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Gimmick Some Lovin': Last Man Standing

Kane isn't exactly explaining his renewed focus on quality education to Chris Jericho here
Kane isn't exactly explaining his renewed focus on quality education to Chris Jericho here

In each edition of Gimmick Some Lovin', we take a look at one iteration of a gimmick match available on the WWE Network. Some are iconic for their success, others for the extent to which they flopped, and some just... happened.

We defined a "gimmick match" as, in any way, adding a rule/stipulation to or removing a rule from a match, changing the physical environment of a match, changing the conditions which define a "win", or in any way moving past the simple requirement of two men/women/teams whose contest must end via a single pinfall, submission, count out, or disqualification.

Because Tuesday, November 7th is the date when voters across the United States will participate in state and federal elections, we'll take a look at another WWE performer attempting to leverage his fame into a political career (because what's the worst that could happen there?).

Though not on this week's ballot, in the spring, voters in Knox County, Tennessee will decide whether Glenn Jacobs, known for the past 20 years to fans of fake fighting as the Devil's Favorite Demon himself Kane, will become their next mayor; in honor of that fact, we'll be taking a look at his December 10, 2000, Last Man Standing match versus a man whose name has been on the lips and fingertips of wrestling enthusiasts worldwide this week, Chris Jericho.


Requiem for 2000 WWF

Pictured: the onscreen pairing which would one day lead to matches like Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura being promoted inside a ring owned by Vince McMahon.
Pictured: the onscreen pairing which would one day lead to matches like Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura being promoted inside a ring owned by Vince McMahon

Before getting into the specifics of this feud, this match, and this event, let's take a moment to appreciate the quality of the World Wrestling Federation's physical competition at the dawn of the new millennium.

It's a year whose pay-per-view action is sandwiched between the January's Royal Rumble (whose WWF Championship Street Fight and Tag Team Tables Match are surefire future entries for this feature) and December's Armageddon, the home of today's match as well as the six man Hell in a Cell Match for the WWF's top prize.

As discussed in our last feature on WCW's eight-minute parade of juvenile humour and ill-prepared props, the year 2000 found the McMahon family all but completing their rout of their southern rivals largely due to the quality of the wrestling itself.

Fortunes began to swing in 1998 with the ascension of Steve Austin to the company's marquee performer, and Austin's continued defiance of his evil boss throughout 1999 just widened the growing gap between the competing companies' ownership of professional wrestling on cable television.

In November of 1999, however, the unthinkable happened: in storyline, Austin was run down by a renegade driver in the garage of the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. But, in reality, Austin was finally taking time off to heal a litany of injuries accrued over his rise to the top of the World Wrestling Federation, primarily lingering issues from an errant Owen Hart piledriver breaking Austin's neck in August of 1997.

For two and a half years, the World Wrestling Federation was synonymous with Stone Cold Steve Austin but, for the first time since his debut, the Rattlesnake could not carry the company's television programming.

The Undertaker, meanwhile, tore his pectoral muscle in late 1999, forcing him to stay home for the longest stretch of time since his seven-month 1994 hiatus, from the 1994 Royal Rumble until that year's SummerSlam contest against his evil doppelganger.

It was a power vacuum at the top not unlike the early-to-mid-1990s, when heroes like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash departed Stamford for the grander guaranteed paychecks offered by Eric Bischoff.

That era promised a "New Generation" of superstars to fill the void, but the company delivered little on that promised; the year 2000, however, more than made up for their missing main eventers with younger talent ready to innovate at all costs. Triple H cemented his main event status early and often, while younger talent like Matt and Jeff Hardy, Edge, Christian, and a bevvy of WCW refugees redefined the mid- and undercard.

Break the Walls Down

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Debuting onAugust 9, 1999, Monday Night Raw, Chris Jericho followed up on months of "Countdown to the Millennium" television spots by interrupting The Rock in one of that summer's most memorable segments. Jericho floundered for much of the rest of the year, with allegations that he worked too stiff and could not adjust to "WWF style" giving Y2J enough backstage heat to keep his star from rising.

