At the thirteenth WrestleMania, things started to get very interesting for WWE. The roster that was once very thin was suddenly becoming filled with an array of talent as Rocky Maivia and Mankind made their WM debuts while Steve Austin and Hunter Hearst Helmsley had much bigger profiles in their second year at the granddaddy of them all.
The main event scene was messy. A month prior to WrestleMania, Shawn Michaels forfeited the WWF World Title on the “Thursday Raw Thursday” because of a knee injury and because he “lost his smile.” There were those in the company that believed he was faking the injury because he didn’t want to give up the title. He was out of action until May. Due to that, they had a 4-way match for the World Title at their February In Your House PPV that was won by Bret Hart. He lost the title next day to Sid after Steve Austin interfered. That set up the two main matches on this show: Sid vs. Undertaker for the World Title and Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin in a Submission Match.
If Shawn was healthy, the likely main event would have been Shawn vs. Bret in a ladder match or some kind of gimmick match with Bret getting his win back from the year earlier. That was the popular story at the time. I’m not that upset that they were unable to have the match. I can remember watching this PPV and thinking about how excited I was for the Hart/Austin match. They had such a great match at Survivor Series that Bret won clean. Then at the Royal Rumble, Austin screwed Bret out of the Royal Rumble win. Then Austin screwed Bret out of the title when he beat Sid for it. Their feud was built up magnificently well. I had high expectations for the match. Did they deliver? Oh hell yeah.
WWE WrestleMania XIII
March 23, 1997
From the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago, Illinois
We get a video package showing clips of past WrestleMania events. The video focused on the Nation of Domination feud with Legion of Doom & Ahmed Johnson, Undertaker’s feud with Sid and Bret Hart’s issues with Steve Austin. The voiceover guy put over the seriousness of the event by saying none of the men competing at the event are smiling because tempers are flaring.
There was a nice crowd shot. This is the WrestleMania where the fan signs were dominating as we know them in their current form. The years before had signs, but nothing like this. The announcers were Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler. This was the last time Vince would do play by play at a WrestleMania. We also got to meet the Spanish and French broadcast teams.
Four Team Elimination Tag Match: The Godwinns (Phineas & Henry) vs. The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher) vs. Doug Furas & Phil Lafon vs. The New Blackjacks (Barry Windham & Bradshaw)
It was a four way elimination tag. Anybody could tag in and out. If you lost your team was eliminated. The winners of the match got a title shot on Raw the next night. Everybody brawled at the start of the match. Henry started with Bradshaw and Henry drilled him with a big clothesline. Thrasher tagged in, so Bradshaw gave him a quick boot to the face. Pumphandle slam by Bradshaw. Then he tagged in Phineas. Phineas hit a slam and then he tagged in Mosh, so Headbangers were alone in the ring. They tagged out. Lawler said that Vince didn’t know about hard rock and that his favorite hard rock group was Mount Rushmore. That’s awful. Awesome hurricanrana by Furnas on Windham, but then he came back with a slam on Furnas. There were lots of quick tags in this match. I’m focusing on the high points. Bradshaw missed his clothesline on Furnas, who knocked him out of the ring and then the Blackjacks knocked him out of the ring. The Blackjacks as well as Furnas & Lafon started brawling on the floor. Bradshaw shoved the ref so the Blackjacks were eliminated. Furnas & Lafon were also disqualified. The match was down to the Godwinns versus the Headbangers. Phineas hit a delayed suplex on Thrasher for two. It’s so great listening to Vince try to explain the Headbangers gimmick because he had no idea what it was, I’m sure. Godwinns isolated Thrasher and they were spitting on eachother just for fun. Phineas got a clothesline in the corner. Did I mention yet that the Godwinns official names were Henry O. (HOG) and Phineas I. (PIG)? So clever huh? Mosh whipped Henry in, but Henry overpowered him with a boot and then a clothesline over the top to the floor. Mosh hit a nice springboard crossbody on Henry on the floor and then Thrasher jumped off the top with a crossbody on Henry on the floor. Vince busted out a “forgetaboutit” for it. Headbangers hit a double clothesline on Henry as the crowd cheered on the Headbangers. Godwinns were faces too. Moonsault by Thrasher missed. Phineas cleaned house on everybody, looking more dominant than he ever did in his Naked Mideon days. All hell broke loose and Mosh finished off Phineas with a dive off the top for the win at 10:39.
Winners: The Headbangers
Analysis: *1/2 It was bad in the early going, but the Headbangers/Godwinns part was surprisingly good. I always liked the Furnas & Lafon team because they were such good workers. They weren’t over as characters, though.
