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

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

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.

365 Wrestling, Day 21: Ricky Steamboat & Sting vs. Rick Rude & Steve Austin (WCW Clash of the Champions XVIII, 1/21/92)

365 Wrestling, Day 21: Ricky Steamboat & Sting vs. Rick Rude & Steve Austin (WCW Clash of the Champions XVIII, 1/21/92)

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

Let’s presume that, if you’re reading this, you join me in being a fan of the professional wrestling.

Now, if you’ve been a fan for a while, imagine going back and telling 10-years-ago you “one day, there will be SO MUCH wrestling available to watch that you’ll never be able to see it all. Much less just keep up with all of the current stuff that’s accessible online.”

“No way,” 10-years-ago you would say in response.

“Way,” current-times you would reply.

Anyhoo, one of the biggest benefits for me in doing this project is going back and watching some of the good stuff. The Four Pillars. Joshi. Old-school Portland wrestling. Et cetera, et cetera…

The Dangerous Alliance’s run occurred during one of those times when I wasn’t paying a ton of attention to wrestling. And so, I’m hitting some of the high points of their heyday — nearly 30 years later (!), no less. case in point: our match selection for January 21, with Ricky Steamboat and Sting joining forces against the Alliance pair of Rick Rude and Stunning Steve Austin from Clash of the Champions XVIII.

UPDATE: Now that Peacock has rights to the WWE Network, and migration of the archive remains inconsistent, none of the WCW Clash events have been uploaded as of April 27. Luckily, you can find this match on Dailymotion, or embedded below:

The Context

Since our last visit to WCW in 1992, the Dangerous Alliance have been busy little bees. Five days before this Clash, Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton just won the tag titles from Steamboat and Dustin Rhodes at a house show in Jacksonville. Rude remains the U.S. Champion. Austin still holds the TV Title. Yep, it seems as if everything’s coming up Milhouse for Paul E. and his crew of ne’er-do-wells.

Earlier on this show, Paul E. cuts a tremendous promo promising to cripple one of the fan favorites before the end of the night. Right before this match, Barry Windham, Ron Simmons, and Rhodes get the best of Arn, Eaton, and Larry Zbysko in a really fun six-man tag sprint you should check out after watching this match (or before… do what you want… I’m not your supervisor). Adding to the mix for this match is that Sting, while battling the Alliance, is also set to challenge Lex Luger for WCW’s World Title at Superbrawl the following month. Luger attacked Sting at the last Clash back in November, wrecking his knee and leaving him easy prey to drop the U.S. Title to Rude.

Also, in case you didn’t know, WCW ran these Clash of the Champions events as special supercards on free TV. In these days, marquee matches between stars on free TV were few and far between. Times definitely have changed now, on that end …

The Match

Adding Sting to the mix for this match definitely brings the crowd interest and enthusiasm to a different level. We have to wait to see Sting in action, though, as Steamboat and Austin start out. I always felt these two had outstanding chemistry with one another in the ring and I saw nothing different in this match to alter that opinion.

Rude goads Sting into the ring with a slap to the face that we miss because the camera cuts to a random crowd shot (oh, those WCW production values…) I always liked Rude because he has this pretty-boy gimmick but he wrestles like a longshoreman in the middle of a bar bawl, which, if you believe some of the stories about Rude, is pretty in line with his real-life attitude and persona.

What’s interesting about this match is that the traditional face-heel dynamic shifts. Sting and Steamboat, in an effort to get the better of the Alliance, stoop to the level of their opponents — whether that be with illegal switches of the legal man while referee Nick Patrick is distracted or Sting unleashing some back rakes on Rude. The match maintains a brisk pace throughout with control ebbing back and forth between both teams. Ultimately, the fan favorites prevail by bending the rules once more; Austin has Steamboat up for a slam when Sting leaps off with a flying cross body — Steamboat’s own signature move — and Sting and Steamboat stack up on Austin for the pin.

The Alliance get the upper hand, though. Rude delivers a pair of Rude Awakenings to Steamboat, then uses Dangerously’s own belt to start whipping “The Dragon.” Sting covers Steamboat with his own body (I’m always a sucker for that spot) while Paul E. and Austin lay waste to a bunch of local and enhancement wrestlers decked out in Security shirts. This battle is over, but the war is sure to continue …

Random Thoughts

-Watching Rick Rude sell atomic drops (be they regular or inverted) always is a delight. I’m not alone on this; there’s even a Twitter account dedicated to chronicling Rude’s sells of this variety.

Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura pair on commentary for this match in what marked Jesse’s debut with WCW. They’ve got good chemistry and work well together. Ventura was so good in the antagonist color commentary role.

-Unfortumately Superbrawl in 1992 happened on February 29, a Leap Day, and thus, absent from the 2021 calendar. Oh, the cruelty of it all …

Final Rating: 6.0

There’s lots to like about this match. It showcases four of the top talents in WCW at the time, in the midst of a heated feud centering on the Dangerous Alliance faction. It’s also a tantalizing glimpse at Steamboat and Sting as a team, something that WCW didn’t really explore during any period where both were on the roster. This is a good match that is definitely worth watching, but I honestly preferred the six-man involving other members of the Alliance on this same cCash card.

