One of the benefits of having the WWE Network is the ability to watch PPVs from days gone by. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to watch “Over the Edge” from 1998. This was the second PPV after Wrestlemania 14 and there was nothing too significant about it in the grand scheme of things. The following PPV, “King of the Ring” would contain the brutal “Hell in a Cell” match between Undertaker and Mick Foley where Foley is thrown off the top of the cage through a table below.
Most of the matches in this PPV weren’t anything to write home about, but then came the main event: WWE Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin v. Dude Love.
Stipulations in this event? Since this was part of the Management v. Stone Cold Steve Austin story line – the odds were stacked again Austin. The guest Ring Announcer was Pat Patterson, the guest Timekeeper Gerald Briscoe and, to top it all off, guest Referee Mr. McMahon. Then there was the stipulation that if Austin touched Mr. McMahon he would automatically lose the title. Once the match got underway, the rules were quickly changed to a non-disqualification match and a falls count anywhere match.
In terms of telling a story, there’s little or no way that Stone Cold Steve Austin retains the belt. But…for story telling sake, you need to SOMEHOW even the odds and before Mr. McMahon could ring for the bell, the Undertaker makes his way to the ring to MAKE SURE that this is handled somewhat fairly. That there’s an air of believabilty at play here. Certainly there’s no way that Austin can win if there isn’t someone on his side – even if that someone is the Undertaker.
Once the match starts it’s clear that McMahon wants Austin to lose but Undertaker makes his presence known and the moment the match goes outside the ring, all hell breaks loose. Dude Love takes a wicked clothesline off the top of metal ring barrier onto the concrete. Dude Love tosses Austin onto the hood of a car.
A steel post is used, cords are used to choke people, Austin is soon bleeding from the head and Vince is there to keep the threat going.
By the end of the 20 minute match there are chair shots to the head to Dude Love and Vince McMahon. Undertaker makes sure that no one gets involved and Stone Cold retains the championship by using knocked-out Vince’s own hand to tap out three.
What I found most interesting about this match wasn’t so much the storytelling but how this match could not be done today with the PG rating. Could they show the blood? No. Could they use the steel pipe? Probably not. Chair shots to the head? Nope. Turnbuckle’s exposed? Maybe. Choking with cords? Certainly not. Giving people the middle finger? Only if it’s blurred out. DDTs onto the chair? Possibly.
As a writer myself, I don’t want to be held back in my creativity to the story that I want to tell. Especially if that story is for adults. If I have a large tool box, I don’t want someone to come along and take 75% of the tools out of the box.
My thinking is that the reason so many of today’s PPVs or big matches come off as bland is that the writers either don’t have the tools to tell the story in an expressive way or the demographics are such that they’re forced to write in a way that won’t allow them to tell the story they want to tell.
If you have the WWE Network, by all means check out the “Over the Edge” 1998 PPV’s main event. Tell me how that match could be done today with the PG rating. Thoughts?