This is one of my all-time favourite matches. It developed from a believable and brutal rivalry between HHH and Mick Foley that really extended far back to 1997. HHH became a star and Mick Foley proved he could still put on a hell of a match after a relatively quiet 1999. We’ve already seen HHH and Cactus Jack fight in the Best 100…List (#94, click here for my review). This match is an evolution of that one. It ramps up the ultraviolence to a degree rarely seen in WWE, even back in the Attitude Era. They had a PPV level match on Raw in 1997. This actual PPV match at Royal Rumble 2000 is one for the ages.
HHH had been WWF champion in mid-1999 but struggled to set himself apart from anyone else. He was merely a bland heel who was half-decent in the ring. However, he teamed up wothwith Stephanie McMahon in late 1999 to kick of the ‘McMahon-Helmsley Era’ and his star began to shine a little. One thing that lacked was great wrestling ability. He was good, but nothing special. But he had become a despicable heel that you loved to hate. His feud with Mankind was a part of HHH’s success as a heel. But could Mankind put on a good match anymore? He was more of a comedy act in 1999, teaming with The Rock and playing matches for laughs. When Mick Foley turned from Mankind into Cactus Jack, his hardcore personality, people wondered whether Foley still had it in him.
So both wrestlers had something to prove at Royal Rumble 2000. HHH wanted a memorable main event, which had eluded him beforehand. Foley/Jack wanted to prove that he could still bring out the hardcore, sadistic wrestler within. Both succeeded. It starts off very much like their preivous match at #94: a neckbreaker on the outside, Jack on the offence. The brawl heads into the stands. But everything is more hard hitting. Jack suplexes HHH on a pile of pallets. A broken pallet puntures HHH’s calf. And then the barbed wire bat comes into play. It’s at this point where the match reaches another level. HHH uses it first, and you can see the barbed wire stick to Jack’s attire. When it’s HHH’s turn to be battered with the bat, he bleeds from.the head profusely. Handcuffs are used, reminiscent of Mankind’s bout with The Rock at Royal Rumble 1999 (where Mankind took a bevy of unprotected chairshots to the head). And the violence increases to a sickening degree towards the end.
Part brawl, part ECW hardcore match, this stands as one of the best matches either wrestler has fought. Their Hell In A Cell bout at the following PPV No Way Out 2000 was very good, but nothing could top their Rumble bout. Of course, Jack takes a lot of punishment, but HHH doesn’t shy away from big bumps or bleeding profusely. It gave us the first great bout of the millennium. It’s sometimes hard to watch, but viscerally thrilling. HHH would go on to have a great year and solidify himself as a main eventer (and one of the all-time best heels). Mick Foley would retire and unretire within the space of a month to be slotted into the WrestleMania 2000 main event. Even after that, he would un-retire again to fight in a bout placed at #21 (which is higher than HHH’s other placing, at #23…). But in my humble opinion, this is one of the best bouts (if not the best) either one contended.
VERDICT: 10/10 HHH and Cactus Jack dose this hardcore match with a psychology and brutality that is rarely seen. From beginning to end, it’s a viscerally thrilling brawl that takes violence to another level.
Does this match belong in the WWE Network’s ‘ 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die’ List? Leave your thoughts/comments below!
Click here for my review of #27 Ric Flair vs. Sting (NWA World Title, NWA Clash of the Champions I)