The Honky Tonk Man made his way to the commentary table to add his expertise to the Intercontinental Title match. Vince seemed to be impressed that Honky Tonk Man knew the lyrics to his own song, even busting out his “hahahaha” laugh.
The Sultan made his way to the ring. It was really Rikishi Fatu in a ridiculous getup with the Iron Sheik as his manager along with Bob Backlund because the idea was that the Sultan wouldn’t speak. His opponent was Rocky Maivia, who was The Rock in generic babyface mode making his WrestleMania debut. Vince pointed out that he was the Slammy Award winner for New Sensation. Great sign in the crowd: “Vince is a God. Bischoff’s his bitch.” Well that turned out to be true.
Intercontinental Title: Rocky Maivia vs. The Sultan w/The Iron Shiek & Bob Backlund
The announcers did everything they could to put over Rock. The crowd cheered Rock although it wasn’t that loud. Rock hit him with some dropkicks to send the Sultan to the floor. Rock missed a clothesline on the floor and Sultan took advantage by working on the arm. Sultan hit a clothesline. HTM was yelling at ringside, doing his best to criticize The Rock. Sultan hit him with another clothesline followed by a trapezius hold. Knee to the midsection by Sultan. It’s weird not writing Rikishi for him, but I’m such a pro at this…not really. Sultan went to the top and hit a headbutt. That was nice although you could see he missed him by too much based on the angle they used. Nice belly to belly suplex by Sultan. Sultan put him in a chinlock. Rocky fought back up and they did a double clothesline to send them both down. Rocky did his babyface comeback with punches and another dropkick. Belly to belly suplex by Rocky got two. Rocky hit his floatover DDT. Rocky went to the top and hit a cross body block. Iron Sheik jumped on the apron, so the ref wasn’t there to count. Sultan thwarted a Rocky attack with a side kick to the face. Piledriver by Sultan got two. Vince: “He got him! He got him! I guess not!” Rocky came back with a rollup for the three count win at 9:45.
Winner: Rocky Maivia
Analysis: * I remember this match being awful. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered although it’s still only a one star match. The crowd wasn’t that supportive of Rocky, which ultimately led to him turning heel and developing The Rock persona. The Sultan gimmick didn’t work either. There were some decent moves by early Rock. He didn’t throw that many dropkicks and didn’t go to the top when he became a top guy, so it was nice to remember that he could do that. These two would have a much more high profile feud three years later when they were much bigger stars. I’m referring to the “I did it for the Rock” story of course.
Post match, JR tried to interview Rocky. The Sultan attacked him from behind as HTM encouraged it because Honky was jealous of anybody that held the IC title. They rolled Rocky in and Sultan hit a huge top rope splash. Sheik put him in the Camel Clutch. Sheiky baby! Rock’s dad Rocky Johnson saved his son, knocking Sultan down with a series of punches. Sultan attacked Rocky with their flag. Rock fought back with punches that sent The Sultan to the floor. Rocky gave Sheik a bodyslam and then his dad gave Sheik a body slam too.
In the locker room, Todd Pettengill talked to Ken Shamrock – the guest referee during the Austin/Hart match later on. He was there to be the referee because he knows submissions. He said he would not be intimidated.
Backstage, Dok Hendrix talked to Hunter Hearst Helmsley along with Chyna as he prepared to face Goldust. He asked about what her role is. He said Dok didn’t need to know anything about it. The camera focused on Chyna’s face as Hunter made threats to Marlena. This was before Chyna got her face fixed up.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/Chyna vs. Goldust w/Marlena
Hunter was the heel here of course. I love how Vince put over that Hunter won a Slammy for “best hair day.” I’m sure Hunter is proud of that accomplishment. Goldust gave him an atomic drop followed by a clothesline that sent Hunter to the floor. Goldust decked him with a punch and locked Hunter in the ropes leading to some more punches. Vince was making fun of Hunter’s giant nose. Goldust whipped him into the ring post and then clotheslined Hunter back into the ring. Hunter got the knee smash. Goldust hit his spinning powerslam, which was always one of his better moves. Goldust went to the top and Hunter gave him a suplex off the top, sending Goldust crashing to the floor. Vince with another “forgetaboutit” which was one of his favorite sayings. That was a nice bump by Goldust. Hunter was in control in the ring. The crowd was pretty dead for it except when Hunter hit him with chops. Hunter didn’t throw many chops when he became a top guy. Hunter was also a lot slimmer here. If you look at 1999 Hunter compared to 1997 Hunter there’s a huge difference. I guess his “diet” worked. I’m not suggesting anything, but you could see how much bigger he got when he was a main eventer. Hunter hit a neckbreaker for two. Hey director, can we get more shots of Marlena, preferably her ass, instead of all the shots of Chyna’s face? Hunter with a high knee to the kisser. The shots of Marlena smoking a cigar was a good visual. Suplex by Hunter. Goldust came back with a whip into the ropes, then he ducked and Hunter came back with a good DDT. Backslide for Goldust got two. Small package got two for Goldust. Hunter came back with a clothesline. They hit the double shoulderblock so both guys were down. Hunter went to the top rope for something, so Goldust jumped up and Hunter crashed into his ass. What a stupid move that was. Goldust jumped up and Hunter jumped into his ass. Not as graphic as it reads, I assure you. Ross said kids would have nightmares about Chyna. Stop showing her, please. Hunter missed a charge in the corner and crashed into the turnbuckle. Back body drop by Goldust. Goldust whipped him into the corner where Hunter did his upside down bump leading to Goldust hitting a bulldog for a two count. Chyna stalked Marlena outside the ring. Goldust went for the Curtain Call, Hunter fought out of it, went for a Pedigree and Goldust gave him a slingshot into the top ropes. Goldust picked Marlena up, putting her on the apron. Hunter kneed Goldust in the back, Marlena went into Chyna’s arm for the vicious bearhug and Hunter finished off Goldust with the Pedigree at 14:28.
