Throughout the history of pro wrestling bookers and promoters have always tried to come up with new, creative and innovative ideas to generate interest in their product. Some ideas have not only succeeded…but flourished. Others were DOA from the get go. Then there are those ideas which initially were innovative…but for various reasons….faded away. Those are the focus of this latest series of posts titled ‘Great Ideas That Didn’t Last’.
On January 31st, 1999…the then World Wrestling Federation (WWF) held a special event during a most unique time period. It conducted a single wrestling match in an empty arena on a night that usually garners the most television viewers all year long…at least here in the United States…Super Bowl Sunday.
While at the height of the Monday Night Wars…the WWF’s rating were consistently competitive with the NFL’s Monday Night Football. Naturally, it only made sense for Vince McMahon and the WWF to try and capitalize on both its own success and the usually overblown hype of the NFL’s Super Bowl. No, Vince wasn’t arrogant or even stupid enough to go head to head with the ratings juggernaut that was the Super Bowl. He decided to snag viewers by having a match during the often dry and boring Super Bowl halftime show.
It was aptly named…’Halftime Heat’…and as previously mentioned, was a match that took place in an empty America West Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. An event of this magnitude had to be big for fans to switch over to the USA network…so….the match was a WWF title match that pitted the champion The Rock aka Dwayne Johnson versus the #1 contender Mankind aka Mick Foley.
The title match was pre-taped and actually took place six days prior on January 25th, 1999. Even though internet spoilers were pretty much still in its infancy at this period of time…to keep the results as secretive as possible…it was held in an empty arena…with only a limited number of people involved with the actual production of it. That way, if the results did somehow get out…Vince McMahon would have an easier time sniffing out the mole who leaked out the information.
The WWF heavily advertised Halftime Heat for a few weeks and that Sunday…still aired their regular broadcast of Sunday Night Heat at 7pm. Since the game was airing on FOX and there was no real way to advertise to Super Bowl viewers that Halftime Heat was going to air on a rival network…the WWF was smart enough to be a TV ad during the game itself to generate curiosity of the product. When halftime of the Super Bowl finally came around….the USA network interrupted a repeat of one of their original shows called ‘Pacific Blue.’
To keep wrestling/football fans at ease that they wouldn’t miss a second of the game…the WWF had a countdown clock at the top of the screen to inform viewers when the kickoff to the second half of the Super Bowl would take place.
While the match itself wasn’t the best effort between the Rock and Mankind…it certainly wasn’t horrific. There was so much amazing chemistry between the two men, that the match was at the very least somewhat entertaining. The battle lasted for about 20 minutes of back and forth “hardcore” action. The match went from the ring…to the empty stands…to the locker room…to catering to the dark recesses of the building.
The match ended in an odd way with Mankind using a forklift to drop a pallet of what looked like a number of kegs of beer on top of a hurt Rock to score the pin fall and regain the WWF title for a second time. When the match was over…the Halftime Heat went off the air and allowed fans to get back to watching the game without missing a second of it.
When the ratings came in, Halftime Heat did an impressive 6.6 rating…which averages roughly 11 million viewers.
Despite the overall success of the Halftime Heat segment….the idea was never utilized again. It became a one shot deal. It made many fans wonder why…seeing as the ratings and popularity of the event were so strong. There are a few reasons as to perhaps why we will never see another event like this staged again. First and foremost…the internet. Nowadays, if a wrestler sneezes, it will be all over Twitter, Facebook and news sites within seconds.
Secondly, to prevent spoilers from leaking out…it would have to be carried out much like the original Halftime Heat was conducted…probably pre taped and in an empty arena. How many times can you go to the same well before it runs dry? The WWE may be able to have it in an arena live in another country that cares little about the Super Bowl and football in general…but the costs for that would perhaps be too expensive and the details too intricate.
Will there ever be another Halftime Heat like show? Never say never, but by the looks of everything we just outlines…it looks like just another great idea that didn’t last.
You can find all previous ‘Great Ideas That Didn’t Last’ pieces here.