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Charles (Loss)

[1998-11-15-WWF-Survivor Series] Mankind vs The Rock

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Crowd is a little burned out by this point and has seen each of these guys many times already in the evening. One-night tournaments take a certain type of booking and certain types of talent to pull off in a way where heat can be sustained all night, and as much as I enjoy the WWF at this point, this isn't the crew or the booking to do it. I'm reminded of Mick's book where he talked about how he was drawing blanks on what to do in this match and knew it was tanking, and that it was entirely his fault. It did get much better after a really rough start, but the first few minutes were a bust. Mankind works most of this as the de facto heel and Rock as the babyface, and the dynamic works really well. I was really impressed by how they ended up getting the crowd hot after being so BAD early on.

 

And of course we get the legendary swerve finish where Rock applies the sharpshooter and Vince demands the bell be rung so Rock can win the title. Shane raises his hand and the WWF is obviously going to give us the Rock babyface run we want, but they are going to get everything they can out of him as a heel first. That's the kind of patience I can't imagine them having these days, but honestly, I'm not sure it would work in the context of a wrestling promotion fans don't trust to do the right thing. The WWF had that trust and it was easier to book long-term. Vince does a scorched earth promo on Foley after the match and explains some of their master plan, but says he'll get into it more on RAW.

 

Mankind wants an explanation and eats a Rock Bottom for his troubles. Austin shows up and the Wrestlemania build is already in effect, with Rock eating a stunner and getting thrown out of the ring. Mankind ends up eating a stunner as a receipt for his earlier actions too. This was some really good short-term and long-term booking, tired Montreal reference be damned.

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Conversly to the Austin vs. Mick match, this was worse as a match than I remembered. I was kind of saddened to see Rock take a more plodding and brawling style after showing some good technical work the past few months. Mick works the crowd over by bumping like a loon including a nasty one from an elbow drop on top of the announce table. The finish is great of course and Russos shining moment. **1/4

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They end up somewhere around "decent" after a terrible start, one that's already been written about here and in Mick's book. But the finishing stretch is pretty hot and the screwjob recreation is pretty glorious--this was the first time Montreal had been recreated in its almost-entire form, and it still feels kind of fresh. This was a pretty great swerve that can go in a number of different directions as we build toward WM--Rock now has a readymade program with the sympathetic Mick, while it's clear that Austin is going to have to scratch and claw his way into getting a title shot again.

 

JR has one of his best calls ever, as he gets over Mankind throughout the match as a sympathetic, confused figure while not once telegraphing the impending double-turn (you hear that, Joey Styles?). All in all, a PPV that definitely is greater than the sum of its parts. And, just maybe, the last great WWF show for awhile, as Russo & co. would learn the wrong lessons from this event.

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Enjoyed Foley's leg drop on the table. It catches Rocky in an odd but still damaging way. Made it look more like real contest rather than a spot. Same goes with the ring steps and chair spot. Like, "damn Rock's trying to end this thing!"

 

This was a fun match and a good feud starter. Ending is kinda befuddling to the crowd...and even to me on the rewatch. The 'Screwjob' reference doesn't come off that well.

 

It seems like Vince & co. realize they need to go out of their way to explain it...even enough to say in essence, "Watch Raw tomorrow for a logical and clip aided explanation... We're just rambling right now."

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