Winner: Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Analysis: ** They worked hard. The pacing was slow, though. Crowd didn’t care about much until the finish, which was well done. At this point in his career Hunter was good at all the basics, but he didn’t have the intensity yet and his timing wasn’t always there either. He improved later in 1997 when he feuded with Mick Foley and then by the time he got to main events in late 1999 he was a much better performer. His best year was definitely 2000. Also kudos to Chyna for getting whatever facial surgery she got. Smart move.
Shawn Michaels was shown backstage chatting with fans on the computer.
Prior to the tag title match, Jim Ross tried to interview Owen & Bulldog about Owen’s claim that he was the leader of the team. Owen entered with two of “his” Slammy Awards. He did it!
Tag Team Titles: British Bulldog & Owen Hart vs. Mankind & Vader w/Paul Bearer
It was an interesting dynamic here because all four guys were heels at this point in their career. Don’t confuse interesting for good or smart because heel vs. heel doesn’t usually work. Bulldog was also the European Champion at this point. Vince pointed out that Vader was in the best condition he was in since entering the company, which is probably his way of saying Vader was too fat before. Vader dominated Owen early, then Owen hit a spinning heel kick and Vader dropped him with a slam. Nice powerbomb by Vader. Bulldog interfered, so Mankind ran in and Bulldog was able to hit a double clothesline on the challengers while Owen hit a double dropkick. All of a sudden, Mankind was the legal guy. Bulldog whipped him into the corner. Delayed suplex by Bulldog on Mankind. Vader ran in, Bulldog countered it and gave him a suplex. Mankind threw Bulldog in the ropes, Vader pulled the rope down and Bulldog fell to the floor. Vader hit Bulldog with the urn. I guess that means the Bulldog & Owen team was the face team in the match although Owen was pushed heavily as an arrogant heel. Vader hit a suplex for two. Vader splashed him in the corner. Vader gave him a front splash off the middle rope. Mankind tagged in and hit the running knee in the corner. I always loved that move. Leg drop to the back of the head by Mankind. Back body drop by Mankind. Vader went for another splash off the middle rope. Bulldog slammed him down. Tag to Owen, who hit a missile dropkick and then a cross body block for two. Owen ran the ropes, but Vader crushed him with his power. Out on the floor, Vader put Owen on his knee and Mankind dropped an elbow off the ropes. That was impressive. Vader & Mankind continued to attack Owen. It was right in front of Stu & Helen Hart, Owen’s parents. The crowd was rooting on Owen to make the tag to Bulldog. Owen countered a neckbreaker into a DDT as Vince pointed out a lot of people were using the DDT on this show. After a whip into the corner, Owen hit a spinning heel kick to the face for two. Vader tagged in and pummeled Owen with a lot of punches to the face. Mankind tagged back in, threw Owen to the floor and Owen countered a charge with a belly to belly suplex. They showed Stu again. He didn’t seem pleased to be on camera. Back in the ring, Owen hit the enziguiri. Hot tag to Bulldog, who rammed Mankind into the turnbuckle multiple times. Mankind came back with his Mandible Claw submission move. Vader splashed Owen, he went crashing into Mankind & Bulldog while the ref counted them out. The match ended in a double countout at 16:08.