A promising Intercontinental Title feud with Chyna, though, rebuilt the reputation of the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla, and Jericho managed to pin WWF Champion Triple H for the belt on the April 17, 2000 Raw. But the title was returned to Helmsley in a classic "Dusty finish" later on in the program (Jericho asserts in one of his autobiographies that this night was Vince McMahon's guarantee that Jericho would one day win the big one for real).

Y2J spent a good portion of the summer feuding with Chris Benoit, a program which would continue off an on into 2001 and which would produce some the year's most tremendous displays of technical wrestling.

It's not about coffee

The feud which leads to this match stems from an incident where Chris Jericho, excited over the newest CD from some band called Fozzy (I doubt they'll go very far), bumped into Kane and spilt his coffee all over the Big Red Machine.

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I can guarantee that, were this to happen on the campaign trail, Glenn Jacobs would most likely be more than gracious; rather than a beating, the worst one could probably worry about in that confrontation would be a lecture on the virtues of limited government. This, however, was not the campaign trail, and rather than his best everyman blazer, Kane was wearing a mesh tank top from the back of every Gadzook's store in every mall in America.

Telling Jericho he had no idea what it felt like to be burned, Kane made a total fiscal overhaul of the nearest catering table, sending drinks and cups flying in what's probably a metaphor for government waste.

Kane would later elaborate that, no, spilled coffee was not the reason he would like to mangle Jericho at Armageddon; rather, it was Kane's hatred for Jericho's good looks, charisma, blond locks, popularity, band (to be fair, "Judas" was another 17 years away, so maybe Kane had a point), and fundamental misunderstanding of the ins and outs of the Austrian economic system.

The Rules

Thanks to my three year-old's obsession with Frozen, I can't help but notice how much Chris Jericho in late 2000/early 2001 looks like Hans.
Thanks to my three year old's obsession with Frozen, I can't help but notice how much Chris Jericho in late 2000/early 2001 looks like Hans

The rules of a Last Man Standing Match are as follows: two superstars battle until one man is knocked down and unable to return to his feet before the referee counts to ten.

Think boxing, but with superstars having the ability to use any environment, item, ally, or ideological point about the virtues of Libertarianism to his advantage in putting his opponent down for the count.

The Match

Kane takes initiative to settle a debate over county infrastructure with a gorilla press slam to the outside.
Kane takes initiative to settle a debate over county infrastructure with a gorilla press slam to the outside.

There's a lot about this match that really works, and the only thing that doesn't really work is that those elements are not taken far enough.

Kane is at his best when he is an absolute monster, a literal horror movie villain needing to be overcome at all costs. He's definitely that in parts of this match; think Michael Meyers with a Crossfit membership.

Jericho, meanwhile, thrives on being flashy, arrogant, and bumping around like a pinball for bigger guys, which Kane happily obliges multiple times (like with a brutal chokeslam during the match's in-ring portion or the above throw to the floor).

The brutality, however, never approaches a level that befits the match. It's fun, and it's entertaining, and it's well-wrestled, but it really doesn't approach the level of intensity one would expect from a Last Man Standing Match.

After calmly chiding Mideon (with their fists) for interrupting a spirited debate on the estate tax, Jericho and Kane resume brawling backstage near a truck full of mulch and hay which made perfect sense to be at a wrestling show and which would in no way affect the rest of the evening.
Before calmly chiding Mideon (with their fists) for interrupting a spirited debate on the estate tax, Jericho and Kane brawl backstage near a truck full of mulch and hay

Kane presses the "A" button on his XBox controller to interrupt Jericho's entrance, and the two immediately brawl to the back; Kane attempts some great Jason Voorhes-style murder by trying to lob a wheeled trunk at Jericho's head, then later following it up with a vicious shovel swing, both of which Jericho narrowly avoids.

The match progresses back to the ring, where the bulk of the action takes place, and it's where most of my criticisms lie: after the (admittedly, very fun) backstage action, which included both men attacking Mideon for the high crime of standing around while two people are trying to fight, this becomes almost a regular match.

