March 23, 1997
Venue: Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, IL
Runtime: 2 hours, 47 minutes
TH: WrestleMania XII was a barnburner, so we’re excited to continue deeper into the 90s, the Monday Night Wars, and the runs of some of our all-time favorite superstars. Undertaker, Stone Cold, Bret Hart, Ahmed Johnson, Goldust, and Owen Hart are back for WrestleMania XIII, plus we’ve got exciting WrestleMania debuts for Mick Foley/Mankind, The Rock (still Rocky Maivia here), Bradshaw, Chyna, and heel stable The Nation of Domination and its leader, Farooq. A few trends to point out:
- The tendency towards longer matches continues. WrestleMania XIII contributes two more matches to our top ten longest (Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold and Undertaker vs. Sid both clock in at 20 minutes plus) and two more matches to our top twenty longest (Owen Hart & Bulldog vs. Mankind & Vader, Triple H vs. Goldust).
- We’ve also got more of the “extreme” 90s approach — four of seven matches in this event have special stipulations — a four-way elimination tag team match, a “Chicago street fight” match complete with trash cans and 2x4s, a (super bloody!) submission match, and a no disqualification main event.
- 90s WWF is also the era of incredible crowd signs, so keep your eyes peeled for those and we’ll try to point out some of the fun ones as we go along. Here’s a great list if you’re into this sort of thing (which you know you are): https://www.thesportster.com/wrestling/top-50-funniest-wrestling-signs-of-all-time/
Good ol’ Jim Ross, Vince McMahon, and Jerry “The King” Lawler are on announcing duties, with a couple of guests for key matches. (WrestleMania veteran Raymond Rougeau is on the French announcing table!) Vince is screaming, Chicago’s Rosemont Horizon is jumping, we’re wearing our Bret Hart sunglasses, and it’s time to get into it!
- Billy Gunn vs. Flash Funk, with Funkette Tracy & Funkette Nadine
TH: Like last time, in the 90s WWF introduced the Free for All, a free televised event before WrestleMania designed to draw in viewers and get them to purchase the rest of the pay-per-view. This match is not included on the event video on Peacock, but Billy Gunn wins this one per Wikipedia. We are disappointed to learn that Flash Funk and the Funkettes have nothing to do with Terry or Dory Funk or George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic.
- The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher) vs. Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon vs. The Godwinns (Henry O. & Phineas I., with Hillbilly Jim) vs. The New Blackjacks (Blackjack Bradshaw & Blackjack Windham) – Four-Way Elimination Match to become #1 contenders for WWF Tag Team Championship
TH: There’s… a lot to unpack here. This seems to be a completely random set of four tag teams competing for the #1 contender spot for the WWF Tag Team Championship. We’ve got hog farmers (The Godwinns), cowboys (New Blackjacks), metalheads (Headbangers), and whatever Furnas & LaFon are supposed to be. Their costumes look like Domino’s Pizza logos and Wikipedia says they are the Can-Am Express (not to be confused with the Can-Am Connection from WrestleMania III) but I don’t hear anyone refer to them by that name here. I can’t imagine another scenario in which these four groups of people ever come into contact with one another. Maybe a Willie Nelson concert? Otherwise I’m stumped. The Headbangers are an especially weird take on “metalhead” culture — their names are “Mosh” and Thrasher” and one’s wearing a White Zombie shirt while the other is sporting a Metallica tee, but I don’t recall metalheads in my part of the country wearing face paint or diaphanous skirts over their pants. Maybe I just didn’t hang with the right metalheads. It is delightful to hear Vince and Jerry talk about White Zombie, though. Anyway, what else to note about this one… oh, Barry Windham (“Blackjack Windham”) is back for the first time since the very first WrestleMania, making him our new record holder for the longest stretch between WrestleMania appearances. This is also Bradshaw’s first WrestleMania, showing up here as “Blackjack Bradshaw,” though he’ll have like 20 more gimmicks in WrestleManias to come. Nothing spectacular to point out, wrestling-wise, but the last two teams standing are the Godwinns and the Headbangers, and the Slayer fans get the win.
