Well That Didn’t Work: The Higher Power

Jamie Lithgow

Today we dip our toes back into our ‘Well That Didn’t Work’ series. Previously we have looked at such subjects as The Undertaker vs. The Undertaker and Tout… remember Tout?! Me neither. On this occasion, however, Jamie runs the risk of dividing opinion by looking at WWE’s ‘Higher Power’ storyline from way back in 1999.

Ah the ‘Higher Power’, the storyline that spawned a million memes. Having taken a break from wrestling for a few years I got back in just after Wrestlemania 15, so the ‘Higher Power’ angle holds a fond place in my heart. It is the Mr McMahon character at it’s absolute best, but what exactly was the point of the whole thing?

Turns out it wasn’t that symbolic after all

I guess we should probably start with the formation of The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness stable in late 1998 and early 1999. This heel group started to feud with The Corporation, also a heel group and led by Mr McMahon. This rivalry led to the infamously shit Hell in A Cell Match between The Undertaker and The Big Bossman at Wrestlemania 15. It was during the build to this match that we started to learn a little more about The Undertaker’s motives, namely he wanted to take over the World Wrestling Federation. As things often do in wrestling, they got personal. On the February 22nd Raw, Paul Bearer delivered a parcel to McMahon during an Inferno Match between The Undertaker and Kane (who was a member of The Corporation at the time). The previously smug Mr McMahon was left dumbfounded and stumbling around the ring holding the teddy bear which was inside the parcel. Taker then grabbed the teddy and set fire to it while McMahon bawled his eyes out. Michael Cole then gave us some insightful lines like “what does this all mean?” and “is this symbolic?” while completely ignoring the fact that Kane – an actual person, not a cuddly toy – just had his foot set on fire.

Fast-forwarding to the end of April and the Backlash pay per view, The Undertaker proved successful in his latest attempt to kidnap Stephanie McMahon, who had recently debuted on TV. Taker attempted to borrow ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ a few weeks earlier, but Ken Shamrock retrieved her after making Christian spill the beans on her whereabouts. It was from around this point that Mr McMahon became a fully fledged babyface. As a direct result of Vince’s distractions and switching of priorities, Shane McMahon seized control of The Corporation and merged it with The Undertaker’s Ministry on the pilot episode of Smackdown from April 29th to form the imaginatively titled Corporate Ministry. Shane would then claim responsibility for masterminding his sister’s kidnapping and other such activities. The sentimental teddy that Taker burned started to make sense, being that Shane would have had easy access to such things.

Where to Stephanie?!

We should now start to factor in Stone Cold Steve Austin to the equation because he was the WWF Champion at the time and having formed an alliance to take power in the company the only thing left for The Undertaker to do was win the heavyweight title. Also, Austin – apparently the only decent human being in the promotion – halted the dark wedding between The Undertaker and a terrified Stephanie. Mr McMahon – now being referred to as Vince – along with Pat Paterson and Gerald Briscoe would side with Austin against Taker and Shane.

While all this was happening, and for quite some time, The Undertaker had been alluding to a ‘Higher Power’ or sometimes ‘Greater Power’ that he answers to. Essentially Taker was Darth Vader but there was an Emperor somewhere. As we got into May it became apartment that the ‘Higher Power’ was not a figure of speech, more a literal figure we would soon meet. So, the Raw from June 7th was set to be the big reveal. Rumours at the time suggested the ‘Higher Power’ could be Ted DiBiase or Jake Roberts, which both make sense in terms of Austin’s history, if nothing else. In my playground at school Shawn Michaels was a shoe-in for the spot. Don ‘The Jackal/Cyrus’ Callis was also muted for the spot. In fact, the original plan was for The Fallen Angel Christopher Daniels to be revealed as the ‘Higher Power’. However, Vince McMahon personally nixed that idea because he thought Daniels was too short. So, in true ‘if a job’s worth doing then do it yourself’ fashion, it was revealed that Mr McMahon was the ‘Higher Power’.

“Aw, son of a bitch!”

“It’s me Austin, it was me all along Austin!” is the iconic quote from the maniacal McMahon as he pulled his hooded cloak back to reveal his face. “Even my immediate family bought it” bellowed McMahon, while we all asked ‘why?’ Apparently McMahon wanted revenge on Austin for winning the title at Wrestlemania 15 and getting one-up on him and The Corporation. As we all know, the best way to get revenge on your nemesis is to have your daughter stalked and abducted while a group of large men burn crosses in your front garden. Not only does this scheme to get revenge on Austin only tangentially involve The Texas Rattlesnake, it doesn’t make sense either. The wheels were set in motion before Wrestlemania. Shane McMahon being the mastermind to seize power away from Vince makes sense, but why would Vince mastermind this plot back at a time when he had total autonomy in the company and The Rock (a Corporation member at the time) was the WWF Champion?!

