"IT WAS ME AUSTIN!!! IT WAS VECTRON ALL ALONG!!!!"
Before we get onto the article proper today folks, I want to talk about this guy:
A lot has been said about one Vince Russo on this website and on the Internet in general about his merits as a booker and writer of wrestling content, but I would like to venture a point of view:
Vince Russo was a writer that prospered not despite the Monday Night Wars, but because of them- because of a need for two companies to continue to try and one-up each other in ratings and get people talking about their product. Russo is the concentrated version of that, where storylines are not so much 'built' as 'hastily-constructed-by-a-bunch-of-3-star- carpenters-I-found-on-Craig's-List'. And while it is credited for giving the midcard something to do in the Attitude Era, it does show which wrestlers Vince McMahon really cared about and which he did not (spoiler alert: you wouldn't have seen Stone Cold Steve Austin give birth to a hand...).
My point is, when you have this sort of mentality with the obsession of topping last week and doing something new is that occasionally you are going to throw an idea against a wall in the hope that it sticks, without worrying about logic. Anyway, let's talk about this guy:
In October 1998, the Undertaker began exhibiting some...interesting behaviour. Turning heel and allying himself again with Paul Bearer, the Deadman began to target Vince McMahon's family. So when WrestleMania 15 came around, Vince was in the strange position of being in the corner of the Corporate WWE Champion, but further down the card be trying to stop the man who was harassing his family. It made for a strange sort of dissonance for the audience.
However, at the same time the Ministry, after an ordinary match between the Bossman and Undertaker at Mania, was now beginning to cook and was obviously the next big dragon for Steve Austin to slay. So over the next month the Ministry began to assert itself more, kidnapping Ken Shamrock's sister Ryan as an example of what would happen to Stephanie before Undertaker beat Shamrock at Backlash. Later on the same show, Undertaker kidnapped Stephanie and...was going to initiate a black wedding on Raw between himself and Stephanie so that he was married to the heir of the company (what an outlandish notion!) before being foiled by Steve Austin.
Let's face it, in the wake of the #Speakingout movement this story perhaps has dated a little badly. But at the same time, it was an interesting change from what was happening for the past year. Instead of Vince and Austin being at each other's throats, we had a new threat that seemed to want something different from what McMahon wanted.
Seems like a perfect way to build a new feud in 1999! I mean, what could they possibly do to-
On the first ever episode of SmackDown! the Ministry and Shane O'Mac's Corporation merged in a strange 'the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend' scenario- as both groups were targeting Austin, Rock and Mr McMahon. However, with the merger came a loss of focus, as what was an OTT horror story now was merged with a business takeover. It was as if Pinhead suddenly walked onto the set of Succession.
And with the merger came the loss of outsider status. Undertaker himself has said in subsequent interviews that the Corporate Ministry essentially diluted his schtick. How could it not when Shane O'Mac was suddenly making Undertaker the #1 Contender for the WWE Championship rather than Undertaking demanding the spot through his actions? I'm not saying that the Ministry couldn't be corrupt, but by tying them to the Corporation, you have tied them to the Corporation's banal goals too.
Still the group was moving forward and at Over the Edge 1999 Undertaker (with the help of Shane) won the WWE Championship from Austin and soon the new champion would reveal the 'higher power' that he had been serving. This would be done on July 7th so at least then we could possibly get this story back on the-
FOR F*%K's SAKE!!!!!!
Ok, so let's just take this at face value. You had a man who apparently was not only indifferent to the fact that a massive menacing man was stalking and harassing his daughter, but actively encouraging it. Furthermore, the guy wasn't willing to throw his support behind the Undertaker before having him fight Kane, then Bossman, then Shamrock.
Put simply the guy made it really hard for himself.
Secondly, by doing this you really just made the Undertaker a total stooge. What's the point of re-packaging yourself as a Satanic Death Metal wrestler if at the end of it all, you were just going to have the same businessman front up and say he was behind it all? I mean, he's the Undertaker!!!! Give him some credit people!
Thirdly, by exposing himself (not like that...) Vince left himself open to have his wife and daughter Stephanie take revenge (imagine someone feeling annoyed that they were almost forced to marry someone they feared...) by passing their shares to Austin. This not only made McMahon look like an idiot, but also meant that the WWE were spending more and more time talking about the McMahons rather than what was going on in the ring. So Undertaker looked like an noob supporting an idiot who had no business sense despite being the chair of a major corporation!!!
But the worst of all, and the thing that never ever really gets thrown about when people talk about this angle is that it made the Vince McMahon character jump the shark.
If you don't mind indulging me here, I'd like to think of the early Attitude Era and its main players as a frat house comedy in the vein of Animal House. You had Steve Austin essentially pulling the wool over the eyes of Dean McMahon, who had too much starch in his shirt. Everyone cheered to see ol' Steve get one over on the dude and make McMahon look a fool. You also had Vince's snivelling nepotistic son who gets all the perks, Mick Foley as the nerdy but loveable side kick, the Undertaker and Kane as the college loners and more.
But this only continues to hold water if you operate under the premise that Vince is simply a stuffy boss that wants to get his top prize off Austin because he sees Stone Cold as an embarrassment to his business.. Once you cross the line where Vince is willing to essentially allow his daughter to be sexually assaulted then all premises go out the window. And the premise was so simple. Austin and McMahon could have done the whole 'I-don't-like-you-and-you-don't-like-me' schtick and combine forces until the Ministry was taken care of.