RS: New Blackjacks, aka Fat Smoking Gunns, features a young Bradshaw in his Wrestlemania debut. I do like elimination tag matches where they can tag in anyone. Blackjacks have some dandy mustaches. There is a series of unfortunate botches between LaFon and Bradshaw. Amazingly no one’s neck got broken. And quickly, Blackjacks are disqualified and LaFon counted out. Guess they were starting to go long. Jim Ross makes a Future Farmers of America reference and I’m here for it. WWF also seems to be done with the corner ropes tag partners are supposed to hold. I was pretty sure they weren’t there last WrestleMania but I can tell for sure they are not in use this time. Mosh does a pretty cool flying straddle(?) thing on Phinneas for a solid ending.
OH SHIT, The Honky Tonk Man is back. They drop the bomb on the audience that he and Lawler are cousins. Minds: Blown.
- Rocky Maivia vs. The Sultan, with Bob Backlund & the Iron Sheik – WWF Intercontinental Championship match
Sign alert! “Vince is GOD, Bischoff’s His Bitch” Also “Disco Fever” Wrestling fans tell it like it is.
TH: Our first WrestleMania for Duane “The Rock” Johnson, former wrestler, now full-time actor, social media influencer, Under Armour endorser, and all-around national treasure. Seriously, is there anyone who doesn’t like The Rock? I’ve watched Disney movies just because they have him in them. Disney. Movies. Even the one where he’s the Tooth Fairy. And have you guys watched Young Rock yet? It’s ridiculous how good it is, for a show that probably shouldn’t exist.
Anyway, let’s wrestle. Honkytonk Man is on hand for extra help with announcing, I guess just in case the three experienced guys at ringside can’t handle the intricacies of an Intercontinental Championship match in which one of the men has two managers. HTM looks good though, and even sings a little bit! Rock (still going by his first ring name Rocky Maivia, a reference to his maternal grandfather Peter Maivia) is still a normal-sized human here, and looks like a permed baby. The Sultan looks like a video game character — Iron Sheik curly-toed boots, weird Mortal Kombat face mask, top ponytail, Aladdin pants. It’s actually Rikishi (aka Headshrinker Fatu) under that Sub-Zero mask, btw. (PSA: If he can wear that thing for the duration of this match, you can wear a little surgical mask to the grocery store.) And it’s always fabulous to see the Iron Sheik, though I miss his raging “Iran #1” promos. He almost knocks out ref Earl Hebner waving his Iran flag, lol. The Sultan has the advantage in size and strength, but Rocky has speed and agility and is able to hit some nice moves, including a belly-to-belly suplex, a variation on a DDT, a cross-body from the top rope, and the eventual win, retaining the belt. Iron Sheik and Backlund attack Rocky after the match, but his father Rocky Johnson comes to the rescue. Most of the crowd clearly doesn’t know who the elder Rocky is, but thankfully Vince screams it repeatedly for our benefit. There’s a gigantic pop when Young Rock grabs the Sheik and bodyslams him, then Rocky Sr. gets his turn for a slam, then father and son punch out the Sheik together. #familybonding. Now go watch the first couple episodes of Young Rock, and look out for the actor (Brett Azar) who portrays a young Iron Sheik. You’ll thank me.
RS: No better way to ease a future star into WrestleMania than have him fight his family, a long time family friend, with his dad backing him up. The Sultan is escorted by the greatest WWF Champion to put you in camel clutch and make you humble, the Iron Sheik. Did we mention, if you’re not watching Young Rock, get on it. It’s the best show on TV, seriously. The Rock is such a baby here. The Iron Sheik is immediately drawing massive heat. Rocky is showing some amazing athleticism with a kippup and dropkick. The Sultan is a big son of a bitch and lands an impressive flying headbutt a la Bam Bam Bigelow. It’s interesting that McMahon is really pushing the family, super clean angle with Rocky, but it’s not getting over with the crowd. (Probably because their audience at the time had no clue who Rocky Johnson was.) The match has an anticlimactic ending with a roll up finish, but The Rock has his first ‘Mania win! And the ambush at the end of the match. Sultan lands a huge splash and Iron Sheik locks in the Camel Clutch to humble him. And Rocky Johnson shows up to save his kid! The two Rocks land body slams on the Sheik in a fun finish
Sign alert! “Vince McMahon is God” OK, that’s two signs from different people asserting Vince’s deity. I’m starting to suspect something.