Match Result: Double Countout
Post match, Mankind kept the Mandible Claw on Bulldog. The fans weren’t that angry about it because it was a heel attacking a heel. I can’t blame the fans for not caring. It was an odd way to use your personnel.
Analysis: ** I was a fan of all four guys, but they didn’t click that well here. It’s one of those matches where “on paper” you’d expect a better match because of the talent in the ring. I think the lack of a true babyface team hurt it. The finish was pretty bad too. Owen and Bulldog would join with Bret Hart after this.
They aired a video package about the Bret Hart/Steve Austin feud. The idea was that after Bret left post WM12, things changed in the company and so did his attitude. Austin challenged Hart at Survivor Series 1996, which was a fantastic match and the feud continued into the Royal Rumble leading to this Submission Match at WrestleMania 13. Even though Austin acted like a heel, people were starting to cheer him. It was also the point when Bret was yelling at Vince McMahon, which was when they were beginning to acknowledge that Vince was the owner of the company.
It’s time for Hart vs. Austin. This was a Submission match (or “I Quit” match) meaning that there were no DQ’s, no countouts, no pinfalls, no submissions and the only way to win the match was to make your opponent submit. The special referee for this match was Ken Shamrock who signed a WWF contract about a month earlier. Ken hadn’t wrestled on TV at this point, but they did put over that he was a tough guy that would make sure it’s a fair fight. Steve Austin came out to a good pop. Vince tried telling us that Austin got a really huge reaction, but it wasn’t that big. Vince made sure to point out that Austin got a “positive” response. There were a lot of “Austin 3:16” signs in the crowd. Bret came out to a slightly bigger pop that Vince said was mixed. If you really paid attention to the commentary you could figure out where this whole thing was headed.
Submission Match: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin – Ken Shamrock is Guest Referee
Austin charged at Bret with a double leg takedown and they brawled out to the floor. They did the “I punch you, you punch me back” routine and the crowd popped for it. Bret tossed Austin into the ring post headfirst and set him up for a suplex. Austin countered and crotched Bret over the guardrail. Austin nailed Bret with a clothesline sending him to the floor as Vince unleashed his “forgetaboutit” one more time. Austin climbed the guardrail and threw Bret into it again. They brawled into the crowd going up several levels as Shamrock followed because matches like this ALWAYS end in three minutes. Austin went for a piledriver in the crowd, but Bret reversed it and Steve landed back first on the steps although we couldn’t see it from the angle they showed. As they came back to ringside they threw fists because it was a realistic type brawl that did not slow down. Bret hurled Austin over the guardrail. Austin got up with the advantage and whipped Bret shoulder first into the ring steps, which Bret took like a man. The crowd liked that because they could appreciate a good bump. Austin gave Bret the double middle finger and hit a clothesline off the ring apron. Austin picked up the ring steps, Bret kicked him in the gut, so Austin whipped Bret into the ring post. After about five minutes of brawling they finally rolled into the ring. In the ring, Bret hit a swinging neckbreaker. Here’s an ACTUAL quote from Vince: “If Bret loses this match you have to wonder what kind of excuse he will come up with.” The irony is scary isn’t it? Bret hit an elbow off the middle rope to keep Austin down again. Bret worked on Austin’s left knee for a few moments. It should be pointed out that it is the same one that was legitimately injured six weeks prior to this match, but Austin was able to work through it because he’s a tough SOB. Bret used several different moves (knee smash, kicks to the knee, the hamstring puller) to work over the knee. Notice how none of them are rest holds. Also, according to JR, Austin and Hart are: “two finely tuned athletes who are not worried about covering their bald spots.” That comment was directed to WCW top guys like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, among others. Shamrock asked Austin if he gave up, but Austin showed Shammy the two middle fingers salute so that he could understand that one plus one is two. Austin was so great. Bret went for a butt splash on the knee, but Austin moved. Austin got up quickly and hit an old school Stunner (no lead in with the kick) while JR reminded us that there were no pinfalls. Both men were down for a few seconds. Bret had the advantage and kicked him in the knee a few times. He pulled Austin to the corner and puts on the FIGURE FOUR AROUND THE POST! Man, I sure loved that move. It looked liked the most painful submission move. Crowd was going absolutely berserk. Austin would not give up because he is a tough bastard.
