Vince Russo really is a polarizing figure, isn’t he?

Some people like his goofy demeanor on the Internet, others completely hate him for what he’s done to the wrestling business. For what it’s worth, he was one of the many people who ushered in the new Attitude era when it came along in 1998.

Russo booked a million things to happen at once, it fit the time period but the big question is why was Russo’s WWE run so successful while his WCW run was such a mess?  My theory: because of the guys in the angles — in this case The Rock, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Mankind and Vince McMahon. If you take any of those guys away from WrestleMania XV, this show was completely awful and lacking any kind of star power. Put them in and it works enough that people get interested.

When Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara jumped ship to WCW later, in 1999, they did not have these three people in question. They had some great talent in WCW, yes, but even those people paled in comparison to just how hot Austin and Rock were at the time. You could put either of the two in any kind of horrible situation and it might work out because of the talent involved. If you put Billy Kidman and Booker T in there, well, it probably wasn’t going to be as effective.

WrestleMania XV is the culmination of every Russoism that ever existed: tag teams arguing, women wearing barely anything, lots of non finishes and everything happening at the same time. It’s all here, represented fully well. Anyone should be able to spot them out; after all, we’ve been seeing them for 12 years in another promotion we all know very well.

Boyz 2 Men opened the show with their rendition of America the Beautiful. They went acapella and it was awesome.

A GREAT WrestleMania intro video was shown, narrated by Classy Freddie Blassie.

WWE Hardcore Championship – Bad Ass Billy Gunn vs. Hardcore Holly vs. Al Snow: They used every weapon imaginable, including an icebox of soda and stuff. That had to feel refreshing though, especially under the lights — I wonder why more people never used that spot. Lots of back and forth mindless brawling. Billy Gunn hits the Fameasser on a chair but Hardcore Holly pulls Billy Gunn out and pins Al Snow, just like that, to win the title. **

WWE Tag Team Championship – Test and D’Lo Brown vs. Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett (c). Earlier on Sunday Night Heat, Test and D’Lo won a battle royal that made them partners. Test came to the ring and they ARGUED because no tag team can ever be buddy-buddy here. My word, Debra’s outfit — this was the first time in forever that I wished the Attitude Era were back. Test complains while D’Lo gets worked on by the champions. I would say heels, but neither team is likeable here. I have no idea what this finish was. Debra and Ivory argued as Test joined them. Then D’Lo went for the Sky High, but Owen Hart dropkicked him and Jarrett bridged him to retain the titles. *

More ARGUING after the match. What a wretched segment.

Bart Gunn promo. No, seriously. He’s cutting a promo on Butterbean. His training partners all say that Bart will win it. Sure.

They show Isaac Hayes in the crowd. But more importantly, the MEAN STREET POSSE are in the crowd as well. Kevin Rooney, a sadly frail-looking Gorilla Monsoon and Chuck Wepner are the judges for this upcoming contest (?).

BRAWL FOR ALL – Bart Gunn vs. Butterbean. Bart Gunn gets knocked down extremely early. He gets back up but gets KNOCKED THE FUCK OUT at the twenty three second mark. I mean, his head wobbled back and forth from the impact. NASTY. There is a reason there was never, ever another Brawl for All.

The San Diego Chicken (?) comes to the ring and he and Vinny Pazienza go at it mockingly. This is a tease for later.

Earlier on Heat, Big Show and Mankind brawled while Stone Cold arrived. A lot of things going on, another telltale sign you know who is booking this.

Mankind interview. Doesn’t say much.

The Big Show vs. Mankind: Finkel’s introductions sound edited for some reason. They mostly just brawled around. Mandible Claw attempt but Show refuses to submit or fall, even after a low blow. Big Show powers out and slams him from his back down to the mat. Big Show then chokeslams Mankind into two open chairs for a DQ. That was smart. DUD

Vince McMahon comes to the ring, mad after Paul Wight DQ’d himself. He acts like he’s about to chokeslam him after yelling at him, but instead opts not to as Vince berates him more. Big Show then punches him out to a big ovation, one that he wishes he could get in 2015.

Backstage, Vince is mad and tells the stooges to call the cops on Big Show.