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

What’s Next

An All Japan mainstay and a master of the mist welcome a pair of visitors from Badstreet.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

365 Wrestling, Day 11: Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes & Ron Simmons vs. Dangerous Alliance (WCW WorldWide, 1/11/92)

365 Wrestling, Day 11: Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes & Ron Simmons vs. Dangerous Alliance (WCW WorldWide, 1/11/92)

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

Another Reader Recommendation today, as independent wrestler and Zubaz enthusiast Jeff Connelly pitched me on this six-man tag from WCW in 1992, smackdab in the heart of the Dangerous Alliance storyline. Specifically, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton and “Stunning” Steve Austin rep the Alliance against the babyface trio of Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes, and Ron Simmons.

You can find this match online with some strategic searching.

The Context

Paul E. Dangerously (who you might know better as Paul Heyman) formed the Dangerous Alliance over the span of several weeks in late 1991. Dangerously, who had been fired in storyline from his commentary position, was out for revenge. By late November, he had assembled his squad: Anderson, Eaton, Austin, Rick Rude, Larry Zbysko, and Madusa. At this point, in early 1992, the Alliance controls two titles in WCW, with Austin the TV Champ and Rude holding the U.S. Title. Anderson and Eaton are chasing the tag titles, currently held by Steamboat and Rhodes. They won the titles at Clash of the Champions XVII in November (the last major event before Dangerously “officially” forms his stable), beating Arn and Zbysko when Steamboat showed up as a surprise partner for Rhodes after the champs broke the hand of Rhodes’ original partner, Barry Windham, earlier in the night. As for Simmons, he was firmly ensconced in the upper midcard at the time. The week before, on the prior episode of WorldWide, the Alliance jumped Simmons at the end of a TV Title match against Austin when he had the champion apparently beat. Steamboat and Rhodes made the save, setting the stage for this match.

The Match

The Dangerous Alliance is such an impressive and underrated stable. They never reached the heights of success of other major heel groups in WCW like the Four Horsemen and the nWo, but stand out in two ways: one, by having good matches almost every week across WCW’s various programming; and two, with the synergy and teamwork they show. Even when they weren’t wracked by dissension, neither the Horsemen nor the nWo display the type of team-first mentality you witness from the Alliance. It shines through in sacrifice, such as when Arn smashes Dustin Rhodes’ head into Eaton’s noggin on the apron to help the Alliance finally take over the match after several minutes where each of the babyfaces fights off the entire trio and clears the ring, single-handed, in three separate segments. Eaton tumbles to the floor off the impact, and Paul E. is quick to check on him. Overall, Paul and Eaton show a chemistry that hearkens back to Beautiful Bobby and Jim Cornette in the Midnight Express.

The little touches really elevate this six man, such as:

–When Dustin kicks out after eating a huge clothesline from Austin, Steamboat (who was already headed in to try and break up the pin) starts cheering on his partner
–As the beatdown on Rhodes continues, Arn backs into the ropes to deliver a stalling kneedrop to Dustin, only for Steamboat to slide into the ring and take the knee across his own back
–A unique turnabout spot, where Arn goes to ram Dustin’s head into the outstretched knee of Austin in a tag-match spot we’ve all seen a million times, only for Dustin to send Arn’s cranium into the knee instead. Arn and Dustin smash skulls after the impact while Austin, doing the Wrestling Gods’ work, stumbles to the floor, selling his knee after the impact

The finish reiterates the theme of sacrifice and teamwork. After laying waste to the Alliance trio following a long-awaited tag from Rhodes, Simmons is the apparent victim of a double team by Arn and Eaton, with Arn restraining Simmons as Beautiful Bobby ascends to the top rope. Steamboat comes flying in to stop Arn, and Simmons catches Eaton in midair and delivers a spinebuster to give the good guys a rare victory over the Dangerous Alliance.

No time to celebrate. as Zbysko comes hustling to the ring for a 4-on-3 beatdown, which sees Steamboat eat both a spike piledriver and a flying Eaton legdrop before Windham sends the heels scattering.

Random Thoughts

–WorldWide was one of the B-shows for WCW at the time (this was pre-Nitro, remember, so WCW Saturday night is the flagship), but as I said the Dangerous Alliance had matches across every WCW program during this era, which makes for one of the most consistently entertaining, watchable runs of wrestling TV that ever has been produced.

–Ring announcer Gary Michael Cappetta clarifies this match isn’t the main event but the “featured confrontation.” Alright then.

–Paul E. jumping on his handheld phone trying to figure out what’s happening early when the babyfaces are in control made me legitimately chuckle.

Final Rating: 6.1

The action here is hard-hitting and the story is fairly simple. With a less talented group of wrestlers, this match easily would be skippable. Instead, the little touches and the overarcing storyline help make this a compelling watch.

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

What’s Next

We head to SmackDown in 2007 for a match involving yet another of my personal favorites.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.