And I'm not just saying this because I think they botched this program. Vince after this becomes a lot...meaner for meaness sake. And sure there's the odd genius promo (the nWo 'poison' one is great) but there's also a lot of stuff where he's forcing Trish Stratus to bark like a dog, or telling the Undertaker that he's going to send a gang of men over to rape his wife. And I think such low hanging ideas can be traced back to this one, where they hit the Vince button and realised that there was no point of retaining any discipline around the character because with this he became not only morally bankrupt, but vindictive to the point of insensibility.
Vince Russo has said that he wanted Christopher Daniels to be the higher power- an idea that, considering Daniels' unknown status in wrestling at that time it was a strange idea. However, the fact that Russo went straight to Vinny Mac after the Daniels idea was rebuffed shows that perhaps he should have thought about this a little more. Because here's the thing- I understand that it's tempting to one up for ratings in a war like this one, but why not allow Undertaker and Austin to keep the program cooking on its own? Why do you have to throw a whole bottle of tobasco in the pot and wonder why everyone got burned?
And that's the 91st article! Next time we continue on the Russo odyssey by examining an idea that had awful consequences...for all. See you then!
#1 Owen Hart vs Stone Cold @ SummerSlam '97
#2 December to Dismember 2006
#3 The Fingerpoke of Doom
#4 The Scott Steiner vs HHH Feud
#5 Ryback vs Mark Henry @ WrestleMania XXIX
#6 Bret Hart vs Vince McMahon @ WrestleMania XXVI
#7 The Jerry Lawler/Michael Cole Feud
#8 The Curtain Call
#9 Bash at the Beach 2000
#10 Royal Rumble 2014
#11 Warrior/Hogan II @ Halloween Havoc
#12 The Cena/Laurinatis Feud
#13 The Firing of Ric Flair From WCW
#14 The Brogue Kick of Doom
#15 Lesnar vs Goldberg @ WrestleMania XX
#16 Immortal Revealed @ Bound for Glory 2010
#17 Sting vs Hogan @ Starrcade 1997
#18 Triple H vs Booker T @ WrestleMania 19
#19 The Corre
#20 The Undertaker vs Big Boss Man @ WrestleMania 15
#21 Jeff Hardy vs Sting @ Victory Road 2011
#22 Road Wild 1999
#23 The John Cena/Kane Feud of 2012
#24 Hulk Hogan's Mancow Interview of 1999
#25 CM Punk vs the Rock @ Elimination Chamber 2013
#26 The Reign of Bill Watts in WCW
#27 The Claire Lynch Affair Part One And Two
#28 Triple H vs Kevin Nash @ TLC 2011
#29 The Cactus Jack Amnesia Angle
#30 Hulk Hogan Leaving TNA
#31 HBK vs Hulk Hogan @ SummerSlam 2005
#32 David Arquette: WCW Champion
#33 Katie Vick
#34 nWo Souled Out 1997
#35 The Vampiro/Sting Feud of 2000
#36 Once in a Lifetime, Episode II
#37 The Angle/Jarrett Feud of 2010/11
#38 The McMahon/Lashley Feud
#39 The Shockmaster
#40 CM Punk vs Ryback @ Hell in a Cell 2012
#41 Hulk Hogan vs Roddy Piper @ Starrcade 1996
#42 The WWE Championship Reign of Diesel
#43 Cena vs the Wyatts
#44 The Main Roster Run of Emma
#45 The WCW Run of Bret Hart
#46 John Cena vs the Miz @ WrestleMania 27
#47 The Lone Wolf AJ Styles
#48 Alberto Del Rio vs Jack Swagger @ WrestleMania 29
#49 The Transition of Mike Awesome from ECW to WCW
#50 The Dolph Ziggler Conundrum Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five
#51 The Rise and Fall of Damien Sandow/Mizdow Part One and Part Two
#52 DDP & Jay Leno vs Hollywood Hogan & Eric Bischoff @ Road Wild 1998
#53 Triple H vs Randy Orton @ WrestleMania 25
#54 Lord Tensai
#55 LOD 2000
#56 Sid Vicious vs Scott Steiner @ Starrcade 2000
#57 Bret Hart vs Yokuzuna (feat. Hulk Hogan) @ WrestleMania 9
#58 Royal Rumble 2015
#59 The Crucifixion of the Sandman
#60 Brock Lesnar's First Year Back in WWE
#61 Bo Dallas' Main Roster Run
#62 Vince Russo vs Booker T for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
#63 Randy Orton vs the Big Show @ Survivor Series 2013
#64 AJ Styles vs Abyss @ Destination X 2010
#65 EV 2.0
#66 The Summer of Punk Part 1; Part 2; Part 3
#67 The Lex Express
#68 Goldberg's first WWE Run
#69 Paige's Main Roster Run 2014-2016
#70 Seth Rollins' First World Title Run
#71 Hulk Hogan vs Sgt Slaughter @ WrestleMania VII
#72 Sting vs Abyss in a Last Rites Match
#73 The Undertaker vs Big Show in the Punjabi Prison
#74 Ric Flair vs Hollywood Hogan @ Uncensored 1999
#75 Roman Reigns' Road to WrestleMania 32 Part One, Part Two. Part Three
#76 Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice @ WrestleMania VIII
#77 Muhammad Hassan
#78 Sheamus' World Heavyweight Title Reign
#79 The Ghastly Match
#80 Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton @ Wrestlemania 33
#81 Goldberg vs Steiner vs Nash @ New Blood Rising'
#82 The Lesnar/Angle/Big Show feud of 2002
#83 Aces and Eights
#84 Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar @ WrestleMania 32
#85 Jinder Mahal: WWE Champion Part One, Part Two, Part Three.
#86 DDP & Karl Malone vs Hollywood Hogan & Dennis Rodman.
#87 Triple H vs Sting