The fourteenth WrestleMania was a big one. After some rough years from 1993 to 1997, business picked up in 1998. Steve Austin became the top babyface in the company during the period that we would come to be known as The Attitude Era.
When thinking about the Attitude Era, the thing that sticks out to me the most was the depth of the roster. As you read along, you’ll see that there was a lot more depth in the midcard at WrestleMania 14 than there was in WWE since WrestleMania 8. The creative team (headed up by Vince McMahon with Vince Russo being the lead writer) deserves a lot of credit for creating gimmicks for so many different characters. Also Jim Ross, the head of talent relations at the time, deserves a lot of credit for signing a lot of these young guys to the roster. This was also around the time that guys like The Rock and Triple H really started to show signs of becoming the main event players they would eventually become.
The big story going into this one was bringing in Mike Tyson as the special enforcer for the Austin/Michaels match. Tyson was suspended from professional boxing due to the ear-biting incident involving Evander Holyfield (google it if you don’t know what it is), so Vince McMahon paid him reportedly $3 million to be a part of WrestleMania. By doing that, a lot of mainstream press took notice and the wrestling world was again focused on the World Wrestling Federation after two years of getting their asses kicked by World Championship Wrestling on Monday nights. A few weeks after this show, Raw passed Nitro in the ratings and over the next few years they would beat them so bad that Vince McMahon bought them out.
WrestleMania 14 was an important show for so many reasons. The pressure was on. Were they ready to take it to the next level? Let’s find out.
WWE WrestleMania XIV
March 29, 1998
Fleetcenter in Boston, Massachusetts
We get a nice video package to open the show. Like I said in the WM13 review, their videos were improving a lot and this one was better than the year before. Technology is your friend. The video showcased the storyline between Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin and Mike Tyson. They also mentioned legends of the past that also had memorable matches in their career. I like the term “The Showcase of the Immortals” a lot. That’s always been one of my favorite nicknames for the show.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler welcomed us to the show. They were the main announce time for WrestleMania from this point forward. Obviously, that changed a bit, but they were the constants.
There was a 15 team battle royal to start the show. We saw the entrance of Faarooq & Kama. The other teams in the match were outside the ring. After they were introduced, a mystery team was announced: The Legion of Doom managed by Sunny, who was still fantastic to look at. LOD got a monstrous pop.
15 Team Battle Royal: Faarooq & Kama, Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal), Savio Vega & Miguel Pérez, Jose Estrada & Jesus Castillo, The Truth Commission (Recon & Sniper), Bradshaw & Chainz, Mark Henry & D’Lo Brown, The Quebecers (Jacques & Pierre), The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson, The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher), Too Much (Scott Taylor & Brian Christopher), Disciples of Apocalypse (8-Ball & Skull), New Midnight Express (Bombastic Bob & Bodacious Bart), Steve Blackman & Flash Funk and The Godwinns (Phineas & Henry)
How am I supposed to recap this one? 30 men in the ring at once! The deal was if one person in the team got eliminated then the team was eliminated too. Nice “RVD” sign in the crowd. He was in ECW at this time of course. Savio & Miguel got eliminated. Barry Windham ran out and threw Chainz over the top because he was teaming with Bradshaw, who used to team with Windham. D-Lo and Jacques got thrown out so their teams were gone. More camera shots of Sunny please. They showed a replay of Kurrgan eliminating Sniper & Recon from earlier. Ricky Morton got thrown out. As you can tell, the roster was a lot deeper in 1998 than it was in the previous five years or so. Headbangers were eliminated. JR wondered why Henry was in there when D-Lo was already thrown out. Because the match is madness. See ya Scott Taylor, who would later be known as Scotty 2 Hotty. There were four teams left with LOD, Godwinns, DOA & New Midnight Express. One of the DOA guys got eliminated, they were supposed to leave and then the other DOA eliminated a Godwinn. Then LOD eliminated the other Godwinn. The Godwinns went back in the ring and attacked LOD. They told the New Midnights to eliminate LOD because they were evil farmers now. New Midnights were Bart Gunn and Bob Holly in new gimmicks that weren’t that effective. Animal was out of the ring, but he didn’t get eliminated. Powerslam by Animal on Bart. Boot to the face by Hawk on Bob. Then they eliminated each of the Midnight Express with clotheslines for the win at 8:19.