- Hunter Hearst Helmsley, with Chyna vs. Goldust, with Marlena
RS: McMahon says Goldust is the most mysterious member of the roster. How about the Undertaker? Mankind? Both of them are far stranger. Another McMahonism – “WrestleMania, a once in a lifetime…comes once every year.” Goldust is such a sound wrestler and he is really meshing well with HHH. Goldust lands a massive atomic drop; everything he does is so smooth. HHH has gold paint around his lips from a kiss from Goldust — he really planted one on him. These two are putting on a clever and creative match. HHH is laying some real chops on Goldust that sound like gunshots. The commentators in this era always turn to the look of the women, with JR and Lawler saying Chyna looks like a horse. Nice. HHH lays a serious clothesline on Goldust. You can tell Goldust likes to work a little stiffer than others and it makes for such a quality match. Goldust blocks HHH attack from the top rope with a butt bump. JR and McMahon comment that Chyna will give their younger viewers nightmares. Lovely. This match has a great ending with the female valets distracting Goldust, who seems to be on the cusp of victory, but we have the young HHH land the Pedigree and win it.
TH: I’m happy to have Goldust match at WrestleMania in which homophobia isn’t the main motivator. (Ahem, Roddy Piper.) The main beef here, per the pre-match promo, actually seems to be between Chyna and Goldust’s manager, Marlena. Doesn’t quite pass the Bechdel Test, but we’re getting closer. This is our first WM glimpse of Chyna and it’s great to see her in her prime, even though it makes me think about her post-WWE career and untimely death, which makes me kinda sad. Both guys pull off some cool moves, nothing spectacular or spotfest-y, just all around excellent wrestling. I liked Hunter getting hung up on the outside of the ropes, a great suplex from Hunter, Goldust hitting a bulldog, and Hunter’s finishing move, the Pedigree, which he’s able to nail for the win when Goldust is distracted by Chyna menacing Marlena outside the ring. Chyna grabs Marlena in a bear hug and whips her around like a rag doll. I’m pretty sure she’s got whiplash for real from that. RIP, Marlena’s vertebrae.
- Owen Hart & the British Bulldog vs. Mankind & Vader, with Paul Bearer – WWF Tag Team Championship match
TH: It’s strange to see Mankind in a tag team match. He’s such a singular creation that he seems like he should be a perpetual loner, only to be defined by the opponents he faces, and by moments like being tossed off the cell and damn near killed by the Undertaker. But nevertheless here he is, teaming up with Vader. Maybe they bonded over leather mask care tips? (It’s even more strange to have him managed by Paul Bearer, instead of, I don’t know, a wild animal tamer with a cattle prod or a psych ward attendant with a cattle prod.) Davey Boy Smith has left his unfortunate braids phase behind, thankfully, and is sporting a tight crewcut. There’s some solid back and forth action between these pairs, with extended stretches (and beatdowns) for both Owen and Bulldog before things finally turn around for the faces. Davey Boy nails an impressive suplex of Vader, who outweighs him by nearly 200 pounds. Oh shit, Vader’s mask came off! Funny, I never noticed that he had a goatee, even though his mask doesn’t really cover his face. Maybe Clark Kent could disguise that he was Superman with just a pair of glasses. Throughout this match the announcers have warned us that the title cannot change hands due to a countout or disqualification, so I wonder what’s going to happen? Ah, here we go — Mankind applies the mandible claw to Bulldog outside the ring and won’t let go, leading to both teams being counted out and Bulldog & Owen keeping the belts. It takes a small army of referees to get Mankind unlatched from Davey’s jaw; any longer and I was pretty sure they were gonna call the fire department to bring the Jaws of Life.
