Millions dream, few achieve. The WWE Championship is the most prestigious accolade a wrestler can achieve, the pinnacle of sports entertainment success. From the limousine riding, jet flying “Dirtiest Player in the game; the eye-brow raising, pie eating Great One; the beer drinking, hell raising Rattle Snake; to the King of Kings himself, wrestlers have proven to sacrifice everything to lay their hands on the gold. The illustrious gem-studded, gold plated belt is worth far more than its weight – it’s the culmination of pride, perseverance and passion – a title rarely earned and never given. Winning the title is like earning a Grammy – except acting in the form of a brutal 300 day road schedule, no off-seasons, bumps and bruises every night, working daily, bleeding passion and crying emotion.
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Men have clubbed one another with chairs and ladders, broken tables, lit each other on fire, thrown each other through glass, slammed themselves on thumb tacks, kissed barbwire and even thrown each other off steel cages – all for a shot, all for the dream to wear the gold and obtain the title.
A WWE Championship match tells a story of two gladiators. A WWE Championship match takes us on a roller coaster. A WWE Championship match invokes our emotions, makes us cry, makes us shout, and makes us howl.
But of all the contests which made myths of men and legends of mere mortals, no WWE title match was as absolutely barbaric, grueling, and bloodletting as the contest between Mick Foley and the Great One himself, The Rock, in 1999’s Royal Rumble event. The immortalized “I Quit” match took place within a roaring Anaheim California arena, from the narrow confines of the squared circle to the cement arena floor, to literally within the crazed crowd.
This main event told the story of two giant gladiators. This WWE Championship bout took us on the proverbial roller coaster, brawled across Jabroni boulevard, and signed directly into the SmackDown hotel. This title match made us cry, made us shout, made us howl.
The rivalry between these two gladiators began during the 1998 Survivor Series when the boss Vince McMahon crowned the Rock as the WWE “Corporate Champ” by screwing Mankind (Mick Foley). After another loss to the Rock Bottom during WWE’s In Your House event, Foley finally captured the gold, finally walked the Promised Land, in 1999 during Raw is War. After a series of betrayals and screwjobs and multiple attempts, Foley finally silenced the naysayers, silenced all of those who swore Mankind just “couldn’t do it.”
His dream of being WWE Champion soon went from a golden reality to a hellish nightmare. Mankind and the Rock spent the next few weeks trash talking, emotionally involving us in the animosity, hyping the final confrontation. It was the chubby Mankind from Long Island versus the Brahma Bull in an “I Quit” match. Mankind had been thrown from the top of a cell by the hands of the Demon from Death Valley; Mankind had eaten nails and thumbtacks; Mankind had been constricted in barbwire. Never did he utter the words, “I Quit.”
With the classic introduction from Howard Finkle, the brawl erupted with the massing voices of the crowd. An intense energy stirred. The arena ran with electricity and the “Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment” took the match all over the arena, battling up the ramp, introducing ladders, smashing Mankind with a ringbell, even climbing into the stands, each man asking the other if he wishes to quit. The Great One even pounded Mankind till he sailed onto the electrical circuit board many feet below. The Brahma Bull mirthlessly blasted a hand-cuffed Foley with a sickening succession of steel chair shots, while Foley’s wife and children cried from the dreadful first row. The gasps and screams from Foley’s wife sounded with each blow. Eleven chair shots.
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“You’ll have to kill me,” Mankind spat after the punishment, his glazed eyes asking for a few more blows.
Finally, after the punishing brutality, Foley passed out on the aisle where just earlier he had marched to the ring with a determined entrance. The seemingly victorious gladiator stood over the fallen hero, placing a microphone over Mankind’s unconscious body. Finally, a prerecorded message of those two sacred words rang throughout the arena – “I quit! I quit! I QUIT!” Technically, Mankind still did not say the words. The Rock beat Mankind within an inch of his life, even knocked him unconscious, but as Mankind promised us, the Rock would have had to kill him to make him say, “I quit.”