Winners: Legion of Doom
Analysis: * Bad battle royal although LOD was very over with the crowd, who was chanting for them the entire time. None of the other teams really had a shot. This was a nice way for the company to include 30 people on the card that otherwise wouldn’t have been on it.
Light Heavyweight Title: Taka Michinoku vs. Aguila
This was WWE’s attempt at having a cruiserweight division because they saw how successful it was in WCW. I was a big Taka fan. Aguila would later become Essa Rios with Lita as his manager. It was a face vs. face match. It was about the action. Aguila knocked him to the floor with a spin kick, hit a baseball slide to the floor and then he hit a moonsault off the top to the floor. Ross said Aguila was 19 (it’s true). Such an impressive move barely got a pop. Taka knocked Aguila out with a dropkick and then Taka followed it up with a springboard crossbody block. Lawler threw in his Taco Bell joke regarding Aguila. Seated dropkick by Taka. Taka charged in and Aguila gave Taka a back body drop over the top to the floor. Taka recovered quickly, but Aguila got him with an armdrag off the top. Aguila knocked him out to the floor with an awesome wrist lock. Aguila hit a beautiful corkscrew plancha over the top onto Taka on the floor. That drew a bigger reaction because it was a fantastic move. To the top, Taka missed a moonsault and then Aguila came back with a moonsault of his own for two. Taka came back with a hard slap to the face and he missed a splash thanks to Aguila getting his feet up to block it. Aguila hit headscissors off the top. Taka came back with a charge into the corner and then a beautiful missile dropkick. Taka signaled for the Michinoku Driver, but Aguila countered and Taka gave him a powerbomb. Taka missed another moonsault. Aguila got a cradle for two. Aguila went to the top, jumped off and Taka blocked his attack with a dropkick. Taka finished him off with the Michinoku Driver for the win at 5:57.
Winner by pinfall: Taka Michinoku
Post match, they shook hands as JR said we’d see those two athletes for a long time to come. It wasn’t that long.
Analysis: **3/4 That was fun. There wasn’t much in the way of psychology or storytelling, but they did some impressive moves in the six minutes they were given. The crowd got behind them by the end of it. It would have been nice if they had a heel opponent for Taka to beat, but I was impressed by Aguila, who did some amazing things for somebody that was only 19 at the time.
They cut to an interview that Gennifer Flowers conducted with The Rock. Gennifer who? A woman that allegedly had an affair with President Bill Clinton. One of many. Rock was the IC champ. She asked him what things would be like if he was the leader of the country. He said he’d prefer to be called the ruler. Rock says as long as he’s got his palatial estate in Miami he doesn’t care about the homeless. Flowers: “How would you run the White House?” As long as the interns beneath The Rock didn’t do anything orally wrong (he then corrected himself to say morally wrong) then everything would be okay.
Analysis: The Rock was the most improved performer on the roster in 1998. He had come a long way from where he was at WM13 with the boring Rocky Maivia character. Rock was must see television at this point and this was a funny segment.
Triple H was the European Champion. He entered the arena along with Chyna. There was a Degeneration X band that played his music as he made his way out. Chyna was going to be handcuffed to Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter to make sure she wouldn’t interfere. Nice fireworks for Hunter’s crotch chopping. Hunter was a heel here although that didn’t last long. Chyna got handcuffed to Slaughter at ringside. Lots of jokes there, but let’s just move on. Owen Hart got a good babyface pop. He was riding the babyface wave after the screwjob at Survivor Series although I always liked Owen more as a heel.
