop (Guillotine Legdrop), but Benoit breaks up the pin with a diving headbutt. Too Cool takes out Saturn and Benoit while Rikishi blocks Malenko from splashing his leg, hits the Rikishi Driver, and finishes with the Banzai Drop at 12:43. Hmm. I thought this would feel tainted, but instead it just felt like another match. I guess time is the great healer. A lot of people were upset that the Radicalz lost in their PPV debut (they lost in all their TV debuts too), but had they not, Mark Henry would be the only clear babyface on the card to score a clean victory. ***1/2
Kurt continues to celebrate with the Eurocontinental peeps.
#1 Contender's Match: The Rock vs. The Big Show.
The funny thing about this feud is how the Big Show was totally in the right, having been screwed out of a Rumble victory by a bad call, but the fans said, "We don't care. The Rock's cool. Go away." Rock slaps the taste out of his mouth, triggering a brawl. Show blocks a Rock Bottom, and they take it to the crowd. Rock backdrops Show over the barricade, but Show picks him up and drops him on it. Sadly, the Big Show, being the heel, has to control the pace of the match. He has the balls to no-sell the Evian Mist! UNPROFESSIONAL! Rock fights out of a Russian Leg Sweep and gets two. Show catches him with a side slam for two. Show misses a chairshot, and the ref gets bumped. CHOKESLAM! No ref, though. Tim White runs in, but Hebner pulls him back out and they renew the argument that they had earlier. The ref battle turns into fisticuffs as Shane McMahon runs down. Rock blasts Show with a chairshot and goes for the People's Elbow. Shane hops in and nails rock with the FLYING CHAIRSHOT~! Show covers for the win at 9:27. The sound you hear is 15,000 people having the same reaction Kyle had on South Park when he found out the Bush Administration was behind 9/11: "…REALLY?!?" Show actually would keep his status as #1 contender, but Rock would back in as Vince McMahon's representative at WrestleMania. The match was okay for what it was. **1/4
Kurt is singing "I am the champion" as he goes to his rental car. Jericho and Chyna jump him from behind and lock him in the trunk.
WWF Heavyweight Title, Hell in a Cell: Triple H (w/Stephanie McMahon) vs. Cactus Jack.
Outside of the intrigue of Mick Foley having the chance to main event at WrestleMania or have his 15-year career ended, there was also the added question of just how violent Cactus would get after taking "sick" to new heights at The Royal Rumble and at the King of the Ring two years earlier. He promised to fly off the top of the cage again, which we see is complicated by the numerous padlocks on the cell door. Brawl to start, and Cactus keeps looking under the ring. Triple H hits a facebuster but gets backdropped to the floor. Jack grabs a chair but gets knocked off the apron into the mesh. He takes a nasty spill over the steps and bangs his knee. Hunter picks up the steps and LAUNCHES them into Jack's face. Jack staggers back into the ring and gets smacked around by a few chairshots, including a particularly vile one. That gets two. Cactus begs Hunter for more but punches him on a charge. "Barbaric birth control" sets up a DDT on the chair for two. A Russian Leg Sweep on the chair gets two more. He charges, but Hunter drop toeholds him into the chair á la Raven. To the floor again, Hunter sets up for the Pedigree on the steps, but Cactus scoops the legs and catapults him into the mesh. Oh yes. There will be blood. Jack comes off the second rope and smashes a chair down on Hunter's head. Jack launches the steps this time, but Hunter ducks out of the way. Oh, but the steps crashed through the cage, giving Mick a way out. He tosses Hunter, who by now is a bloody mess, through the ripped cage. That sets up a piledriver on the announce table – which does not give! Steph keeps Cactus from going up, so Jack tosses the timekeeper aside and grabs… A BARBED-WIRE 2X4! Hunter's cowardly reaction is tremendous. He tries to escape through the crowd before finally going up to the top of the cell. Jack follows him but makes the mistake of tossing the 2x4 on top of the cage so he can climb. Hunter takes it away from him and rakes the barbed-wire across his face, sending Jack crashing through the announce table. Ross tries to bust out a few of the same Rossisms that made the King of the Ring match famous, but sequels just don't measure up to the original, and the commentary doesn't quite ring true this time around. Jack starts tossing chairs haphazardly before going up. Hunter nails him with the barbed-wire 2x4 and gives him a beating with it. Jack goes low and tosses Hunter to the corner where the top of the cage begins to give way. And wouldn't that be a particularly sick bump because it's not over the ring! Jack pulls him back to the center and suplexes him. Suddenly, he gets a gleam in his eye. Uh oh. Nothing good can come from this. Jack lights the 2x4 ON FUCKING FIRE! Sadly, he gives Hunter a wussy shot with it and signals for the piledriver. Hunter backdrops him out of it, through the top of the cell, and down to the mat. They gimmicked the mat to give way this time, thankfully. Hunter drops down and kicks at Jack's hand in that "I know you're not dead, Michael Myers" way. Indeed, Jack begins to stir, but Hunter gets ultra-ruthless and kills him with the Pedigree at 23:57. This was a hugely important and heart-wrenching match at the time, but much of the impact was undone when Foley was unretired just a few weeks later and placed back in the Mania main event by Linda McMahon. It would be like allowing four teams into the Super Bowl regardless of who wins the conference championships. That doesn't even begin to mention all of Foley's subsequent comebacks. Also, watching it today, it's just sooooo blatantly manipulative with them trying to recreate moments that had already become iconic. None of this is to say that it wasn't a fantastic and emotional match for its time. In fact, most people think of it as the second-best HITC behind HBK vs. Undertaker. Definitely a worthy match Mick to go out on. It's just a shame he didn't. ****
The 411: The WWF was just beginning their best creative hot streak since the summer of 1997, but this time, they had the talent from top to bottom to put on consistently great shows. It's like someone flipped a switch on January 1, 2000, and WWF Creative went into overdrive. Tazz and the Radicalz invasion as well as the ascent of the Dudleyz, Hardyz and Edge & Christian meant that the midcard was as stocked with talent as it had ever been, and Triple H was about to go on the streak of a lifetime for the next six months. Yes, it was a great time to be a WWF fan.