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By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Steve Austin © vs Mankind vs Triple H 8/22/99
WWF World Heavyweight Title Match
Unlike the real life infidelities and petty animosities that had sparked problems in the previous feuds, angles and matches, it was the world of politics that caused problems for the WWF at Summerslam 1999. With Jesse Ventura riding high as the governor of Minnesota and the show taking place in Minneapolis, Vince McMahon saw an opportunity to get some media attention by bringing Ventura in as the guest referee for the main event. With Steve Austin the reigning champion, but Triple H number one contender and in a position to be elevated to the top of the card, things seemed fairly self-explanatory: Triple H would defeat Austin for the title.
However, with Ventura already getting stick from the mainstream media for getting involved in the pay-per-view – an issue he addressed in a pre-match promo in which he said he was always proud to be a wrestler – Ventura decided that it wouldn’t look good for him to be seen to be awarding the title to a heel champion. Ventura wanted a feel good moment to be attached to his involvement in the match. Thus, a convoluted sequence of matches on the Raw before Summerslam would see the number one contender spot go from Chyna of all people, to Mankind and then end up being jointly held as a double pin between Mankind and Triple H left them both with claims to the title shot.
Mankind’s introduction into the match was for one reason and one reason only: to allow Austin to drop the title to a face wrestler rather than Triple H. With Ventura in the ring giving instructions to Triple H and Mankind, whilst also warning Chyna that he wanted no trouble from her, Austin’s music would hit and the crowd went crazy. The match would begin before the bell even officially rang as all three wrestlers ended up brawling around the ring. Initially, it would be Triple H that would be double teamed by the two faces as he bounced from right hand to right hand in a pleasing visual for the audience in attendance. However, a decision to hug Austin seemed misguided from Mankind and he would get a right hand of his own for his trouble.
The triple threat nature of the contest meant that the pace never slackened as the high intensity brawling continued outside the ring. Chyna would jump Mankind and send him into the ringpost; the resulting distraction of Ventura allowed Triple H to smash Austin’s knee with a chair. After some pantomime refereeing where Ventura would ask the crowd for their response, Mankind and Triple H picked up where Austin had left off. A pre-Socko mandible claw saw Chyna once more interject by tripping and crotching Mankind against the ringpost, leading to Ventura ejecting her from ringside to a rapturous reception.
The knee continued to be the target for Triple H against Austin as he used the ringpost to continue the assault. A surprising alliance between Mankind and Triple H would see multiple boots put to the champion and a double clothesline, only for things to fall apart the second Mankind went for a pinfall. Mankind’s trademark clothesline would take both men over the top rope, before Triple H moved to the side to avoid a cannonball senton off the apron that saw Mankind crash and burn hard on the floor.
No Attitude Era main event would be complete without some brawling in the crowd and the three would oblige, with Mankind taking a further nasty bump on an Austin back body drop. As the fight returned to the ring, Austin would hit Mankind with the Stunner, only for Triple H to bring a chair in to waffle both the champion and Mankind. The resulting pinfall would see Ventura refusing to count, even threatening to punch Triple H. Instead, an arguing Shane McMahon would get hit with a Stunner before Ventura pitched McMahon over the top rope with some strong parting words for the ‘bastard’.
Another Stunner would see the pinfall on Triple H broken up by Mankind, before a Pedigree on Austin led to Mankind knocking Triple H away and executing the double arm DDT for the three count and the victory. The crowd seemed almost delayed in their reactions, not expecting Mankind to pick up the victory at all. Still, Ventura had got his moment that helped to legitimise the reason he came back, whilst Mankind’s title reign lasted all of a day. With Triple H as champion the plan all along, he would defeat Mankind the next night on Raw. Vince McMahon always gets what McMahon wants in the long run.