European Title: Triple H vs. Owen Hart
Owen came into the match with a hurt ankle. They brawled early and Owen hit him with a back body drop followed by a clothesline. Ross made sure to mention Owen’s win over Bret at WM10. Nice hurricanrana by Owen for two. Hunter hit a back elbow and then he knocked Owen out of the ring. Chyna went after Owen, but Slaughter was cuffed to her so he kept her back. Hunter missed an attack on the floor, crashing into the guard rail. Owen went for a Sharpshooter, but Hunter avoided it. Knee smash by Hunter followed by a clothesline. Running knee to the face by Hunter followed by a suplex. Hunter did a crotch chop followed by a knee drop. The crowd chanted “Owen” for his comeback, but Hunter caught him with a boot to the face as well as a DDT for two. Hunter worked on the knee/ankle of Owen while Owen had a cut on his nose. They showed a replay of Hunter’s boot to the face that busted open Owen’s nose. It was a legit cut in case you’re wondering. Owen tripped him up, crotched him on the ring post and then Owen hit a perfect missile dropkick for two. Belly to belly by Owen. Probably the best belly to belly suplex in wrestling. A spinning heel kick got another two count for Owen while Lawler was hoping that Chyna would do something. Awesome enziguiri by Owen got two. He sold his ankle injury after hitting the move. I love that. Sell those injuries! Owen went for a hurricanrana, but Hunter countered it with a nice powerbomb for two. They fought by the apron, Owen went to the top and hit a beautiful crossbody for two. Owen countered a Pedigree going for a Sharpshooter, Hunter shoved him off and Owen bounced back with a headbutt to the nuts for two. That’s always a fun spot. Hart countered a Pedigree, Hunter got a pinfall after a reversal and Hart put him the Sharpshooter. Chyna was able to grab Hunter’s hand so he could make it to the ropes. The crowd was going wild for that sequence. Out on the floor, Chyna threw some kind of powder in Slaughter’s face. Owen went after her, Hunter kneed him in the back and Chyna gave Owen a low blow while the ref was dealing with Hunter. Hunter hit a Pedigree for the win at 11:29.
Winner: Triple H
After the match, Chyna was freed from her cuffs and she decked Slaughter with a forearm. Then she threw him into the crowd.
Analysis: ***1/2 A very good midcard match that got the right amount of time too. I liked a lot of the nearfalls. Everybody did their parts well with Owen showing a lot of heart as a babyface, Hunter cheating at every opportunity and the angle with Chyna being cuffed worked well. Hunter was not the elite worker he would become for another year or so, but he was still solid. Owen was one of the best workers in the company, of course. The next night on Raw, Hunter turned babyface as the leader of DX.
The mixed tag was next with Marc Mero & Sable (his real-life wife at the time) vs. Goldust & Luna. The idea was that Mero was a heel that was jealous of Sable’s popularity, yet they were willing to team up here. It led to an awful segment that saw Goldust dress like a woman that still haunts me to this day.
Marc Mero & Sable vs. Goldust & Luna
Goldust and Mero started. The crowd didn’t care. Luna tagged in and Sable had to tag in so the crowd went wild. Luna ran away from Sable. She tagged out, so Goldust was in and Sable had to tag out. Mero tagged in Sable and she booted Goldust in the side with a martial arts kick. Sable wanted Luna to get in the ring. Sable tagged out again. Goldust decked Mero with a clothesline and then draped Mero’s head across the middle rope for Luna to get a shot in. Mero hit a crossbody for two. The crowd wanted Sable. They ran the ropes and they collided while the crowd continued to want Sable to get in the ring. They tagged the girls in, Sable did a double leg takedown and the crowd went wild again! Biggest pop of the night so far. Sable gave her some kicks to the face followed by a hair whip and then a clothesline sent Luna to the floor. Luna tagged Goldust in and then Sable had to tag in Mero. Marc threw Goldust into the ring steps and then Goldust blocked an attack with his knees. With the ref distracted by Sable, Mero hit a low blow. Goldust countered a TKO with a DDT for two. Mero came back with a running knee lift. Mero hit a springboard moonsault for two. He almost missed it. Goldust hit a back elbow and went to the top for nothing as Mero crotched him. Mero hit a nice hurricanrana off the top for two. Luna kneed him in the back and then Marc avoided a Goldust charge, so Goldie accidentally hit Luna off the apron. Mero hit a sloppy version of the TKO. Luna broke up the pinfall. Sable made the tag and she covered Goldust. Luna went to the top and missed a top rope splash, hitting Goldust with it. Why was the ref counting Sable’s cover on Goldust since it was supposed to be mixed tag rules? Sable went over to Luna and hit a Powerbomb on Luna for two. Crowd was going wild for anything Sable did. Luna missed a splash on the ropes. She whipped Sable in, but Sable countered and hit a TKO of her own that looked better than Marc’s version. She covered Luna for the win at 9:10.
Winners: Marc Mero & Sable
Analysis: *** Another good match. I was surprised it went as long as it did, but all things considered it was really well booked. I almost forgot how popular Sable was. She was ridiculously over with the fans and they loved everything she did in this match. Luna was very effective in her role as a heel too. The feud continued a month later when Sable & Luna had an Evening Gown Match at Unforgiven that was highlighted by Sable’s ample figure. What’s Sable up to now? She’s married to Brock Lesnar and they have two kids together.