Bret rolled him in the ring and grabbed the ring bell placing it on the apron. Bret grabbed a chair, placed it on Austin’s ankle just like Austin did to Brian Pillman several months earlier. It’s called “Pillmanizing” now because of that incident where Austin “broke” Pillman’s ankle. Bret climbed the top rope, but Austin got up with chair in hand and he absolutely drilled Bret across the back with the chair to a nice pop. Bret’s down, so Austin drilled him in the back with the chair again. Body slam followed by an Irish whip into the buckle put Bret down again. Suplex by Austin followed by the “f-u” elbow off the middle rope to a nice pop again. Kick to the groin (the astute Mr. McMahon informs us everything is legal), Russian leg sweep and Austin puts him in a painful looking arm submission. Bret would not submit. Close-up of Bret’s dad Stu. Lawler: “Even Stu woke up for this.” The first part of the show was crap, so I don’t blame anyone for sleeping. Austin applied a Boston Crab and sat down low as Bret said “no” a few times. Bret reached the ropes so the hold was broken. Austin went for a sharpshooter, which Bret countered by poking him in the eyes. Vince said “it could happen” to the possibility of Bret giving up to the sharpshooter leaving viewers at home to wonder about THAT statement. He could have said “it will happen on November 9, 1997 in Montreal” although I guess he didn’t want to go into details. Austin tosses Bret outside again, but Bret reversed an Irish whip sending Austin headfirst into the guardrail by the announcers and timekeeper. Bret followed him in as we saw that Austin was busted open. Now the match really turns into another gear. Bret rammed Austin’s head into the guardrail, as Austin’s blood was everywhere, literally. To say Austin was bleeding profusely would be an understatement. Bret punched Austin in the head to several times. See, if a guy loses blood he will be more likely to give up if he were put in a submission hold. That’s psychology. Austin was thrown into the ring post, the steel steps, the guardrail and everything else that could possibly open up the wound more. Austin crawled in the ring while a close-up of Austin’s face showed us the nasty blade job as the crowd went ballistic. Elbow to the head by Bret, then a kick to the head followed up by rapid punches on the head. Bret with the backbreaker and elbow off the middle ropes kept Austin grounded. Bret hit him with the chair to the left knee four times as JR went ballistic saying Bret was sadistic, evil and everything else to convince you he was becoming a heel. Bret went for the Sharpshooter as crowd roared in anticipation, but Austin raked the eyes to the approval of the crowd. They had the crowd going back and forth. I love that. Bret punched Austin in the head a few more times. Bret stepped back about a foot and Austin kicked Bret in the nuts. The crowd liked that. Vince said that Bret deserved a shot in the nuts.
Austin pulled himself up as he whipped Bret into the turnbuckle sternum first, which was Bret’s signature bump. Austin delivered the kicks to Bret’s chest (now known as “stomping a mudhole” by JR) and threw in a middle finger just for fun. The crowd popped big time for all those kicks. Austin gave Bret a superplex to an even bigger pop. Austin left the ring to get an extension cord as Bret headed towards the bell that he placed on the ring apron ten minutes earlier. Austin put the extension cord around Bret’s neck, but Bret grabbed the ring bell and drilled Austin in the head with it. JR: “Bret Hart just rang Austin’s bell!” The crowd pops again as Austin was motionless in the ring. Bret put Austin in the Sharpshooter and sat on it pretty good. Austin shook his head in the “Oh hell no” manner as Shammy asked him if he submits. Close-up on Austin showed the blood dripping down his face. The crowd was on its feet the entire time popping huge while Austin tried to fight it. Austin was in a push up position as the blood dripped on his teeth and into his mouth. Bret fell face first as the crowd popped and the announcers believed he had broken the hold. However, Bret still had a hold of him so he cranked on the Sharpshooter again as Austin reached for the ropes and failed in an attempt to break free. Austin went for one last push, but he could not find the strength so he passed out. Shamrock asked very loudly: “Steve, do you give up?” Kenny, being the genius that he was (sarcasm), realized that Austin was out so he stopped the match and Bret won at 22:05.
Winner: Bret Hart
Analysis: ***** My favorite match ever. It was also the match that I considered the best match ever for a very long time although that’s a debate for another time. For the first 90 minutes of this show, the crowd was dead. You wondered if they would care about anything that took place at WrestleMania 13. Then Hart vs. Austin happened. They put on a clinic in wrestling, storytelling and how to use the emotions of the fans to your advantage. There was not a point in the match where the action slowed down. It was 20 minutes of pure action. It never got boring. Every move they did made sense. Hart was incredible as the aggressive veteran that took it to Austin and showed no remorse doing so. They really got over the idea that Bret didn’t care about what the fans thought about his tactics. All he wanted to do was win. Austin showed the kind of heart you want to see out of any babyface even though he wasn’t a traditional kind of babyface. When he made his comeback the crowd was totally behind him because they saw him take a tremendous beating and he kept on coming back. It was a simple story of a guy showing a lot of heart, that kept on fighting and earned the respect of everybody watching the match. I know for myself I started liking Austin earlier than this, but I can remember a lot of my friends loving him after this match. We were 16-17 years old. We were that demographic that thought he was the coolest guy in the world because of how much punishment he took and he kept fighting. That was the kind of guy we wanted to cheer. The “never say die” attitude of Stone Cold is what made him the huge draw he would become. Without this match at WrestleMania 13 who knows if he would have ever reached that level. That’s why I always say this was one of the most important matches in the history of WWE. The “Austin” chant was something we would hear many times over the years, but this is the time when it mattered most because it was a harbinger of things to come.