RS: We’re now in the period where Paul Bearer has turned on The Undertaker and is representing Mankind. Vader and Mankind dominate the opening of this match. This match really indicates how weak the tag team division was in the mid-late 90’s. There were very few dedicated tag teams and the belts were on two wrestlers better known for solo work. I’m not exactly sure Mankind is a gimmick for Mick Foley; he seems to legit enjoy getting hit. Bulldog suplexes Vader with impressive strength and a cheer from the crowd. Vader later gives one right back to Bulldog. Bulldog then catches Vader from the top rope and slams him. Mega impressive — Davey was so freakin’ strong. This match started slow but now business has really picked up. Ooh we have our first laser pointer during a late 90’s arena event with a red dot on the back of Vader while he and Mankind break Owen in half. I love Mankind, he fights like it’s a real fight, if you know what I mean. Owen slips and hits him with an accidental elbow in a corner spot and he sells it, so it looks like a chaotic fight. Owen lands a textbook belly to belly suplex on a running Mankind on the outside of the ring.Mankind reverses Bulldog’s setup for his signature powerslam and locks in the mandible claw. Both go flying out of the ring and we have a return of the tradition: The Double Countout! The match is over, but the fight ain’t! Everybody gets roughed up.
A promo teasing the Bret vs Austin match is showing how amazing Bret is. You genuinely can’t tell whether he really is pissed at everything or if this is all a work. You also can’t tell whether Steve Austin really hates everyone’s guts or if it’s all a work.
- Bret Hart vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Submission Match, with Ken Shamrock, special guest referee
TH: Now we’re talking. Once again Bret Hart gets basically a co-main event match, because the company knows he’ll bring the heat even when there’s no belt on the line. First we get a video recap of the storyline leading up to this match, which involves Bret coming back after six months off, feeling that he’s been treated poorly, and lashing out at everyone, especially Vince McMahon and usurper, Stone Cold. Time to get these guys in the ring and settle it once and for all! Ultimate Fighting (we weren’t calling it mixed martial arts or MMA back in the 90s, kids) champion and guest referee Ken Shamrock is stuffed into a sleeveless referee shirt and looks ready to rumble himself. I see that he was only in WWF from 1997 to 1999, but somehow I remember it being much longer. (I don’t mean that in a bad way, my memory of these things is just more and more unreliable as I get older. Please don’t beat me up, Ken Shamrock.)
The crowd goes nuts when the “Austin 3:16” glass breaks and his theme song hits. Steve’s shrugging off high fives from the crowd, cursing at them, but they still love him. This is the start of his absolutely unequaled run, maybe the single greatest character arc in WWF history. Bret looks serious for his entrance, and is still getting lots of love from the crowd, even though he’s been set up to be the heel here by his constant whining. There’s signs like “Bret Rules” and “The True Champion,” and Bret gives away the glasses as always. Austin rushes the bell and the guys wail on each other and roll out of the ring, still hammering away outside. Hooboy, this is already what JR would call a “slobberknocker.” Austin takes a great shot into the ring post, then crotches Bret on the steel barrier. When Bret spills off the barrier (practically into Captain Lou Albano’s lap) the fight is really on. Bret and Austin slug their way through the crowd, Shamrock (and Captain Lou!) barely holding the fans back, who are pressing forward like it’s a schoolyard fight. Worldstar! Austin takes a soda from the vendor and tosses it on Bret; he tries to grab the whole tray but the strap is around the poor vendor guy’s neck so he has to give it up. The fans can’t believe it, and the ushers are doing their best to maintain order but it’s futile. Lol, there’s a guy in an NWO shirt – Vince can’t be happy about that. Bret reverses Austin and back body drops him on the steps. If you told me that there was a match on this card called a Chicago Street Fight and it wasn’t this match, I wouldn’t believe you.
