Twenty years ago on January 31, 1999 was the first-ever Halftime Heat special, airing during Super Bowl XXXIII from the Tucson Convention Center in Tucson, Arizona.
This coming Sunday, during Super Bowl LIII, WWE will be returning to this concept with another edition of Halftime Heat, so I figured this was a great time to go back in time and watch the previous event to relive those memories and see how it holds up from a 2019 perspective, particularly as I haven’t watched it since it originally aired and I don’t remember too many of the specific details.
What I’ll be doing for this is treating it similar to a stream of consciousness post, where any thoughts that pop into my mind, I’ll put down in the corresponding sections below.
Context is always key, so in order to understand this event, we need to look at what elements were in play to set the stage.
The fix was in when The Rock joined The Corporation to win the title in a screwjob, kickstarting his feud with Mankind, who he defeated in the finals of the Deadly Game tournament.
However, the hot potato situation continued as The Rock won the title back at Royal Rumble on January 24, 1999 in yet another circumstance of shenanigans, having defeated Mankind in an I Quit match where Mick Foley didn’t actually quit. Rather, an audio recording of him saying “I quit” from a previous promo was played over the speaker system.
Thus, Mankind and The Rock were set to do battle in their Empty Arena Match during Halftime Heat to settle the score once and for all (even though, of course, they’d continue to fight after this, but shhh, you’re not supposed to know that at this point!)
So without further ado, let me hop in my time machine and fire up the WWE Network for this event and see what stands out to the much older, more beaten down and cynical viewer, rather than the kid who ate this up like so much popcorn in those giant bags.
The Show Opens
- For an Empty Arena gimmick, there sure is a lot of people in the crowd, isn’t there? (I know, I know)
- Michael Cole, ever the company man and a great vessel for being just bland enough to tell the story without swaying your opinion.
- I don’t remember this generic techno music for Shane McMahon at all. Wow.
- But somehow, I remember this Skittles commercial of the Moses looking guy after all these years.
- Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson being referred to as “The Associates” rather than “The Stooges” is interesting.
- “We all want to get ahead. DX wanted to get ahead.” Al Snow wanted to get a head, and he got one.
- Yup, Triple H couldn’t cut this promo in 2019, that’s for sure.
- Corporate Kane is such a funny concept in the sense that they took someone who never should have been part of an administrative group and did it TWICE with that name.
Match: Big Boss Man defeated Jeff Jarrett by pinfall
- Ooooooh the Blue Blazer. Now I’m sad.
- I laughed at the sign in the crowd that says “Drunk 24:7”.
- Not too much going on in this match that was sub 4 minutes long.
- Shane is SO hyped. Someone gave that guy a direct injection of an energy drink to his veins.
Match: Ken Shamrock defeated Owen Hart by pinfall
- I always thought Shamrock had it in him to be a world champion, if not just for a transitional reign. If they would have had a brand split and a second set of titles back then, he definitely would have won it at least once.
- This was definitely my favorite Owen Hart theme.
- Why is Owen wrestling with a shirt on like a fat kid at a pool? Of course, as I type that, he takes it off and strangles Shamrock with it, so I guess that’s why. Owen was so good.
- Less than 5 minutes long.
The Super Bowl Commercial
- I loved this commercial back in the day. It’s something I wish they would revisit and do again in a more modern context. Maybe have Alexa Bliss fill the Sable role (although, they’d probably use Charlotte Flair, let’s be honest) and feature a handful of names like Kevin Owens, who would totally excel at delivering something with this tone.
WWF Championship Empty Arena Match: Mankind defeated The Rock by pinfall
- I wonder why they chose to go with Vince McMahon solo on commentary, rather than including anybody else in the mix.
- That fast, we’re going into the Mandible Claw.
- And that fast, we have a censored curse word.
- Loved the sound of The Rock hitting the ring bell.
- “Keep this in the ring! Keep it in the ring!” – Vince, it’s an empty arena match.
- “Such was the force that The Rock hurled Mankind…” – I love it when Vince tries to be verbose.
- Damn it, Vince, breaking character and kayfabe to do some company-speak about what pro wrestling is for anyone who doesn’t understand, as if anybody is watching this instead of the Super Bowl and doesn’t know what this is all about.
- The Rock really likes to use “monkey” in his trash talk.
- Noooooo Mr. Socko!!!
- “Mankind can’t stand the heat.” – Probably shouldn’t have him on Sunday Night Heat, then.
- I remember this popcorn bit more than anything else in the match.
- Do you think the person responsible for cooking this food that went to waste bothered to make sure it was properly cooked and seasoned and all?
- South Park was everywhere in WWF around this time, apparently even in this office area.
- “Can you get out, please?” – Foley has such good manners.
- This hokey camera angle is ridiculous.
- Being pinned because of a forklift is a good way to lose the belt and stay strong, you can’t deny that.
- Wow, that fast, they just cut this off. They really were pressed for time.
Watching this event again with 20 years separating my point of view from my childhood self, it’s still an interesting concept, particularly for its time. The content before the main event was totally superfluous, but that’s to be expected. The main event was fun and while I wouldn’t give it some Best Match of the Year award in 2019, if you replaced Foley and Rock with two people from the current crop, like Braun Strowman and Baron Corbin or something, I think they could actually do an even better job.
But this was something from my childhood that I remember gushing over and thinking was so awesome, and I’m glad that rewatching it didn’t completely sully the memory and make me have to edit my brain to think it was actually garbage or anything. Fun times, watching wrestling back then.
If you’ll excuse me, I think I need to make some popcorn.
What are your thoughts on the original Halftime Heat? What other events should be revisited in the future? Tell us your thoughts and keep the discussion going in the comments section below!