Post match, Bret refused to relinquish the hold so Shammy pulled him off. In case you were wondering, Austin was in the Sharpshooter for 1:45. The crowd popped for Bret and he posed on the turnbuckles. Bret attacked again as Austin was lying in a pool of his own blood. Bret grabbed the left leg and kicked it some more to some jeers from the crowd. Bret went to apply the Sharpshooter again, but Shamrock gave him the belly to back flip to a big pop. Shamrock wanted to fight. Instead, Bret just walked away because he was a cowardly heel now. Bret looked at the crowd giving them a “you make me sick” face that led to them booing him out of the building. Austin pulled himself up and Stone Cold Stunner’d referee Mike Chioda because he tried to help him up . The crowd gave him a nice face pop for that. Austin stumbled out of the ring by himself to put over how tough he was. He hobbled to the back as the crowd gave him a standing ovation chanting “Austin, Austin, Austin.” A very memorable ending to a fantastic match.
Analysis: This match was wrestling perfection. Two great competitors, a terrific storyline, an extremely high workrate, plenty of crowd heat, one of the greatest blade jobs ever, a vicious heel, a courageous babyface and the greatest double turn in the history of the business. Everything that makes wrestling great was present in this match.
I also have to put over the announcing work of Jim Ross. He was incredible here. Vince did a decent job of putting over the story, but Ross took it to another level by talking about the heart, the guts and fortitude of Austin. He made sure to point out that at the end of the match, the fans were chanting or Austin. That’s the story they wanted to get over. It worked. I’d put this match up there as one of Ross’ best performances ever too. Now how are they supposed to follow that?
Backstage, Todd Pettengill interviewed Faarooq (Ron Simmons) and the Nation of Domination about the upcoming Chicago Street Fight. There were a lot of members in this stable including D-Lo Brown as a non wrestler. The three wrestlers were Faarooq, Savio Vega and Crush, who was in another new gimmick. Huge pop for the Legion of Doom along with Ahmed Johnson, who was also wearing shoulder pads like LOD. LOD was from Chicago, so they got the hometown pop.
Chicago Street Fight: Faarooq, Crush & Savio Vega vs. Hawk, Animal & Ahmed Johnson
No tags in this match. All six guys could fight at the same time. Weapons were allowed. The faces dominated earlier with Ahmed hitting a dive on Crush on the floor. Animal hit Faarooq in the head with a trash can. Ahmed hit Crush with the trash can in the back. In the ring, Hawk hit a clothesline on Savio. Faarooq and Animal fought by the French announce table. Animal tried to give him a piledriver on the table. It didn’t really work as they fell to the ground. That was pretty scary. Not a place where you want to really botch something. Animal hit Faarooq with a fire extinguisher and then Savio used a trash can to knock down Hawn & Ahmed. The heels finally took control. Savio whipped Hawk into a street sign. Hawk came back by putting a trash can on Savio’s head and hitting him in the head while it was on his head. Johnson gave Faarooq a body slam through the table. I guess they wanted that table to break huh? Big “L-O-D” chant from the crowd. The Nation tried to choke Ahmed with a rope around his neck. Hawk hit a double clothesline on Faarooq & Savio. Ahmed freed himself from the rope. Animal hit Faarooq in the head with a road sign while Savio dumped Ahmed into the crowd. Ahmed won that fight and threw him back into the ringside area. Faarooq used the rope to choke Hawk while other members of the Nation were attacking Ahmed. Faarooq went to the middle rope and Hawk threw him off, sending him crashing to the floor. There were no pinfall attempts at this point in the match. Ahmed hit a spinebuster on Faarooq in the middle of the ring while Hawk used the fire extinguisher to take care of people on the floor. All the Nation guys joined into the fight with D-Lo going after Ahmed again. Animal put Crush on his shoulders and Hawk hit him with the Doomsday Device. Ahmed grabbed the 2×4 and they used the wood to clothesline Crush in the throat. Animal pinned Crush at 10:45.
