There are all kinds of problems in WWE today and one of the biggest is that the company does not seem to keep things interesting. This is the case for more than one reason, ranging from stories taking too long to move forward as well as wrestlers losing so often that it is hard to make them feel like stars. These are problems that can be solved, and there is one match that gives you a brief blueprint to solve more than one of them at the same time.

Flash back with me to the Attitude Era, which may or may not be everyone’s cup of tea. There are parts of it that are remembered very badly while other elements were quite good in a lot of ways. One of the best things was the wide variety of memorable characters, as almost everyone had at least a little something going on. You can debate the merits of that, but this week we are looking at one match in particular on a pretty important episode of Monday Night Raw.

The August 23, 1999 episode of Monday Night Raw was the post-Summerslam edition and featured Mankind’s first appearance as the new WWF Champion. He would lose the title later in the night to Triple H in a surprise title match, giving Triple the first of his (many) World Title runs. In addition, the show featured the debuts of Miss Kitty (later the Kat) and Lilian Garcia in her first night as the show’s ring announcer. You also had Mark Henry being awarded the European Title, Test proposing to Stephanie McMahon and Howard Finkel doing an Ultimate Warrior impression (in sweats), but there is a specific match that caught my eye.

During the show, the Rock defeated Gangrel in a match that lasted 4:33. As you might have expected, the Rock dominated most of the match and ultimately won with the Rock Bottom and the People’s Elbow. Gangrel lost despite interference from the New Brood (who you probably know better as the Hardys), who were canceled out by Christian and Edge (who you probably know better than Edge and Christian). As simple as it sounds (and it was), this was is a fine example of how to use television time to benefit everyone involved without causing any problems.

Let’s look at what everyone involved did here. We’ll start with the Rock, who was rapidly charging up the ranks in the company and would ultimately become the undisputed top face when Steve Austin went out for neck surgery a few months later. This match got Rock on television and gave him a win. Yes it’s a win over Gangrel, but it’s still a victory and gives the fans a reason to see what he is doing. That alone is the right idea, as it’s better than not having him on the show at all. Rock would be back for commentary in the main event, but he had his own moment here, even if it was a short one.

Then there is Gangrel, who was in one of the biggest matches of his career. Yes, Gangrel had higher profile matches than this and had a bigger feud with Edge, but it’s not like Gangrel is some kind of a household name. Gangrel was a guy with one of the coolest entrances/entrance themes of all time but ultimately he was just a weird guy who might have been a vampire. The only thing that Gangrel lost here was a match to a multiple time WWF Champion, as he didn’t exactly have a lot of status to drop in the first place. He did have some lackeys though and that gives him at least a bit of status.

Speaking of those lackeys, they were involved a bit too, with the Hardys getting into their fight with Edge and Christian (shocking I know) to keep their deal going. While it might not seem like much, these guys were about two months away from their first ladder match, which would change not only their careers, but a lot of tag team wrestling for the next several years. Throw in a team called the Dudley Boyz showing up very soon and this was another piece of the groundwork of what was to come.

You do all this for six people in a grand total of 273 seconds from bell to bell. While you could drop the Edge and Christian/Hardys stuff, you still have an incredibly efficient match between Gangrel and Rock. This match didn’t harm anyone but did a few things right, some of which are a little more subtle than the rest, and that is the stuff we’re going to look at here.

First of all, no one was hurt by this. Rock got a win he should have gotten and Gangrel lost a match he shouldn’t have won. No one is going to think less of Rock for beating Gangrel and no one is going to think less of Gangrel for losing to the Rock. There is no problem of having one rising star take a hit and none of the dreaded 50/50 booking. The big star got a small boost from the lower star, who suffered no damage from the loss. That is efficient booking and matchmaking and the kind of thing that modern WWE could certainly use more of in the future.

The other aspect here that seems completely foreign today is that this was mostly a cold match. By that I mean there was no big story here and it wasn’t part of some major feud. Instead, this was Rock facing Gangrel in a random match which wasn’t going to start anything and didn’t continue a feud. Rock wasn’t feuding with Gangrel and the New Brood and no one Rock was dealing with at the time interfered. It started and ended here between these two and that’s a good thing.

As a bonus, there was even a Rock story included. Around this time, Rock was getting fed up with wrestling lower level names, including people like Billy Gunn at Summerslam and Gangrel on this episode of Monday Night Raw. That is the kind of thing that might not seem like much on the surface, but it was a great way to use someone like Gangrel to enhance a story that is much more important.

This is where WWE tends to fall apart these days. It seems that the company cannot have a match without having something going on long term. That can work well for a bit, but sometimes it can be nice to just take a little breather. Not every match needs to have some big, deep meaning and it can be a good idea to slow things down a bit. There is nothing wrong with pushing things hard at times, but if you do it all the time, the show stops being fun and starts being more like an exercise in waiting for it to be over.

The other lesson here is to mix it up. Was anyone thinking about a Rock vs. Gangrel match? Probably not, but it did what it was supposed to do. Not everything needs to be some epic clash of the titans. If you don’t do that every time, it makes the actually big matches feel that much more important. WWE has so many wrestlers just floating around doing nothing but you almost never see the tiers mixing it up. Use your talent in different ways and you might get different results.

This has been the latest version of “it used to be better”, and this is another example of why. Things seem so middle of the road and repetitive these days that it is hard to get excited. Why can’t we see something a little fresher for once? Is that much more of the audience going to run away from the show if a main eventer faces a lower card wrestlers for a minute? Give us something new, because the old audience is getting smaller and smaller.

Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 60,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 6,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.

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