In the ring, Tennessee Lee introduced Jeff Jarrett along with Gennifer Flowers. Gennifer was there to introduce the competitors for the IC Title match. Jarrett was there because he wasn’t a part of the show. The Rock was the Intercontinental Champion and he was accompanied by members of the Nation of Domination, who in this case were Kama, Mark Henry & D-Lo Brown. They showed a replay of the angle on Raw when Rock blasted Shamrock right in the face with a chair shot. That would never be allowed today knowing what we know about concussions these days.
Intercontinental Title: The Rock vs. Ken Shamrock
The stipulation was if Rock got disqualified he would lose his title because he was cheating to keep the title in past. Shamrock was enraged early. He decked Rock with a kick to the face followed by a clothesline over the top. Very few wrestlers could top Shamrock in the intensity department. That’s what he was best at. Rock tried to leave; Shamrock attacked him in the aisle and then broke the ref’s count. Shamrock rammed him into the steps. In the ring, Shamrock knocked him down with two clotheslines and then a standing side kick. Rock dumped him out to the floor and then whipped Shamrock into the steps as the fans chanted “Rocky Sucks” at the IC champ. Rock hit a body slam. People’s Elbow time although it was in the early days without the tossing of the elbow pad and the crowd didn’t react to it that well. Shamrock came back by tossing Rock over the top to the floor. Shamrock rolled back in and then he grabbed a steel chair. The ref told him to put it down and the ref took a dive trying to get the chair away. Rock got the chair and blasted Shamrock in the head with it. That’s painful to watch. Ouch! Rock covered. Shamrock kicked out. Shamrock hit a back elbow followed by another leaping side kick and then a powerslam got him two. Belly to belly by Shamrock. Shamrock put Rock in the ankle lock. Rock tapped out at 4:49.
Post match, the Nation attacked Shamrock. Shamrock took care of all of them with belly to belly suplexes including an impressive one on Mark Henry. Shamrock put Rock in the ankle lock again. Faarooq ran out. He didn’t help Rock. Rock would become the leader of the Nation soon after this. Shamrock kept the hold on. Other refs came out while the announcers pointed out that Shamrock was in the zone. Shamrock gave belly to belly suplexes to three referees that looked like indy wrestlers followed by a guy in a suit that looked like an indy wrestler too. They showed Rock in a lot of people hanging off the ring apron. His mouth was bloody too. The EMTs came out to take Rock away while the cameras focused on Shamrock. With Rock being taken away, the ref announced that the decision was reversed because of Shamrock’s post match attack, so the winner of the match was The Rock by disqualification. Shamrock attacked Rock up the aisle, giving him a body slam on the DX band stage. The crowd loved all of it as Shamrock snapped here. He left to a good pop.
Winner: The Rock via disqualification
Analysis: *3/4 It was more of an angle than a match. The match was okay for being under five minutes. The angle was great because it put over Shamrock’s aggression while it also made Rock look like a star because he was able to find ways to retain his title. Rock ended up having a title reign that lasted over 8 months before dropping it to Triple H at Summerslam while Shamrock would win it later in the year. I really enjoyed their feud.
They aired their video about how the wrestlers were athletes and tough.
Time for the dumpster match for the tag team titles. A couple of months before this, the New Age Outlaws put Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) & Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk) in a dumpster and shoved it off the stage on Raw. That set up this match. We got the full entrance for the Outlaws, which was pretty legendary in its own right. Oh, you didn’t know?
Dumpster Match for the Tag Team Titles: Road Dogg Jesse James & Bad Ass Billy Gunn vs. Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk)
I’m going by name of Terry Funk for this one. No tags, so tornado rules with weapons involved. There was a dumpster at ringside. Cactus put Dogg against the dumpster and hit his running knee into the side of it. Dogg came back with a trash can lid to the head. Gunn whipped Funk into the railing and then gave him a back body drop into the dumpster. They whipped Jack into the dumpster and then Dogg rammed the back of his head into dumpster. They rammed the dumpster lids into the back of the heads of Cactus & Funk. They ripped off Funk’s “Funk U” shirt and dumped them both into the dumpsters. They couldn’t close the door because Cactus put the Mandible Claw on both guys. Gunn hit Jack in the head and then Funk hit Gunn in the head with a cookie sheet followed by another shot to the head. In the ring, the challengers each hit neckbreakers on Dogg. Cactus dropped the cookie sheet onto the head of Gunn while Funk worked on Dogg in the ring. Jack set up a ladder in the ring. Gunn and Jack each climbed the ladder, Dogg hit Funk into ladder and they went crashing into the dumpster. You can question why they even climbed the ladder, but I’d rather appreciate the bump. Jack and Gunn got out of the dumpster. Gunn powerbombed Funk into the dumpster. Cactus went up the aisle, so Gunn & Dogg attacked him all the way to the backstage area. The camera cut backstage where the Outlaws continued to attack Jack. Jack came back with chair shots to each guy. Funk showed up. Jack gave Gunn a DDT on a forklift as Funk lifted them up and put them into a dumpster. Cactus shut the lids of the dumpster. The ref was waving it off at first and then in the arena, Howard Finkel announced them as the winners. Meanwhile, Funk used the forklift to seal the lid of the dumpster. The match went 10:01.
