365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Nothing warms my heart like hearing from readers who are enjoying the project, and also seeing people share, retweet and like the social media posts promoting entries. So far, one of the biggest supporters of the 365 Wrestling project and this site has been Matt Griffin, who currently is the promoter of ACTION Wrestling (which this site sponsors).

I want to make things here a bit more interactive, so when I came up with the concept of offering guests the chance to pick matches, Matt was an easy choice.

His selection? Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon in a steel cage, from the main event of WWF’s St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on February 14, 1999.

Why did Matt choose this match?

“It’s Vince — the figure that has dominated and changed wrestling. Everything in the Wrestlemania era, always comes down to Vince McMahon. And Austin vs. Vince is his first real singles match up, when he was well into his 50s. Never let anyone say that for better or worse, Vince will show his locker room that he will step in the ring and do the same thing he asks them to.

“Vince vs. Austin is likely the most important feud in WWF history in any case, it carried the water to take the 83 week dominance away from WCW, but this match also happened on the show that was the lead-in to Wrestlemania XV.”

You can watch this match on Peacock.

The Context

The Austin-McMahon feud began about a year ago when Stone Cold first became champion and this is hyped as the “final chapter” between them. As we all know, this was far from the end of the hostilities between Austin and Vince, but there is a transition after this as The Undertaker’s group, The Ministry of Darkness, also gets involved… along with the McMahon kids, Shane and Stephanie.

This specific match came about after Vince won the Royal Rumble in January and, with it, a shot at the WWF World Title at WrestleMania. Vince didn’t want that match, since at the time The Rock — part of McMahon’s Corporation stable — was champion, so he turned down the title shot… only to have WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels explain the honors would go to the runner-up in the Rumble, Austin. That led to Austin putting his WrestleMania title shot at stake to get Vince inside the cage for this match. In the build-up, Vince agreed no members of his Corporation faction would interfere, while Austin wasn’t allowed to touch McMahon until the match.

Vince does his best to trick Austin out of the match with various antics, including spitting in Austin’s face during a segment also involving Michaels on the Sunday Night Heat pre-show earlier in the evening.

The Match

My take: The WWF held this pay-per-view in Memphis, and I can’t think of a more fitting setting for a match that relies heavily on smoke and mirrors and shenanigans. What we see here is an updated, amped-up, more “adult” version of the battles between Jerry Lawler (who is on commentary and fights an ongoing battle with laryngitis) and Jimmy Hart from the early 1980s.

This match is all schtick from beginning to end. It’s also another example of what we saw in the entry for February 11, with the bad guys — or bad-guy boss in this case — finally getting a comeuppance. There are a few minutes of stalling but that just brings an already-engaged crowd to a proper boil. When Austin feigns a knee injury on the floor to lure Vince within reach and then levels him with a clothesline, there’s a huge roar.

Everyone remembers this match for Vince’s huge bump, where he falls off the side of the cage through a table. It’s a gruesome landing; Vince hits the table and bounces off it before it collapses under him. Based on my research, Vince fractured his tailbone on the spot, and I am not surprised. That would have been enough but when Howard Finkel comes in the ring to announce Austin the winner due to injury, Stone Cold grabs the mic and says he’s not finished. It’s a great touch that further engages the crowd, and gives Vince several valuable minutes to recover, also extending the match through smoke and mirrors.

A beatdown ensues inside the cage that leaves Vince a bloody, battered mess… but when Austin goes to leave the ring, McMahon lures him back in by taunting Stone Cold with what my father once called “the single digit of friendship.”

Just typical behavior by the CEO …

Everything works until the finish, which is like the wrestling equivalent of a goofy Looney Tunes comic where a faux pas by Elmer Fudd allows Bugs Bunny to escape down the rabbit hole. Vince just coaxed Austin back in the ring a second time and eats a Stunner when the Big Show (or, as he’s announced here, Paul Wight) comes up through the ring in his WWF debut after jumping from WCW. Wight manhandles Austin a bit, then throws Austin into the cage, which snaps a section free, allowing Stone Cold to drop to the floor and win the match.    

Matt’s Take: “This was great! Vince as a performer has always been fantastic and a character. He looks completely jacked as he walks to the ring, a lifetime interest in bodybuilding paying off in spades. Several times before Vince flies off the cage, you can catch him quickly looking back and making sure he is in the right place to land. Austin rams Vince’s head into the cage and he explodes backward, downward and through a table as if launched from a high powered slingshot.  A requisite gurney spot (oh yes, the match hasn’t started officially) with Austin jumping him in the aisle is pure heat, tossing refs and officials aside to get Vince back in the cage.

“A heating beating ensues, with Vince taking multiple cage shots to the face (to ensure he has reason to blade for extra heat). A stunner, with Austin talking trash to Vince’s face and then… “THAT’S PAUL WIGHT, THAT’S PAUL WIGHT!”  The former Big Show is in WWF and lays Austin out. At Vince’s behest he throws Stone Cold into a section of the cage… which busts completely through. Austin ends up on the floor and wins, keeping his shot at the WWF title at WMXV.”

Random Thoughts

–Lawler sums up the appeal of the Austin-McMahon feud in a single line during the ring entrances: “How many rednecks around the world would love to get the chance to slap around their boss?”

–Speaking of commentary, Michael Cole is the lead broadcaster for this one, part of a several-month stint in late 1998 and early 1999 when he stepped in after Jim Ross suffered his initial bout of Bell’s Palsy.

–Some of the Austin-McMahon stuff has been affected by the fact that the wrestling business as a whole took the “evil authority figure” concept and proceeded to drive it into the ground over the ensuing two decades, but the energy and heat here still cannot be topped.

–Is there a more dramatic and more effective transformation in wrestling that Austin evolving from Stunning Steve into Stone Cold?

–It’s influenced by hindsight but the entire debut of the Big Show here just reminds me of all the later instances in TNA where a former WWE wrestler would make a surprise appearance and, to avoid any copyright infringement, Mike Tenay and Don West would introduce them with something ambiguous like, “We all know who THAT is…”

Final Rating: 6.7

This is one of the best matches I’ve seen involving a non-wrestler. It’s got historic value because, as Matt mentioned, this is Vince’s first match ever. Austin beats Vince to a bloody pulp after about a year of build. This would have been an ideal time for Vince to take an extended break in front of the cameras, but I guess that works better for a territory than a major televised wrestling company. There may not be a better example of a match working on nearly every level despite very little wrestling actually taking place. It would rate higher for me but the finish knocked it down a peg or two.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

Up Next

Another gimmick match. This time, we head to the Carolinas for a match that’s all about making your opponent say those two little words…

Are YOU interested in making a match suggestion for the 365 Wrestling project? I’m accepting limited guest submissions for the remaining entries in the year. Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

4 thoughts on “365 Wrestling, Day 45: Steel Cage, Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon (WWF St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, 2/14/99)

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