If only…

Confirming the daftness of this plan, this time in kayfabe, Stephanie interrupted this segment to give Vince and Shane a good dressing down for having her kidnapped and almost married to The Undertaker. Vince in particular carried a look of ‘oh yeah, didn’t really think about that’ on his face. Vince’s wife, Linda, then appeared and stood down as CEO of the company. She handed her 25% stake over, as did Stephanie, to the new CEO with a 50% stake in the WWF; Stone Cold Steve Austin! Cue a massive pop, but hold on a minute here. Surely Linda and Stephanie must have already figured out that Vince was behind all of this in order to sign everything over to Austin? I mean, he literally just revealed himself as the ‘Higher Power’. In order for this to make any sense I like to imagine Vince and Shane drinking too many Steveweisers one night and waking up Linda and Steph by loudly bragging about their masterplan while trying to make drunk toasted cheese at three in the morning.

By the way, Austin’s run as CEO lasted all of a couple of weeks until King of The Ring when he lost his 50% stake to Vince and Shane in a handicap ladder match. So Linda quit her job and gave up her stake in the company only for Austin to fuck that all up two weeks later? This was also the match where the briefcase would be mysteriously moved whenever Austin tried to grab it. Much like GTV and Triple H wearing white boots, we never got to the bottom of exactly what was going on here. Don’t worry though, Austin regained the title not long after this and everything was returned to normal-ish.

Let’s ask our original question again, what was the point of all this? Hard to say really. Vince was entertaining as hell during the reveal angle, but it just didn’t make sense for it to be him in the first place. Also, it was all but forgotten about literally within a matter of minutes when Austin was made CEO. It felt like WWE knew that Vince as the ‘Higher Power’ didn’t really make sense, so they drew attention away from it as quickly as possible in order to move on with something else. Did anyone benefit from the angle at least? Possibly Shane, maybe Stephanie. Did The Undertaker? No, he has stated that he did not like The Corporate Ministry stuff because it diluted his role. Did Vince or Austin benefit? Not really. So did the ‘Higher Power’ angle work as a storyline? Not really, but everything seemed to turn to gold for WWE at the time and it was something to do between Wrestlemania and Summerslam, and if nothing else it was certainly better than what WCW were doing at the time.

Oh, one last thing. So iconic is the image of Mr McMahon in his robe as the ‘Higher Power’ that you can now buy a ‘Higher Power’ action figure. I wonder if Mattel will release a Katie Vick action figure too…?

Even Vince’s immediate family bought it, and now you can too


You can read all previous ‘Well That Didn’t Work’ pieces here.


10 thoughts on “Well That Didn’t Work: The Higher Power

  1. My sentiments were perfectly summed up by Jim Ross: “Aw. son of a bitch!” Personally, I thought Don Calis would have been a perfect guy for the Higher Power. Christopher Daniels would have been great too. Instead we got this clusterfuck of a situation. Nice job, Vinnie Mac….in the words of the Rock, that absolutely sucked.

    Like

    • Christopher daniels wouldn’t have been a good fit for that character…we know who jake ”the snake” Roberts is…we know who ted dibiease[I know I spelled that wrong forgive me lol] is…we know who don calis is…who [at the time] is Christopher daniels?…they probably would’ve been better off with james Mitchell playing the character

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Aw, son of a bitch”. Best reaction to that whole thing. I agree that Christopher Daniels would’ve been great as we know how great he is as a performer. Wait, I thought it was called “Hower Power”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Who else besides me would both shocked and hysterically amused if a Kate Vick figure were ever released? Not gonna’ happen ever I know, but damn that would be funny.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. While this angle certainly didn’t make sense, there is a small detail that is often overlooked. How did Linda and Stephanie know beforehand that Vince was the higher power? Because Steve Austin already knew. How did he know? Because the week before, with Austin subdued by the Corporate Ministry, the Higher Power leaned in and revealed his identity only to Austin. So Austin knew it was Vince a week before we did, surely enough time to tell the good McMahons and get their blessing.

    The angle was crap, but at least this part made sense.

    Like

  5. Pingback: Top Five Sore Thumbs in Wrestling Factions | Ring the Damn Bell

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