Winners: Cactus Jack & Chainshaw Charlie (Terry Funk)
I didn’t put new tag champs because officially they used the wrong dumpster. They had a rematch the next night that the Outlaws won, which was the night when the new DX was formed (Hunter, Chyna, Road Dogg, Billy Gunn and the returning X-Pac).
Analysis: *** Another good match on this show although this was more of that hardcore wrestling that was becoming a popular thing in WWE during this time period. There were some wild bumps by all four guys with Cactus Jack doing the most impressive ones in the group. I have to hand it to the Outlaws, though. They worked really hard and kept up the pace against the Hardcore Legends. The feud was done to elevate the Outlaws. I’d say the mission was accomplished. They earned a lot of people’s respect after this.
It was Undertaker vs. Kane time. Their first match on television. The build to Kane’s debut was fantastic. Paul Bearer announced that he had a son with Undertaker’s mother, so they were brothers. Kane returned here to get revenge on his brother, who apparently burned down his family home, killing his parents by accident. He didn’t know Kane was alive apparently. At the Hell in a Cell match with Michaels (one of my favorite matches ever), Kane debuted and cost Undertaker the win. Undertaker said he would never fight his own brother. There was even a moment where it appeared as though they would work together. That was a swerve, though. At the Royal Rumble, Kane cost Undertaker another win. He also tried to burn him in a casket at the Royal Rumble. There was a run where Kane was lighting people on fire too. Then Undertaker did it too just to show he had the same powers.
Analysis: The story of Kane & Undertaker took a lot of twists and turns over the years. Some of it was really stupid. However, the build up to this first match was one of the best stories in company history because it had a build of over six months. The video package was very well done.
The guest ring announcer for the match was supposed to be baseball legend (and notorious gambler) Pete Rose, who Finkel called a future Hall of Famer. Well, he made the WWE Hall of Fame. “Last time I was here we kicked your ass.” That was a reference to when he was on the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s and they beat the Boston Red Sox. “You can’t win a World Series!” Huge heat. “I left tickets for Bill Bucker, but he couldn’t bend over to pick them up.” More boos for Pete. He called them the city of losers. The ironic thing was that in the decade that followed Boston sports teams would be very successful. I think they should thank Pete Rose. Kane made his entrance with Paul Bearer. Pete was scared. Kane gave Pete a Tombstone. JR: “That’s Pete Rose! Pete Rose just got Tombstoned! Pete Rose just got Tombstoned!” The crowd cheered wildly. It didn’t mean they liked Kane. They were just happy that Pete got destroyed.
The Undertaker made his entrance. It was as epic as any entrance he ever had. It took almost four full minutes for him to get to the ring so that the match could start.