They finally get back to ringside and Austin reverses Bret into the steps, climbs on the apron and fires the double birds before diving off onto Bret. Bret nails a beauty of a neckbreaker and his classic elbow from the second rope, then viciously goes after Austin’s knee brace. Stone Cold gets a good shot on Bret and buys himself some breathing room, but he’s still really selling the leg injury. Bret wraps Steve’s legs around the ring post and hangs off of them in a sort of upside-down figure four. I love how Bret invents new twists on his moves in every single match. The guy is an artist. Bret gets the ring bell, then goes to find a chair to use as a weapon; the first one he picks up is one of the padded souvenir ones, which obviously won’t do for brutalizing an opponent, so he tosses that aside for a straight steel one. He puts it on Austin’s ankle and climbs the ropes to stomp on it, but Austin gets up and nails him with a great chair shot, then another when Bret’s down on the mat. Steve’s knee appears to be fine now, in case you were worried. After all of this action we get our first “submission” move from Austin – some weird stretch move on the mat that looks like a warm-up exercise for Pilates. Oh damn, they’re back outside of the ring, and Bret tosses Austin into the video monitors and when he gets up he’s “busted wide open.” This can’t be safe for the ringside crowd. Everyone’s gonna get the Hep C. Austin swipes at the blood pouring from his forehead but it just spills out more. Bret goes into his wrap-up moves — backbreaker, elbow from the second rope — then takes a chair to Austin’s damaged knee and tries to put on the Sharpshooter but can’t quite get it. This crowd is hot – they are really into this one. Me too, Chicago, me too. Austin starts making another comeback — he lays the boots to Bret in the corner and stops stomping to shoot the double birds, and hits a tough suplex off the second rope. But when he gets an extension cord and starts choking Bret with it, Bret grabs the ring bell he left on the apron earlier and cracks Austin over the head with it.
Sharpshooter! Austin’s head is gushing blood on the ring and we get an amazing closeup of his crimson mask. Austin is not gonna give up, but he’s losing consciousness and Bret won’t let go. He pushes up from the mat a couple of times, almost getting to the rope, but Bret keeps the hold and keeps applying pressure. Austin pushes up from the mat a third time, passes out, and Shamrock calls for the bell. This crowd is losing its fucking mind. The crowd still seems to be on his side, but Bret goes back to work on Austin’s knee, forcing Shamrock to intervene by taking Bret down. The crowd’s cheers immediately turn to boos when Bret backs off from Shamrock’s challenge and heads up the ramp, stopping to give the fans a few middle fingers on his way. What a brilliant heel turn — the crowd got it instinctively and turned on a dime to start booing Bret, even though he’d been a fan favorite more or less forever. Moreover, Austin has won their respect by refusing to tap out to the Sharpshooter, choosing to pass out instead. Stone Cold gives the ref a stunner and limps back to the dressing room to loud “Austin” chants from the crowd. JR lets out a huge “whew” breath, and we can all relate. You could write a PhD dissertation about this match. Come to think of it, maybe I just did.
RS: Stone Cold finally has his classic theme and he walks through shattering glass. He’s so cool. I wish I could go to work and not give a shit like he does. (Note from Tim: Believe in yourself, Rich.) This match probably has the best start of any match ever. They are brawling and doing a great job at making this fight look real. Stone Cold dumps Bret into the lap of Captain Lou, who is in the front row. They are now fighting on the fans. This is chaos. Unbelievable, amazing chaos. Bret takes a “holy shit” level of bump into the steel steps. Stone Cold also seems to maybe have a welt on his head from taking a potato. Part of what makes Bret so good is that he does things to make it look real, like focused attacks on body parts that will make his signature moves seem more effective. The crowd is really foaming at the mouth. Bret locking Austin in a figure-four, around the ring post looks legit painful. Bret gets a chair to Pillmanize Austin but takes too long.
Austin lands the most vicious chair shot we’ve seen on a WrestleMania to date. Stone Cold always says in his interview that if you’re going to use a chair, you need to really use it. And he really did. The crowd is torn. Even though Bret is heel at this point, Stone Cold ain’t really a babyface here, either. You can hear cheers and boos for both men. Austin got some color… a whole lot of color. He’s going to need a transfusion and someone is getting Hep C tonight! For a guest referee, Ken Shamrock is doing a great job of not trying to take the spotlight or cause issues. He’s the opposite of Roddy Piper. Meanwhile, Austin is down a pint. There is blood everywhere. Austin starts talking shit with his signature head shake, double birds and repetitive angry kicks. The camera comes in close and Austin has a crimson mask. This is a terrifying amount of blood. The crowd is pissing itself. This may be the hottest crowd to date. Bret locks in the Sharpshooter and we get the classic shot of a bloodied Austin screaming “NOOOOO!” Blood is dripping from his face as he seems to escape the hold but Bret locks it back in and sits back. Austin passed out so Ken Shamrock has no choice but to stop the match and yet Bret still looks fucking PISSED. The crowd is bubbling over. Maw God, what a slobberknocker! There’s so much blood on the mat, they’re going to have to put down some sawdust or something, like that time I vomited in the hallway in elementary school. Bret goes back for more shots on Austin but Ken stops him with a throw! Bret gives middle fingers to the crowd on the way out, Ken tries to help Austin and gets a Stunner! An instant classic.