Winners: Hawk, Animal & Ahmed Johnson
Post match, the fight continued. Ahmed gave D-Lo a Pearl River Plunge in the ring. I can remember him doing that through a table at one point and that was one of those cool visuals I won’t ever forget. They put the white rappers of the Nation on their shoulders and Hawk came off the top with a Doomsday Device clothesline for each of them. The crowd was popping huge for them.
Analysis: **3/4 It was a brawl with weapons that was a new thing for WWE at the time. It was definitely influenced by ECW. It was a better match than these six would have if they had a regular match because they weren’t the types of guys to have great matches in the ring although Savio had his moments. LOD was great when they were able to have brawls, so they had the chance to do that here and the crowd loved them for it.
Ring announcer Howard Finkel welcomed Shawn Michaels to the ring. This was after he had “lost his smile” and he was out of action with a knee injury. Michaels was a babyface that got a good pop. He’d turn heel later in the year. Michaels was a guest commentator for the main event.
Before the match, the World Champion Sid did a promo about how he was the one person that wasn’t scared of The Undertaker.
The Undertaker entered the arena first. Lights went out. Huge pop. I like that the announcers didn’t say anything during the entrance until Undertaker turned the lights back on. Jim Ross mentioned that he has never lost at WrestleMania. That’s the first time they’ve mentioned it. Sid made his entrance to some good heat.
Prior to the match starting, Bret Hart showed up. He grabbed the microphone. He talked to Shawn. He called Shawn a phony little faker and that he should go back to find his smile. He said whatever Shawn did, he better stay out of this match. Bret said he wasn’t friends with Undertaker anymore. He told Sid that the WWF Title belonged to Bret and Sid was a fraud. Everybody knew it. Sid decked him with a punch and gave Bret a Powerbomb. Sid told him to leave. The crowd cheered that while refs escorted Bret out.
No DQ Match for the WWF World Heavyweight Title: Sycho Sid vs. The Undertaker
Don’t ask me why Psycho was spelled without a P for him. It just was. JR pointed out that Undertaker was wearing the same attire he wore at his WrestleMania debut. Undertaker jumped him early, getting a boot to the face and worked on him with punches in the corner. Undertaker hit the top rope “old school” clothesline. As I say every year, it got a bigger pop in later years. Undertaker charged in the corner, but Sid caught him in a bearhug. The bearhug lasted over a minute. Then he broke it and applied it again. Sid came back with a boot to the face and knocked Undertaker out to the floor. He knocked him over the Spanish announce table. Side dropped Undertaker throat first across the railing and then he gave them a body slam on the table. The table did not break. They weren’t using the announce tables that they use today. Sid rammed him back first into the post and then rolled him in for a two count. Michaels said the thing about Undertaker was that you didn’t know when he was hurt because he didn’t show any emotion. Sid put him in a Camel Clutch to kill the crowd even more. Sid hit a double axe off the middle rope to put Undertaker down. Then he blew a snot rocket into the camera. Do people still call it a snot rocket? I do. Sid gave him a powerslam right into the stained part of the ring where Austin’s blood was. Sid hit a leg drop for two. Undertaker made a comeback after running the ropes as he hit a nice leaping clothesline. Undertaker knocked him out to the floor and threw him over the guard rail into the crowd. Undertaker slammed Sid’s face into the steel steps.
Back in the ring, Undertaker missed an elbow drop. Wow, that’s a lot of blood that Austin had poured out of his forehead. Sid put Undertaker in a chinlock. He was a big fan of rest holds huh? Crowd was dead for this match. Undertaker fought back with punches and hit a powerslam for two. Undertaker slapped on the dreaded trapezius nerve hold because I’m assuming Sid was tired by this point. Undertaker hit a clothesline for two. Still no reaction from the crowd. They hit the boot to the face at the same time. Undertaker did the same spot at the WrestleMania prior with Diesel. Ref Earl Hebner counted them down for a ten count. Sid got up first to cover Undertaker for a count of two. Undertaker got back up, Sid went to the middle rope and hit a double axe to the head again. Sid hit a punch to the head off the middle rope. Was that supposed to be a clothesline? I don’t even know. Undertaker tried to come back, but Sid countered it with a body slam. Sid went to the top for some reason, so Undertaker sat up and slammed him off the top. Undertaker went to the top and hit an awesome leaping clothesline for two. The crowd cheered a bit for that. They cheered even more when Undertaker did his throat slashing motion. Undertaker signaled for the Tombstone and Sid countered it into a Tombstone of his own. Sid covered him the way Undertaker covers people by putting their hands on their chest. Sid threw Undertaker out to the floor. Undertaker got back up, they brawled and Bret Hart had a chair that he hit Sid in the back with not once but twice. There was a no DQ stipulation on the match to cover it. Undertaker drove Sid back first into the steel post. Undertaker gave Sid a chokeslam. He covered for two. The fans thought that was it. Sid ducked a clothesline. Sid set him up for a powerbomb and Bret Hart came running out again. Sid attacked him on the apron, Bret choked him on the top rope and he bounced back right into Undertaker’s arms. Tombstone…one…two…three and that’s it at 21:19. The Undertaker is 6-0 at WrestleMania.
