Mike Tyson played a big role in the WrestleMania 14 main event, but he never wrestled for WWE and Jim Ross has revealed if Tyson wrestling was ever supposed to happen.
The main event of WrestleMania 14 in 1998 took place at a time when WWE was a bit behind WCW in the “Monday Night War” ratings battle with Nitro beating Raw every week for about 83 weeks. It is what led to WWE making a big move by bringing in boxing legend Mike Tyson at a time when he was as controversial as ever.
Tyson is considered by many to be one of the best professional boxers ever. He started his career at 37-0 before losing to Buster Douglas in 1991. After losing four years of his career following a conviction for rape, Tyson returned to boxing in 1995.
During a June 28, 1997 fight against champion Evander Holyfield for the WBA Heavyweight Title, Tyson was frustrated during the fight and went on to bite Holyfield in the ear! The bloody spectacle led to Tyson being disqualified and suspended from boxing for over one year,
In early 1998, WWE signed Tyson to appear at WrestleMania 14 and apparently paid him about $3 million during that run. Tyson also appeared at the Royal Rumble when he infamously referred to Steve Austin as “Cold Stone” by mistake instead of “Stone Cold.” Tyson also got into a famous shoving match with Austin on Raw while also joining Michaels, Triple H and Chyna in Degeneration X as well.
While Tyson was not the referee of the Austin-Michaels match at WrestleMania 14, he was the special guest enforcer. After a referee bump, Tyson took over and counted the pinfall after Austin hit Michaels with a Stone Cold Stunner to win the WWE Title for the first time. Tyson also punched Michaels in the face after the match, much to the delight of the crowd.
Mike Tyson’s presence brought a lot of mainstream press to WWE, so it was a great move because after WrestleMania, WWE would pass WCW in the Monday Night War ratings battle and never look back.
In 1998, Jim Ross was WWE’s lead announcer on commentary and also the Head of Talent Relations. On a recent episode of his Grillin JR podcast about the 1998 Royal Rumble, Jim Ross was asked if there was ever a plan for Tyson to wrestle in WWE.
“No, I thought he’d be a body guard type, one punch knockout kind of a guy. And that’s all I needed to see until the right hand, and I’m good.”
As JR continued, he note that there was a long discussion with Tyson about appearing for WWE in 1998.
“So we negotiated and discussed this opportunity with Mike seemingly forever. Because I had a lot of time with Mike because Vince, whoever brought Tyson in, because Shane McMahon babysat Tyson a lot. And when he wasn’t available, or he was busy doing something, whatever the case may be, JR got that distinction. And so we’ve developed a good relationship.”
JR also revealed that he’s had many conversations with Tyson about pro wrestling because “Iron Mike” is a big wrestling fan.
“And he’s been back with his occasional appearances in AEW. I’ve always enjoyed it because we talk about the old times. Mike, a lot of fans don’t realise Mike Tyson could win a lot of trivia contests from wrestling, in New York wrestling in the 60s and the 70s. He’s really really brilliant and he loved it. It meant something to him. He remembers it, he studied it. So he was legit a fan and I was respecting Mike for that.”
Due to his tremendous impact at WrestleMania 14 as well as other WWE appearances, Tyson was inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2012. As JR noted, he has also appeared in AEW several times as well.
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