- Ahmed Johnson and Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) vs. Nation of Domination (Farooq, Crush, & Savio Vega, with Clarence Mason, D’Lo Brown, J.C. Ice & Wolfie D) – Chicago Street Fight
RS: WWF pushes race relations even further with the Nation. Clearly a sect of the Nation of Islam turned professional wrestlers. Ahmed Johnson has some LOD shoulder pads and he looks fucking terrifying in them. Crush and Savio Vega are now also members of the NOD. I feel like Ahmed is only teamed with LOD so that it’s not just two white dudes beating up the Nation of Islam. It’s also unclear who is actually a participant in this match. Animal and Farooq (Ron Simmons) botch a piledriver on the French announce table spot. This feels like one of those bootleg ECW shows your friend from South Philly sells you for $20 of McDonalds gift certificates and a baggy of oregano. Ahmed finally puts Farooq through the table. Where did they get all these trash cans? A fire extinguisher is heavily involved. The story goes that they got the wrong kind of fire extinguisher, that it’s a chemical instead of just a CO2 or foam and that the air was toxic AF and they almost had to stop the match. In some fucked up symbolism, Ron Simmons has tied a noose around the neck of Hawk. Now, Ahmed Johnson has the noose around Ron. There’s a lot going on here. Looks like Hawk found the CO2 extinguisher and is no longer possibly killing people. And in an amazing spot to finish the match, Ahmed and Animal both get dudes up on their shoulders and Hawk lands a flying clothesline on both!
TH: I’m still thinking about the close-up of the bloody mat from the end of that last match. I don’t know how anyone expects to follow that, honestly, but let’s give it a shot! Great start to this one — the entrances are freaking epic. Nation of Domination leader Farooq (Ron Simmons) comes to the ring with tag partners Crush and Savio Vega, plus two hype men and a crowd of other guys dressed like Nation of Islam members. Farooq is looking tough as hell in black, with beret and armbands, and his gang are carrying a trash can full of 2x4s and an honest to God street sign that I think they stole from the arena parking lot. Not cool, guys. Someone’s wandering around looking for parking right now because of a lack of appropriate signage. Someone else has brought “the kitchen sink” (though it looks more like a bathroom sink based on the fixtures. I’ve watched a whole lot of TLC during the pandemic.) Legion of Doom and Ahmed Johnson look like huge, spiky monsters in their shoulder pads. I’m already excited for this one just from these entrances. And we jump right in with some serious chaos and what seems like 40 people fighting at once. Ahmed flips over the steel barrier like a maniac, there are multiple 2×4’s and trash cans over the head, Animal sprays Farooq with a goddamn fire extinguisher, and Ahmed slams Farooq through the announcers table without removing the monitors, as they do in today’s more safety conscious WWE. This crowd is hot! More fire extinguisher action, and one of the announcers is coughing from the chemicals. There’s some back and forth with a noose on Ahmed, then on Hawk, that makes me pretty uncomfortable. Read the room, guys. The canvas is still rusty with Steve Austin’s blood from the last match, plus now there’s fire extinguisher spray everywhere; they’re gonna need a new ring when it’s time for the main event. Animal finally gets the pin on Crush, then there’s more post-match chaos, which ends with Hawk hitting a double Doomsday Device on Nation of Domination members (checks notes…) J.C. Ice and Wolfie D.
RS: Sign Alert: Some fans have a sign that says “Shawn Michaels is part of the Cream Team.” Well. Ok then. I guess that’s some play off the 1996 Men’s Basketball team for the Olympics?
