Thursday 28 August 2014

When Wrestling Was Pop Culture, A Look Back At The WWF LIVE in Newcastle, April 1999 By Chris Renfrew @ChrisRenfrew1

When I agreed to write an article for the site many topics crossed my mind on what I could talk about, but for maybe the first time ever, I was lost for words, I had writers block bad. Then it hit me, why not do a review? But not a review of a recent event or of one I have watched on DVD or online, no this is a review of the second ever wrestling show I ever attended. I would have reviewed the first show attended, but that was in 1993 and I was 7, so my memories there pretty much consist of AHHHHH WRESTLING!!!!

The second show I ever attended took place April 3rd 1999 in the Newcastle Telewest Arena in front of 10,000 sold out fans. For whatever reason the WWF decided not do any shows in Scotland, so Newcastle was the next best thing.

In April 1999, the attitude era was in full swing, Wrestling WAS pop culture. Looking back, I couldn't have asked for a better time frame to experience the Attitude Era first hand. I was dressed like wrestling had thrown up on me wearing my Degenerate 69 Hockey shirt, a Kane mask and a Stone Cold Steve Austin foam finger this was going to be the best night ever, ever!!! The night starts with the ever so familiar "No Chance! That's what you've got!". My young self was fully expecting Vince McMahon to make his way to the ring, but no such luck it was the stooges Brisco and Patterson with the Brooklyn Brawler in tow. The building was deafening with boo's and ASSHOLE chants, Newcastle had no love for the stooges. Brooklyn Brawler wanted to become a part of the Corporation but he had to prove himself in a match, his opponent "WHAT DOES EVERYBODY WANT?" Al Snow made his way to the ring with Head in tow to a massive ovation, Al Snow and Head arguably at their hottest point during this time frame. The match didn't last long with Brawler quickly doing the job when Al Snow blasted him with Head....wait, that reads wrong, guess that was the whole point though, the attitude era loved puns! Brawler had failed and would not become a part of the Corporation, the night was under-way and I was pumped, this was as good as I expected it to be.

Next up was some tag team action between the team of Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett with Debra vs Edge and Gangrel with Christian. Looking back, I am very lucky to have been able to have seen Owen Hart perform live, it would be only one month later he would tragically lose his life. I remeber this being a fast paced contest with the crowd firmly in the Broods corner. I popped big when Christian kidnapped Debra when she tried to interfere and carried her to the back, mainly because it meant I had a full view of Debras ass, hey I was 14 and hormones were running rampant, God I fancied Debra! This distraction allowed Owen Hart to roll Edge up for the three.

Through the power of the internet I was able to get the full run down of the card and in the results listed is Ivory defeating Jackie. No disrespect to either performers but I genuinely have no recollection of this match taking place. The Hardcore Title was on the line next when Hardcore Holly defended the title against Val Venis. Now this got me jacked! I loved the Hardcore Title matches, and though many look back on them with mixed emotions, I always loved the weapons filled stunt fests the hardcore division provided. One moment I vividly remember is Hardcore Holly set the table up in the corner with the intention of whipping Venis through it. As Holly whipped him, Venis reversed sending Hardcore Holly into the table, he hit it with an almighty crash...but the thing didn't break! It just cracked in the middle, it was clear Holly felt the full brunt of it. This wasn't the same tables used on TV, this was whatever table they could find to use, and this thing was solid! They did not hold back because it was a house show, both men gave it their all in a hard hitting afair with Holly getting the win.

As energectic as the crowd had been up to this point, the next contest really brought the place to life when the team of the Blue Meanie and Goldust faced the New Age Outlaws. I was a massive Outlaws fan, I still consider them the most charismatic team ever assembled, no other team personified the Attitude Era the way the New Age Outlaws did. I remember the building in unison chanting "YOU FUCK DUSTIN!" in the direction of the Blue Meanie...this really was a different time. Meanie sold it brilliantly making thrusting motions then shaking his head in disagreement. The Outlaws won one of the most fun matches I have ever witnessed live.

With the place buzzing it was time for more DX as X-Pac faced D-Lo Brown. These two always had magical chemistry and this match was brilliant. X-Pac was hugely over as face, this is before the "X-Pac sucks!" chants started and the term "X-pac heat" existed. X-pac was a DX guy, and DX was the shit! X-pac came out the winner much to the delight of everyone in attendance. Ken Shamrock is a very intimidating figure. As he made his way to the ring, I was almost scared to boo him, being aisle side, I was extremely close to the action and Shamrock is one scary mofo, but not as scary as his opponent. The lights faded to black and the crowd simmered with anticipation, the familiar Organs filled the arena then BOOM! ITS KANE!!! You cannot appreciate the size of this man untill you have seen him in person, he is beyond huge! This was Kane at his peak, the Big Red Machine at his most intimidating. I don't remember too much about the match but I do remember coming off my seat when Kane flew through the air with his flying clothesline. I also remember someone in the crowd calling Shamrock "A Fucking Faggot!" such PC times were 1999. Triple H was once my hero, the leader of DX was my second favourite only compared to Austin, but not anymore, he had just turned his back on DX and joined the Corporation...MOTHERFUCKER!

I was throwing legit anger in his direction as him and Chyna made their way to the ring, how dare they turn on DX! Then, again the house lights went black....DONG! Oh your fucked now Triple H DONG! You know what that means! DONG...IT'S THE UNDERTAKER! Just writing about this and thinking back to this moment has literally given me goosebumps. This was something special, the atmosphere was beyond someting I can describe as the seven foot Undertaker made his way to the ring accompaniied by Paul Bearer. The Outlaws got a pop, but this topped that, the whole building rose for the Phenom. Again the match is blurry bar the finish when the Undertaker hit the Tombstone for the three.

You know I said you cannot appreciate the size of some of these men until you see them in person. The Big Show is that exact case. You cannot comprehend how big he actually he is until you are standing next to him. The Big Show would face the former Corporate Champion The Rock. It didn't take long for the match to break down and The Big Show won via DQ when Ken Shamrock hit The Big Show with a chair as he was about to deliver the chokeslam. It was time for the main event "ladies and gentleman the following contest is scheduled for one fall, and it is for the World Wrestling Federation championship". Just hearing those words sent chills down my spine. First was the challenger being accompanied by the Stooges, the Big Boss Man. I tended to hate all the heels as I should back then, but I always loved the Big Boss Man no matter what, he was just such a bad ass, the ultimate heel. I was pretty much alone cheering for him as he made his entrance. Then the wait, the silence as the anticipation grew, the man that was the leader of this era....SMASH! the sound of breaking glass. I can compare this ovation only to being at a football game and your team score. This was not a wrestling pop, this was something else, this was Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin hit all the key moves, the Lou Thesz press, the elbows, stomping a mud hole. It was all their, and I loved every single minute of it. Austin got the win with the Stunner, then delivered a few more for good measure to the Stooges. He then celebrated as only Stone Cold could, with some cold Stevewesiers with his buddy Earl Hebner.

Looking back on this has gave me a lot of very fond memories and feelings I had almost forgotten about, that is why I have written this as I viewed it that day rather than reflect on phycology or match quality, frankly, that shit didn't matter to me then. All that mattered was having fun and enjoying the wrestling, enjoying the experience of seeing the top Stars of that era do their thing. I wish the younger generation would remember to view wrestling like this sometimes, to stop picking it apart and over analysing every single action, remember it's for your entertainment, so remember to enjoy it. I got to see some the greatest wrestlers of all time in just one evening when many of them were at their peak. At 14 years old during the Attitude Era, I really was part of a lucky generation who could to witness how hot the attitude era really was and what it was like when wrestling was pop culture.