WWE Turning Point: Analyzing Historical Impact of First Last Man Standing Match

Travis Wakeman@@traviswakeman10Correspondent IIMay 17, 2014

Credit: WWE.com

Let's turn back the clock to February 14, 1999. That was the date of the very first Last Man Standing match in WWE history.

The event was called St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and it featured a match for the WWE title between The Rock and Mankind. These two had been involved in a heated feud since late 1998, but on this night, WWE decided to try something they had never done before.

In a Last Man Standing match, the only way to win the match is by keeping your opponent down for a count of 10.

Though fans had seen Mankind take several brutal chair shots to the head at the Royal Rumble, along with seeing The Rock pinned beneath a forklift during an Empty Arena match, this new match concept was sure to be unique.

To what lengths would these two men have to go in order to put their opponent down for a 10-count? That was the intrigue that this match brought.

Those who had followed the career of Mankind (a.k.a. Mick Foley) and remembered him from his days as Cactus Jack in other promotions likely couldn't imagine what it would take to keep him down in a match of this nature.

Mankind would become the first man in WWE history to defend the WWE title in a match such as this. The Rock and Mankind had some brutal wars over the title, and this match was no different.

Inside the ring, outside the ring and even into the backstage area, the two rivals brawled, trying to find a way to incapacitate each other.

Over 20 minutes into the match, they had hit one another with everything in their arsenal. Both men were able to get their hands on a steel chair, and they both made contact simultaneously. Neither man could recover, as a 10-count was registered. A draw had been declared.

Though many may consider it a cheesy way to end a match of this magnitude, history had been made. The Last Man Standing match was here to stay.

In the years to come, the Last Man Standing match would be used in some of the most intense feuds, usually as a way for two Superstars to settle their score and end their rivalry.

In 2000, Chris Jericho competed in two Last Man Standing matches, facing Triple H at Fully Loaded and Kane at Armageddon.

Triple H has competed in the most Last Man Standing matches, having taken part in six of them.

Many of the top Superstars in WWE history have now taken part in a Last Man Standing match, including John Cena, Edge, Ric Flair, The Big Show, Kurt Angle, Randy Orton, Batista, Kane and The Undertaker.

The Last Man Standing match may have also been one of the biggest factors in helping convince WWE that a certain genre of wrestling known as hardcore was just too hard to ignore—even if the company didn't really want to.

WWE introduced a Hardcore title in November of 1998 and gave it to Mankind. However, the company's initial intention was never to have it become a regularly defended title within the company.

Hardcore wrestling was becoming as popular as anything within the industry at that time, largely due to the product that Extreme Championship Wrestling was putting out.

WWE may have never intended to deliver hardcore wrestling to its audience, but there was a large part of the population of wrestling fans who were generally very vocal about wanting to see it.

Credit: WWE.com

WWE had three Hardcore champions prior to St. Valentine's Day Massacre—Mankind, Big Boss Man and Road Dogg. But following that event, hardcore wrestling exploded within WWE. In fact, a new champion was crowned that night when Hardcore Holly defeated Al Snow to win the vacant title.

Shortly thereafter, WWE had created a hardcore division, and there was at least one hardcore match on nearly every telecast. Soon, kendo sticks and trash can lids were a regular sight.

WWE made stars out the division such as Crash Holly and Steve Blackman, guys who likely would have never done much otherwise. The concept of hardcore wrestling was working in WWE.

And of course, what did that force the competition to do? Not long after, WCW had its own hardcore division and its own Hardcore title.

So while the Last Man Standing match that Mankind and Rock put on that night in February helped introduce a new type of match to WWE fans, it may have had a much bigger influence on the industry as a whole.

In just over two weeks at WWE Payback, Cena and Bray Wyatt will go to battle in a Last Man Standing match.

These two men have had one of the better rivalries in quite some time. Is it possible that they find a way to transcend the business?

While expecting a return of hardcore wrestling may be a bit far-fetched, Cena and Wyatt could easily give the WWE Universe something to talk about for many, many years to come.