WWE Intercontinental Championship Fatal Four-Way – Road Dogg (c) vs. Val Venis vs. Ken Shamrock vs. Goldust: Val’s double entendre for the evening: even this belt won’t keep the Big Valbowski’s pants on. The story of this match is that Ken is pissed that Goldust is with his sister Ryan. The Blue Meanie is also here, and he has a weird relationship with Goldust as well. For some reason this match requires tags. They did a lot of moves. All four were in at one point and left Goldust and Val down with DDTs. Dogg hits the pumphandle slam but Ken Shamrock tags himself in and locks in the ankle lock, but Val manages to get to the ropes. Ken goes on the outside and this is a great time for Ryan to come over and yell at him because, well, I dunno. Shamrock and Val Venis then get counted out as they brawl around the ring. That was dumb. I don’t get the rules of this match. A fatal four way elimination match. With tags. Ryan then grabs Goldust’s leg because, well I dunno, then Road Dogg counters a powerslam into a sloppy rollup for the pinfall. Too confusing at times but the action was kind of decent. *3/4

The story is I guess Ryan grabbed the wrong leg by accident. Oops. Goldust sends her packing as Goldust pats Blue Meanie on the head and they hug. Lovely.

The Big Show is put in handcuffs and is escorted out the building.

Kane vs. Triple H: Apparently this feud is because Kane fired a bazooka and fire accidentally hit Chyna in the eye, then Triple H, dressed as Goldust, fired a bazooka at Kane and scorched the exposed areas of his body. Yeah, it’s pretty weird out of context. The chicken, who we saw earlier, attacks Kane, but as it turns out, it’s Pete Rose out for revenge! It doesn’t last long as he meets the same fate as last year. The DX music plays, but Triple H comes from behind and low blows him to get the heat immediately. Kane responds with a big boot and knocks Triple H into the Mean Street Posse who throw him back in. Kane has the heat forever and ever. Michael Cole says Kane can do anything despite being seven feet tall. All I’ve seen him do is punches and kicks, dude. Well, OK, he did do a sloppy looking plancha right before Cole said that, but still. Chyna, who looked completely different then she did when she got burned (three, well, two guesses why), comes to the ring and slides the steel stairs in. Kane goes to use them, but Triple H blocks them while the referee just stands there. Triple H drop toe holds Kane into the steel stairs. He goes to pedigree him into the other steel steps on the outside, but Kane responds with a back body drop. Kane lands a chokeslam, but Chyna motions over to him and tells him she’ll take care of it. So like a dope, with his back turned, Chyna turned on him, whacking him with the steel chair. THIS is a DQ. Lame lame lame. **1/2

Triple H and Chyna leave Kane laying as the DX music plays. DX will last forever, guys!

Kevin Kelly interviews Vince McMahon on who could be the guest referee for tonight since both Big Show and Mankind are out. Vince says in his athletic bag he has the best looking referee shirt ever, so he’ll be the referee. Uh oh!

WWE Women’s Championship – Sable (c) vs.Tori: Speaking of uh oh. Maybe I’m just weird, but I thought Tori looked way more attractive here than Sable, who was apparently, like, the biggest star next to Austin and Rock at the time. Sable was on offense which included shoving Tori into the ropes and posing. Tori then went into control and they brawled around the ring. Sable then went for a crossbody off the apron that completely missed. Tori comes back with a clothesline that completely missed. Tori goes for a sunset flip cover but Sable kicks out and very slowly counters it for another nearfall. Tori then tries to bridge out of this but it COMPLETELY FAILS and they both wind up just just falling to the floor. Ref bump. Sable goes for the Sable Bomb as Nicole Bass appears at ringside, I think too early for her cue. Tori reverses, horribly, then tries to go for the finish but Tori is attacked by Nicole as she’s press slammed. Sable then hits the Sable Bomb and pins her. Not as horrible as I remember, and granted they TRIED as I never would have imagined Sable trying a crossbody ever, but this was still terrible. -*

WWE European Championship – X-Pac vs. Shane McMahon ©: Shane comes out with Test AND has Patterson and Brisco jump X-Pac as he makes his entrance, but X-Pac takes care of himself easily as and lays out Shane only for Test to pull him to safety. Test lays X-Pac out with a crotch ring post shot (ouch) as Shane goes for the corporate elbow but X-Pac gets up, only to get low blowed and get whipped by the belt. You get the pattern here. Test, Mean Street Posse, everyone is interfering on Shane’s behalf. Test finally misses a boot and X-Pac whips Shane with the belt and gives him a bronco buster. Michael Cole had the audacity to say “that’s illegal” when Shane McMahon had his foot on X-Pacs throat. AFTER ALL OF THIS INTERFERENCE, this is the part where he questions the legality of things around here. I didn’t even realize it was a straight up singles match until now. X-Pac lays out Shane with the X-Factor but Triple H comes in and, thanks to Chyna’s distraction, lays out X-Pac with the pedigree and puts Shane over X-Pac to retain the championship. Overbooked Vince Russo match. 3/4*

Triple H puts the beatdown on X-Pac as the New Age Outlaws try to even things up, but it’s no use until Kane makes his way to the ring and chases them away. So Kane has left the corporation after Chyna left, but joined back. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING ON. Vince Russo booking.