- The Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid – No Disqualification match for the WWF Championship
TH: Time for the main event, and our third “anything goes” match in a row. Someone’s going to have to hit someone with a fire ax at this point to up the ante. Guest commentator Shawn Michaels makes a limping entrance with high fives for the fans, some of whom don’t want to let him go; he still gets the in-ring fireworks even though he can’t hit the flex pose due to a knee injury. Sycho Sid cuts a pre-match promo and we can tell he’s still (p)sycho because he chuckles a lot. Everyone in the place is standing for Undertaker’s dramatic entrance; for his own entrance Sid’s body is as shiny as his championship belt. The crowd is not digging him at all. (Sign Alert! A tombstone with “RIP Sid.” Hey, no spoilers!) The two men are in the middle of a staredown (they’re the same size! It’s weird for Undertaker not to be the largest guy in the ring) when Bret Hart shows up to grab the mic, warn Shawn to stay out of the match, tell ‘Taker they’re not friends anymore (ouch!), and tell Sid he’s a fraud and not the real champion. Rude. Sid powerbombs Bret for his troubles and sends him packing, which seems like an appropriate response.
Bret’s interference gives Undertaker an opening to attack, and it’s finally time to ring the bell and wrestle. ‘Taker tries to pin Sid after an early body slam — that’s not a finishing move anymore, man! He does his typical “wire walk” and arm drop from the top rope with the arm drop. He tries a corner splash but gets caught in a bear hug from Sid. So far this seems like such a comedown after the last two super exciting matches. Shawn’s ringside commentary is clearly scripted, probably because he’s a coked out idiot. Oh man, Undertaker goes ass over teacups over the announcers table. There’s a family of mullets ringside who are very indignant about Sid beating up ‘Taker. ‘Taker tosses Sid over the same section of barrier that like 30 people went over during that last match — those fans are definitely getting their money’s worth. (Sign Alert! “Under-spanker” A+ fam.) Eww, Sid just blew a snot rocket at the crowd. That’s not sanitary. Sid gets ‘Taker in a chin lock and you can see him calling moves, then there’s another “submission” move with Undertaker squeezing Sid’s shoulder muscle. I pay $95 an hour for a massage therapist to do that, and here’s Sid getting paid to get a massage in front of us. Somehow he recovers from his free massage and does the big hammer off the top rope, aka one of Undertaker’s moves, which should not be allowed under intellectual property laws. Undertaker gets his flying clothesline off the top turnbuckle. That move never impressed me — it always looks sloppy and weak, yet the commentators always shit themselves whenever they see it. Maybe it’s more impressive in person? As conventional as this match is so far, it’s dumb for it to be a No Disqualification match.
Welp, here comes Bret again, attacking Sid with a chair. Vince: “What a loser Bret Hart has turned out to be.” (Sign alert! “Go cry, Bret”) With Sid weakened by the chair shot, Undertaker gets him with a weak-looking chokeslam — Sid is too big for that kind of move. Sid sets up for the powerbomb but Bret interferes and clotheslines Sid on the top rope, allowing Undertaker to get the Tombstone Piledriver and the cross-armed pin for the belt and a huge pop from the crowd. You can see Undertaker mouth to someone, maybe to us, the faithful viewers, “This is for you.” Sign alert! “Brad It’s me!” It really is, Brad.
