Mankind, The Rock, and 20,000 empty seats was all it took make history.
20 years ago today (Jan. 31) The Rock put the WWF Championship on the line versus Mankind in the company’s first ever Empty Arena Match. The title match was a rematch of a brutally violent “I Quit” match a few weeks prior at the 1999 Royal Rumble.
The match-up took place at the then named America West Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, with only The Rock, Mankind, and a referee in the building.
In a new interview with TV Insider, Mick Foley says this style of gimmick match would have worked perfectly in the age of social media.
“I’m sure a lot of The Rock’s one-liners. Jack Daniels if you please,’ in reference to the swig of alcohol he spit in my face. ‘The salsa was mild.’ Pretty much everything he said, and the match would be a huge hit on social media.”
“Any time you walk out with your hand in the air holding the WWE title is a good day. I love the idea that we were entering a bold new world. It had been done a few times before, but never on that level. Never with that type of audience. We weren’t afforded the freedom to use the type of language Terry Funk had used. We had it on good authority that there could not be a single drop of blood, which was a problem because I still had that huge wound from the Rumble. I thought it came out good.”
Foley would also say the idea for the match was inspired by a Terry Funk versus Jerry Lawler empty arena match that took place at the Mid-South Coliseum. The Hardcore legend predicted if WWE tried to do this style match again, with today’s level athletes, it could exceed expectations of his infamous 1999 classic.
If given the opportunity, which two modern WWE wrestlers could pull off a 2019 new version of an Empty Arena Match?