Video package highlighting the feud between The Big Bossman and The Undertaker. Mainly, it’s just a backdrop to the feud between Undertaker and Vince McMahon, including the time Vince cried over a teddy bear and the time a burning Undertaker symbol was put in his lawn. You’d think this would lead to a Vince/Undertaker match, but nope. It’s THE BOSSMAN.

Hell in a Cell – The Big Bossman vs. The Undertaker: They proceed to have a back and forth match. Cole noted how this match was so dangerous, someone could get a finger stuck in the cage. OH MAN, THE HORROR. Bossman beats up Undertaker with the nightstick. Undertaker comes back and destroys the Big Bossman, including throwing him head first into the cage. Undertaker went for his rope walk but Bossman crotch shots him then shoves him into the cage. They slug it out, but Undertaker low blows him. Bossman avoids a Tombstone, but Undertaker gets it on a second attempt and pins him. This was not the greatest Hell in a Cell match of all time. *

Suddenly, from the rafters, The Brood arrive and shove a rope into the cage within Undertaker’s reach. They then proceed to hang the Big Bossman. He had a harness on underneath his outfit so he wasn’t “really” hanged, but this was still pretty stupid.

They aired footage from the WrestleMania Rage Party from the previous night. It looked totally cool. No, really. Isaac Hayes performed. So you KNOW it had to be cool.

JR came out to do commentary for the main event, making a return after suffering from another bout of Bell’s palsy in late 1998.

WWE Championship – The Rock (c) vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin: Vince McMahon is the special guest referee. OR IS HE? Suddenly, Shawn Michaels comes out wearing a suit like he’s on the set of Miami Vice. He says only one man can appoint a referee at WrestleMania, it’s him, the commissioner! He sends Vince packing and bars the Corporation from ringside. The Rock, current WWE champion, comes out first because, you know, Hogan. Or Austin, in this situation. This match, of course, had lots of BRAWLING. They brawled around the ring. Then into the crowd. Then around the ring and around the arena some more. This is one Russoism that isn’t heavily emphasized, but now that I’m thinking about it there’s been lots of brawling on TNA Impact in recent years. Rock back body drops Austin and his leg gets slammed on a stage light. Rock suplexes Austin on the stage and gets the heat momentarily before Austin counters and jumps off the barricade, slamming his elbow into the chest of the Rock and crashing through the table. Rock comes back out of nowhere with a Rock Bottom, but Austin kicked out. Austin grabs a chair and goes to strike The Rock with it but hits the ref instead. Another referee comes in and counts when Austin has a cover, but Rock kicks out. Rock pins Austin for a two count and, enraged, lays out this referee. Yes, two ref bumps. Austin hits a stunner (that Rock sells fantastically) which causes another referee to come in and count a nearfall.

Vince McMahon comes out at this point, which distracts Austin and allows the Rock to low blow him. Vince McMahon comes into the ring and slugs the referee, then stomps over Austin. Then, suddenly, MANKIND comes back, who I think was the original referee in this match. The Rock gets angry. We have actual action now. Another Rock Bottom, then follows with the People’s Elbow but Austin ducks and tries for a stunner, only for Rock to counter with another Rock Bottom attempt. Austin blocks it with elbows and hits another stunner for the pinfall. Overbooked garbage match for sure, but it was a decent one. **1/4

Austin celebrated his title win with a beer bath and Vince McMahon looking sad as he started to leave. But wait. Vince McMahon is still there, now angry. Austin smacks him, throws him into the ring and stuns him to a huge pop. He then pours beer all over him and holds the championship as the show goes off the air.

Final Thoughts:

Not a good show at all. Lots of bad finishes and angles throughout the show. Austin did win the title, and people were totally into him, so at the very least it worked in that regard. Looking at it in 2015, though, it’s a pretty bad show with a lot of unexplained silly stuff. Things would be better next year, but instead of Russo, we have McMahon. A lot of McMahons. Too many of them, in all honesty.