Winner and New WWF World Champion: The Undertaker
Analysis: * Who came up with the idea of giving Sid 20 minutes in a match? This match sucked for the first 15 minutes, but the ending was okay. There wasn’t much in terms of psychology, the rest holds sucked and even though Undertaker won it could have been done in a cleaner fashion. I don’t really like the idea that Undertaker won because Bret Hart attacked Sid on multiple occasions. What was the point of that? I understand wanting to get Bret’s whiner gimmick over, but Sid was barely used after WrestleMania and was gone from the company three months after this. It was an odd way to finish the match. I should add also that there’s a story about this match that Sid literally shit in his shorts during the match although I have no idea if that’s true or not. It could have been some other match or it could be a totally made up story. I’m not sure if I want to know the real truth about that one.
To end the show, Undertaker celebrated with the World Title. The crowd cheered him on. That was a cool moment. This was Undertaker’s second title reign. The first one only lasted one week happened in 1991, so this felt like the first legit one for him. He had a good reign too, holding the title all the way until Summerslam.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– I hope I did a good job of conveying how good of a match Hart/Austin was. I’ve seen that match more than any match in my life most likely and it never gets old with me.
– This was Bret Hart’s last WrestleMania as an active in-ring performer. Of course he returned at WrestleMania 26, but he was obviously in different physical condition at that point. While it’s sad that the prime of his WWE career ended the way it did, at least he was able to give us this classic match with Austin as a parting gift.
– This was the most “hardcore” WrestleMania up to this point. You could see the ECW influence, which also ushered in the Attitude Era for WWE. The Austin/Hart match was unlike any WrestleMania match prior to it. In the six man tag, it was more of that garbage type of match where it was all about the weapons being used. The crowd liked it because it was different than what they were used to.
– Undertaker had one of his best years ever in 1997, but this was one of the worst matches of his career. I’d be interested to know how he felt about the match. Later in the year he had matches with the likes of Austin, Hart & Michaels that were way better than this.
– This was Vince McMahon’s last WrestleMania as the main play by play guy after four years of doing it. Vince was a good play by play guy. I think Jim Ross and Gorilla Monsoon were both better in terms of WWE guys, but Vince was better than Michael Cole. No question about it. Vince was terrific in terms of putting over the angles as well as getting excited at the right times.
Best Match: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin – Obviously. The best WrestleMania match ever up to this point. Maybe ever? We’ll see about that.
Worst Match: Undertaker vs. Sid – I gave the Rocky/Sultan match the same rating, but this one gets the honor (or dishonor?) because it was the main event.
Most Memorable Moment: The image of Stone Cold fighting while in the Sharpshooter is one of the most iconic moments in WWE history.
1. Steve Austin – The match that pushed him to the main event level more than any other match in his career.
2. Bret Hart – Incredible performance. He was a great technical wrestler, but this brawl may have been his best match.
3. Owen Hart – He worked heel and face style during the match. Such a good worker.
4. Mankind – Did well in his WrestleMania debut. Wish his match was booked better though.
5. Jim Ross – His work putting over the Austin/Hart story was terrific.
I should really just give two stars. Nobody else deserved it.
Show rating (out of 10): 4
WrestleMania 13 was the definition of a one match show. The Hart/Austin match makes the show worth your time, but WWE also put it on a lot of DVDs in the years that followed that covered both men’s careers. The six man brawl was okay, but nothing too exciting. The 4 out of 10 means it ties WM 2 & 5 near the bottom of the reviews. I’ll break the tie by putting it ahead of them simply because this show had the Hart/Austin match. I don’t feel right giving it a higher score, though.
A lot of people frown on 1997. Not me. This show was poor, but look at the roster: Undertaker, Hart, Michaels, Austin, Rock, Triple H, Mankind, Owen, Bulldog and Vader. That’s an impressive “top ten” of talent right there. Yes, I left Sid off. It was not a money making year for WWE. However, without the seeds planted in 1997 there would not have been the huge success of the next five years that followed. It wasn’t an overnight success. It took years of planning.
That’s all for me. Check out the full list of my WWE PPV Review archive right here. Thanks for reading.