The Undertaker vs. Kane w/Paul Bearer
They had a power exchange early with Kane hitting a clothesline. Undertaker sat right up. Kane overpowered Undertaker, setting him up in the corner where he attacked him with kicks. The announcers went into their annual “we’ve never seen Undertaker physically overwhelmed” line that they say every year. Kane hit a clothesline into the corner. Kane continued to overpower him. Undertaker ran the ropes, then jumped on Kane’s shoulders and Kane dumped him off. Very athletic move by Undertaker there. They fought outside the ring with Kane ramming Undertaker’s face into the steps. There was a lot more press at ringside due to Mike Tyson’s involvement. Kane attacked Undertaker with the steps twice. Both times Bearer was distracting the ref. I guess that would have been a DQ if the ref saw. Can’t the ref hear? Let’s move on. Bearer attacked Undertaker with some kicks. Back in the ring, Kane beat on him with a barrage of punches. Undertaker came back with a clothesline. After a whip into the ropes, Kane hit a chokeslam. He picked up Undertaker at the count of two. Why? So he could apply a chinlock. The crowd rooted on Undertaker. Kudos to JR, who was working so hard to put the storyline over while the chinlock of death was applied for far too long. Undertaker fought out with punches. Kane decked him with a punch in retaliation and then slapped on another chinlock. JR said one more time that nobody had dominated Undertaker like Kane was doing here. Undertaker counted the hold after about a minute with a power suplex that put Kane on the apron. Undertaker gave him a big boot to knock Kane down to the floor. Undertaker charged, jumped over the top rope and went crashing through the Spanish Announce Table because of Kane moving. That was impressive. Taker was doing that leap fairly regularly in the big matches and it was always a great visual. Back in the ring, Kane hit his clothesline off the top that he’s done in nearly every match for the last 15 years. JR kept selling the dominating idea saying he didn’t remember even a group of people dominating Undertaker. Does that mean he forgets things like Giant Gonzalez in 1993 or Yokozuna beating Undertaker at the 1994 Rumble thanks to about a dozen other heels? Good for him for not remembering it. I wish I could forget them. Undertaker came back with some offensive moves and went for the Tombstone. Kane countered it into a Tombstone of his own. That was impressive. Kane got a two count with that. Nice nearfall there. Undertaker came back with a clothesline. Undertaker gave him a chokeslam. Bearer: “Damn you to hell.” Paul ruled. Undertaker with a Tombstone. One…two…no. Kane kicked out of it. That was very rare. Undertaker hit a leg drop. Undertaker hit another Tombstone for two. To the top, Undertaker hit an impressive clothesline. Kane stumbled back into Undertaker, who hit his third Tombstone of the match. Undertaker even hooked the leg this time. Kane got his shoulder up right after the three count, but Undertaker did win at 16:58. The Undertaker is 7-0 at WrestleMania.
Winner: The Undertaker
Analysis: **1/4 It’s an average match. I don’t love the match, but I don’t hate it either. Some people speak very highly of it because it was their first match. That’s fine. I just don’t rate it as high on the match quality scale. On the entertainment scale, it was fun, though. It wasn’t as good of a big man brawl as Undertaker/Diesel two years earlier, but it had its high moments. The start was good, the middle sucked with Kane slapping on that chinlock for way too long and the finish was strong with Kane taking so much punishment including three Tombstones. Nobody had ever taken that many Tombstones before, so it was a credit to the booking that they made Kane look so strong. Undertaker’s leap over the top to the Spanish table was a very memorable spot of course. The story didn’t end here. They would go on to be enemies and allies a combined 457 times over the years. That number may be a bit high, but it’s probably close!
After the match, Bearer threw in a steel chair. Bearer decked the ref and then he tried to attack Undertaker with his weak kicks. Undertaker decked Bearer with a punch. Kane hit Undertaker in the back with the chair. Kane gave him a Tombstone on a steel chair.
Analysis: This set up the rematch a month later at Unforgiven, which was the first-ever Inferno Match.
They aired a nice video package with some legends like Freddie Blassie, Gorilla Monsoon, Pat Patterson and others talking about how they cheer for the stars of today. In other words, it was a way for them to put over the current stars.
It was main event time. There was a video package highlighting Mike Tyson’s career in boxing and his role in WWE. The moment when Tyson debuted, got into the ring with Vince and Austin interfered for the biggest shoving match in wrestling history was one of the most iconic scenes in company history. I’ll never forget JR’s epic “TYSON AND AUSTIN!” call. It was a huge deal. Later on, Tyson would join Michaels as a member of DX with Michaels & Hunter. Tyson was the guest enforcer for the match meaning he was outside the ring for the match.
Mike Tyson made his entrance wearing a DX shirt. His crotch chops were very awkward. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin made his entrance. One of the loudest pops I’ve ever heard in my life. The Boston crowd went wild for him. This was a huge moment in Austin’s career and the crowd was there to support him. Michaels spoke to the camera backstage saying “This is for you Earl” because Earl Hebner was in the hospital at this time although he would return to the company. The DX band sang the song as HBK made his way out.
Analysis: It’s worth mentioning that both guys were coming off major injuries. Austin got dropped on his head by Owen Hart at Summerslam 1997 and he was out of action for a few months afterward. He had returned to full time action here, but he was definitely not at 100% health. He had to wrestle a different style. Michaels had a legit back injury going into this one. He was out of action for over a month because of it. I can only imagine how many painkillers he was on to try to get through this match. There were also stories about how Shawn might not even be able to do the match or want to do the match due to the back injury and due to his attitude problems.