A well-wrestled, well-paced, enjoyable match, but a very standard match nonetheless. Kane methodically attempts to destroy Jericho using every wrestling move in his arsenal, while Jericho flies around the ring either as a result of his opponent's fury or as a series of last-ditch attempts to gain control of the match.

However, this is where a better feud would have served the match well. A Last Man Standing contest is typically presented as the "nuclear option" for a feud: these two men have clashed so often, and so violently, that the only thing left for them to do is to brutalize each other until one man is unable to stand.

This match (as we see a lot in the modern era of WWE) needed a better feud to justify the stipulation, and seems to exist only to have another unorthodox contest on the card.

Jericho and Kane had a fine wrestling match, but it wasn't a particularly good fight, which is what was needed here. If the company had leaned better either toward a standard wrestling match (which the two were doing an above-average job of presenting) or the pure chaos that we'd see later on in the show's main event (which is typical of these hardcore brawls), the match would have improved significantly. As it stands, the match is just good in a year of great-to-stellar wrestling.

The finish comes when the two men brawl through the abandoned cars parked near the entranceway (which I suppose represent the end of the world named by the show's title and which I'm sure Jericho got a great deal on with the TrueCar app); the pair wind up on a platform overlooking a table just behind the entrance set.

Kane attempts to chokeslam Jericho off the platform and into the table, but Jericho reverses into a slow and weak-looking version of the one-handed facebuster he uses to set up the Lionsault.

When this is the source of your hatred, I'm sure it's difficult to come up with a more forceful battle.
When this is the source of your hatred, I'm sure it's difficult to come up with a more forceful battle.

When referee Teddy Long begins his count, Jericho notices Kane beginning to stir, so he rocks a decorative stack of barrels until it collapses "onto" Kane (but, in reality, leans against the barricade that separates the front row of the lower bowl from the arena floor and just makes Kane a nice little lean-to where he can write his next campaign speech).

A cool little touch that's easy to miss is Kane's hand coming up from between the barrels (suggesting that he was able to continue the match), which Long doesn't notice (holla) and which Jericho stomps back so that the count can continue.

It's a good bit of continuity of the fact that Jericho, even as a babyface, is kind of a jerk, and walks a very fine heel-face line (with, really, the target of his obnoxious and self-serving actions determining his alignment more than those actions themselves).

My Rating

From earlier in 2000, a spot (and a feud) far more befitting this match stipulation.
From earlier in 2000, a spot (and a feud) far more befitting this match stipulation.

I liked this match, but it wasn't the match I wanted. It furthered the WWF's ability in 2000 to put on competitive and athletic contests which provided a lot of ooh's and ahh's, and it had its fair share of pro wrestling contrivances to make it fun (like Jericho's Lionsault onto Kane with a steel chair sandwiched in between the two men).

However, this wasn't a good Last Man Standing Match. The image above comes from Jericho's Last Man Standing Match versus Triple H from July of 2000, and just a glance at that scene shows what a match with this gimmick should look like.

Including the table and barrel spot at the finish, there was very little hardcore brawling to this one; we had the attempted murder spots at the start, and, only after a methodical submission doesn't put Jericho down like Kane had hoped, a few chair spots in the ring, but that's it.

The match is a lot like Jacobs's political career: it makes more sense than it probably should, and works pretty well on some levels, but it's still a head-scratcher as to how and why it came to be in the first place.

As far as feuds go, starting with spilled coffee and adding in some simmering resentment after the fact is only a slightly better genesis than subtweets and Twitter beefs (in the case of Jericho's newest feud, though, good sense and good booking says that New Japan will let a standard one-fall contest settle those differences).

Because it was enjoyable enough, but didn't live up to the stipulation it was given, my rating for this match is the definition of damnation by faint praise: 6/10

Meltzer Says

Meltzer gives this one two stars, which means he's probably saving the other 4.25 for Jericho's Wrestle Kingdom debut.

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Edited by Nishant Jayaram
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