RS: Sid still hasn’t recovered from the horrible gaslighting and betrayal he suffered at the hands of Hulk Hogan 5 years ago. But at least he’s channeled all those emotions into winning the championship. In standard fashion, the Undertaker takes 15 years to get to the ring. He now has a teardrop on his face, meaning he killed someone in prison. Sid is trying to outdo the Undertaker in time it takes to get to the ring. Bret has come down to the ring, clearly pissed at both of them and happy his Hep C test was negative. He claims Shawn is faking his injury. Apparently the Undertaker broke off his friendship with Bret. Sid is laughing at Bret because he can recognize and relate to his mental illness being caused by the bullshit that is Hulk Hogan. But Sid gets bored and breaks Bret with a powerbomb. It’s very confusing as to who is face or heel here. ‘Taker starts really taking it to Sid. I still struggle watching Sid work after seeing “the botch.” (You know the one.) Sid’s only offense so far has been a bear hug. Sid and ‘Taker take the action outside. It’s slow but powerful. Sid slams Undertaker on the Spanish table, with our first Wrestlemania Spanish table destruction. #diversity JR makes a reference to Twister, the greatest disaster movie of the 90’s. Sid gets Taker in a Camel Clutch to humble the jabroni ‘Taker and to take a rest. Sid, really misplacing his Hogan anger on the Undertaker, drops a Hogan-esque big leg. (Hulk Hogan’s finishing move, ladies and gentlemen.) They spend a very long time outside of the ring; I guess count outs aren’t a thing in this match. The Undertaker power slams Sid like he’s a five pound bag of ice from 7-11. Sid jumps from the top rope for a double ax handle on the Undertaker and I winced. I’m traumatized. He jumps from the top rope on to his feet again and I can’t watch. I might throw up if he goes up again. Oh god, no. Undertaker stops him and I breathe. Undertaker throws a giant flying clothesline from the top rope. Sid reverses the tombstone and lands his own. The crowd goes SILENT. But, Undertaker kicks out and the crowd is alive again! Bret hits Sid with a steel chair and that doesn’t stop the match? This is ECW now, apparently. Bret shows up again, sparing the Undertaker from a powerbomb, and that sends Sid into a Tombstone and the slowest three count ever. My 6 month old, who can’t count yet, could count to 3 faster. And we have The Undertaker’s second title reign! I don’t understand how Bret’s interference didn’t end this match, but that’s wrestling, I guess. I apparently missed that it was a no DQ match. Fuck it.
TH: Austin vs. Bret, duh. All time top five match in the history of WrestleManias, possibly of the WWF/WWE.
RS: Come on. I mean, really. Come on. It’s Bret vs Austin. The dudes beat the piss out of each other, and WWE still uses that close up of Austin in his crimson mask all the time. It’s the start of the Stone Cold era.
RS: If you’re making me pick, I’m going to go with Owen Hart and Bulldog vs. Mankind and Vader. It was a little slow and I wasn’t a fan of the ending.
TH: There aren’t really any terrible matches this WrestleMania, but I guess I’d pick the four-way elimination tag team match that kicks off the show, mostly because the line up was so random and I don’t really get the Headbangers.
Oh Sh!t Moment
TH: Pretty much all of Austin vs. Bret, but especially the sequence from when Bret gets crotched on the steel barrier and the two spill into the crowd, ‘til they make their way back to the ring. The unpredictability as the two fight through the crowd is legitimately scary, and guest ref Shamrock looks super worried the whole time.
RS: Austin screaming “NOOOOOOOO” to Ken Shamrock, his face covered with blood like Carrie at her prom.
RS: This one is really up there. 4.5 for me. It’s an impressive show considering some of their recent work horses are gone, such as Razor Ramon and Diesel. It has a New England Patriots kind of feel with Belichick, that they will plug in their roster and make it work and give you an A+ show, no matter what. God, if they could only tone down the sexism, but as Jerry Lawler said in a recent interview, “The audience was college kids and we were selling tickets because there was a chance you could see a girl’s puppies.” (He means boobs, for the adults in the room.)
TH: 4.5 This is a really strong show, and Bret vs. Stone Cold is an all-time classic. The undercard has some excellent matches, even if the main event doesn’t do much for me. Plus I’m excited to have Mick Foley, The Rock, and Farooq in their first WrestleManias. I always love JR and Jerry Lawler on announcing duties, too.
- Captain Lou Albano, d. 2009
- Paul Bearer (Bill Moody), d. 2013
- British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith, d. 2002
- Chyna (Joanie Laurer), d. 2016
- Crush (Brian Adams), d. 2007
- Howard Finkel, d. 2020
- Owen Hart, d. 1999
- Michael Hegstrand (Hawk), d. 2006
- Rocky Johnson, d. 2020
- Joe Laurinaitis (Animal), d. 2020
- Vader, d. 2018