WWE World Title: Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin w/Mike Tyson as the guest enforcer
Austin gave him the double middle fingers at the start of the match. Most people know Shawn as a babyface. I loved him as a heel, though. His cockiness was great. Michaels ran away early, but Austin caught him and gave him a clothesline. Austin had grabbed Michaels’ tights, so Shawn’s ass was showing for far too long. Austin gave him a back body drop over the top to the floor where he went crashing into Triple H. Hunter came back to attack Austin in the back. Then he whipped him into the guard railing. Ref Mike Chioda ejected Hunter and Chyna from ringside. Michaels went after Austin, who recovered quickly and attacked Triple H just for fun. Michaels used a cymbal from the band to attack Austin and then he whipped him back first into the dumpster. Ross put over how Michaels had won so many big matches in his career, which was a valid point. Back in the ring, Austin countered a double ax with punches and he whipped him into the corner. Michaels did his upside down bump right on his back. Austin hit an atomic drop. It was crazy for Michaels to do some of the bumps he did with the injuries he was dealing with, but he didn’t know any other way. Austin hit the Stun Gun. That was his finisher in WCW during his Stunning Steve days. Stunner was avoided by Michaels. Austin punched him and Michaels went face first into the announce table. In the ring, Austin hit an elbow to the head for two followed by a chinlock. Michaels fought out of it with a jawbreaker. Michaels was grabbing at his back by this point and it would continue for the rest of the match. Michaels went to ram the knee around the post, but Austin pulled his legs back and Shawn went crashing into the ring post. They fought on the floor, Austin charged in and Michaels gave him a back body drop over the railing. Michaels hit Austin in the face with the ring bell. Ross said the ref didn’t see it. Where was the ref? Not looking there apparently even with nothing else going on.
Back in the ring, it was Michaels turn to take control. Michaels was feeling a lot of pain in his lower back even when he was on offense. After Michaels did a snap mare, he yelled out “fuck” because he was in so much pain. Michaels got some more offense in and then gave the middle fingers to the crowd. That seemed to inspire Austin, who attacked Michaels with a double leg takedown and he followed that up by tossing Michaels over the top to the floor. Michaels tripped him up while he was on the floor and rammed the left knee into the ring post. They went back into the ring as another “Austin” chant started up while Michaels focused on the left knee. The left knee is the first of Austin’s knees that had a brace on it. The right knee would get one too, but the left knee was the worse of the two. Michaels looked very frustrated as he worked through his back injury. Austin countered a figure four attempt with a boot that led to a nearfall for two. Michaels went back to working on the leg. Tyson was encouraging Michaels from his position on the floor. Michaels gave Austin a baseball slide dropkick on the floor. Tyson rolled Austin back in. Michaels gave Austin a chop block. Figure Four Leglock by Michaels. He held onto the ropes while Chioda asked Austin if he gave up. Michaels held onto the ropes while Ross was complaining about the cheating. Austin reversed it to break the hold. Austin gave Michaels the slingshot into the corner that was good for a two count. Michaels grabbed the sleeper. Austin drove him back into the corner three times with ref Mike Chioda being hurt in the corner. Austin dropped Michaels face first on the top turnbuckle and then whipped him into the turnbuckles multiple times. Austin gave him a back body drop. After being whipped into the ropes, Michaels came back with a flying forearm to the head. Michaels did the kip-up as JR put over how tough he was. Michaels slowly climbed to the top rope and hit the Flying Elbow to the chest of Austin. There was still no ref. Michaels began stomping the foot for the Sweet Chin Music, he went for it, Austin ducked. Michaels avoided the Stunner. Michaels went for the kick again, Austin caught his foot and gave him the Stone Cold Stunner to a big pop. Mike Tyson went into the ring and counted the pinfall for the Austin win at 20:02. Tyson’s three count was fast. I’m assuming it was done that way because he was excited, not because it was the plan.
