Gimmick Some Lovin': No Disqualification Match
A look back at The Night the Channel Changed and the most famous spoiler in professional wrestling history.
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.
Tuesday, November 7, 2017, the WWE presented Smackdown Live from Manchester, England, although the "Live" part of that title wasn't exactly the case for viewers in the United States. Many of those US viewers were a little less than pleased that the company decided to promote a spoiler on all of its official social media platforms (as well as push notifications on its official app) that a "major title change" had occurred in the UK (which turned out to be AJ Styles regaining the WWE Championship from Jinder Mahal, the only title bout announced in advance for the show).
Today, we'll take a look back at another time the company's top prize changed hands on a show that didn't air 100% live, with the results spoiled for fans before the change occurred. This time, however, it was rival promotion World Championship Wrestling doing the spoiling of the finish to Mankind vs. The Rock in a No Disqualification Match in the main event of the January 4, 1999 edition of Monday Night Raw.
According to preliminary ratings, Tuesday's spoiler might have had the same effect as the spoiler for this match almost 19 years ago, as Smackdown rebounded with its largest television audience in nearly two months (and one of its ten best of 2017).
A Deadly Game
Mick Foley, in his persona as Mankind, had spent the summer and fall of 1998 trying his hardest to please and impress Vince McMahon and his faction, The Corporation. Foley used everything in his arsenal, including clowns, viciously attacking Corporation foes, balloons, chair shots, cake, getting absolutely annihilated in violent contests against multiple opponents, dressing in ratty dress shirts and ties, and even sock puppets to try to please his boss. McMahon, for his part, did make Foley a singles champion for the first time, with Mankind becoming the first ever Hardcore Champion.
When a "Deadly Game" tournament was announced for the 1998 Survivor Series to crown a new holder of the vacant World Wrestling Federation Championship (the belt having been vacated due to Steve Austin's nagging injuries and/or massive storyline contrivances), the implication was that McMahon was grooming the Hardcore Legend for his first WWF Championship.
The other performer with the most storyline focus heading into the tournament was The Rock, who had slowly been building a babyface turn through the summer of 1998 as his expressions, moveset, and, especially, catchphrases began catching on with audiences nationwide, and boos gradually dissolved into cheers. The face turn was official as September wore into October, and the Corporation entered Deadly Game vowing two things:
- The group would do everything in its power to keep The People's Champion away from the belt.
- There would be a repeat of the previous year's main event controversy.
In an instant double turn for both men, the second of those predictions came true in the finals of the tournament as The Rock placed Foley a weak and sloppy-looking Sharpshooter, with McMahon immediately ordering for the bell to be rung, in an exact duplicate of the improvised finish to the previous year's Survivor Series title bout in Montreal. Mankind had been rejected by his Corporate pals, and The Rock was the new face of the company.
If the show had ended there, it would have been a classic shocker ending but, in a repeat of the era when "Hogan must pose" to close out every show, Austin interrupted Rock's title celebration to basically delegitimize the new champ and lay waste to the Corporation.
While Austin had to fight to regain his right to challenge for the title he never lost, Rock moved into his first feud as the titleholder against the man who has screwed out of the belt: Mankind.