Winner and new WWF World Champion: Steve Austin
Analysis: ***1/2 If you asked me who my two favorite wrestlers of all time are I’d say Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin. This was their only match at WrestleMania and their only other PPV match was King of the Ring 1997, which was a good match that had no winner. I wish they could have had a better match here, but Shawn’s injury prevented that from happening. Still, it was a near four star match with a lot of intensity, crowd heat and a strong story told by both guys. The inclusion of Tyson was well done too. They didn’t ask him to do a lot. The post match punch on Michaels drew a huge pop. This was Austin’s best match post neck injury up to this point. He had better matches with Mick Foley in the next two PPVs after this, but he had a tough time with the neck injury for the next two years, which led to his surgery in early 2000. As for Michaels, he showed a lot of heart in working hurt. He also showed just how good he was because he was able to put on a show despite the nagging pain. You could see on his face (and hear it when he swore) that he was struggling just to get through the match. I thought it was the last match in his WWE career. As it turned out, he returned in the summer of 2002 and would stick around for 8 more years as a changed man with a different outlook on life.
The crowd was going wild for Austin’s win. Stone Cold was celebrating. He gave Mike Tyson an “Austin 3:16” t-shirt. Michaels woke up to tell him that he thought Tyson was with him. Michaels was arguing with him. He poked him in the chest, then threw a right hand and Tyson decked him with a right hand of his own. Ross: “Down goes Michaels!” The crowd loved that one too. Tyson draped an Austin 3:16 shirt over Michaels’ body.
Post match, Austin and Tyson walked out of the arena together. A video package of highlights ended the show.
This event has a runtime of 2:44:32 on WWE Network.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– There’s a famous story about the main event. There are some that suggest that Michaels was unwilling to wrestle the match because he was so angry at this point in his career due to the back injury. The rumor was that he didn’t want to drop the title. The story goes that apparently The Undertaker was in the locker room giving him menacing looks (including staring at Shawn while he put on his gloves) as a way to threaten him in case he thought about not doing the match. Michaels has always denied the allegation. I don’t know if it’s true or not. I’m of the opinion that he was going to do the job as he was asked and if he was angry about anything it was the condition of his back, which would require surgery to repair his herniated disks.
– I don’t care too much about the match quality of the Undertaker/Kane match. That feud wasn’t about that. It was about Undertaker getting revenge. He got it. Kane looked like such a scary badass by taking three Tombstones from Undertaker. That’s how you book a new character in a strong way from the very beginning of his career…even though Glen Jacobs originally started as Isaac Yankem and fake Diesel. I’m talking about his run as Kane. The way they booked him from the beginning was very smart. There were stupid things that followed (hey Katie Vick), but the period from October 1997 through most of 1998 was pretty awesome as far as the Kane storyline goes.
– I really liked the Shamrock/Rock feud. They had longer matches at other events in 1998, but I thought the angle told at this event was brilliant. Shamrock looked like such a badass while Rock was made to look like a lucky champion who continued to impress on a regular basis. A year later Rock was in the main event of WrestleMania as the World Champ. You have to give credit to Vince McMahon for believing in him so strongly when a lot of people would have given up from where he was a year earlier.
– The Boston crowd was fantastic. Loud from the opening bell. They were extremely raucous during the main event too. Also, they loved it when Kane gave Pete Rose that Tombstone. That pop was louder than I remembered it.
– This show was a lot of fun. The only thing preventing it from being one of the best WrestleManias of all time was a classic match. Without it, the show is still very good and I think most fans remember it fondly because there was so much talent on the roster. I’d say the roster was at its absolute best in 2000 or 2001, but the pieces were in place here too. I loved this time period. I’m looking forward to reliving the rest of the WrestleManias along the way.
Best Match: Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels – Not the classic they could have done if they were both healthy, but you have to respect them for the effort they showed.
Worst Match: The 15 Man Battle Royal – Too many people in the ring at once.
Most Memorable Moment: Austin hitting the Stunner on Michaels leading to Tyson counting the pin. The right finish to a very good match.
1. Shawn Michaels
2. Steve Austin
3. Triple H
4. Owen Hart
5. Cactus Jack
Show rating (out of 10): 7
If you’ve read my recaps from the beginning you know that there have been a lot of shows where there were one or two excellent matches while everything else sucked. In this case, we didn’t have an excellent match that I gave 4* or above to, but there were four matches that I gave 3* and above. The other matches that didn’t reach that level like Shamrock/Rock and Undertaker/Kane told very good stories. This wasn’t a WrestleMania that blew me away with its matches. What it did was impress me with solid booking throughout the whole show while the guys (and girls) in the ring put on a good show. It was a great example of how hot WWE was during this time period as they were ushering in the Attitude Era that was the most successful in company history.
That’s all for me. Check out the full list of my WWE PPV Review archive right here. Thanks for reading.