March 29, 1998
Venue: Fleet Center, Boston, MA
Tagline: “The Greatest PPV Attraction of All Time!”
Runtime: 2 hours, 45 minutes
TH: Pro wrestling had been a pop culture phenomenon before — think back to the halcyon days of rockin’ wrestling with Captain Lou and Cyndi Lauper, to Hulkamania running wild, to 100,000 people packing the SilverDome to see Hogan vs. Andre at WrestleMania III, even, God help us, to the movie No Holds Barred. But you ain’t seen nothing ‘til you’ve seen the hot & heavy adolescent years of WrestleMania XIV. Like all teenagers going through this life-altering phase, there’s the general awkwardness of sexual discovery, profuse sweating, questionable facial hair, testing of boundaries and authority, and lots of black t-shirts. WWF’s pubescent era, which began in November 1997, was dubbed the “Attitude Era,” which, if you think about it, is also an appropriate name for kids’ actual teenage years. Looking for ways to compete with WCW’s Monday night wrestling show, Nitro, and of course chasing the zeitgeist and a dollar, WWF went all-in on sex, violence, bad language, and juvenile humor.
Occasionally it went too far, but it also created many highly entertaining moments and “must see TV,” thanks in large part to some truly amazing talent. In particular, our entire dorm tuned in every Monday night to see: the Undertaker’s continuing evolution (now seven WrestleMania victories into “The Streak” and no sign of slowing down); Mick Foley (whether your favorite gimmick is Cactus Jack, Mankind, or Dude Love, you have to appreciate Mick’s willingness to do crazy shit to his body for the fans); The Rock (just beginning to come into his over-the-top persona here); and, of course, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, about whom I could wax nostalgic all day and all night until all three of our regular readers clicked the “Unsubscribe” button.
There are some media clips throughout this WrestleMania that demonstrate just how well the Attitude approach worked — Stone Cold on a variety of talk shows, print and television media coverage of Mike Tyson’s appearance as “Special Guest Enforcer,” etc. It grabbed the attention of the media and made regular viewers out of people (like me) who had not watched wrestling since Hulk Hogan vs. the Ultimate Warrior. It was, in short, a raging success. So let’s see what all the fuss was about, shall we?
- Tag Team Battle Royal
TH: Here we go! It feels like there’s 40 tag teams in this Battle Royal, which will determine the #1 contender for the WWF Tag Team Championship match (which itself will be decided later tonight in the Dumpster Match. Get hype!) The big surprise for the crowd is Legion of Doom, now somewhat updated for the future as LOD 2000 and accompanied by manager Sunny. They have, uh, “space-age” shoulder pads and motorcycle helmets, and Animal is wearing bicycle shorts that make me very uneasy. Even with some fast and furious notetaking I still needed Wikipedia to help me fill in all the rest of the teams. They are:
Los Boricuas (2 teams — Savio Vega & Miguel Perez Jr. for one team; Jose Estrada Jr. & Jesus Castillo for another), The Truth Commission (Recon & Sniper), Bradshaw & Chainz (aka Brian Lee, who was the impersonator Undertaker for a while), Nation of Domination (2 teams — Mark Henry & D’Lo Brown; Farooq & Kama Mustafa, aka Papa Shango, aka The Godfather), The Quebecers (WrestleMania stalwart Jacques Rougeau & Pierre Ouellet), The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson), The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher), Too Much (Scott Taylor & Brian Christopher), Disciples of Apocalypse (Skull & 8-Ball, who we’ve seen previously as Jacob & Eli Blu, and who are real-life cousins to Chainz. Still with me?), Steve Blackman & Flash Funk, and The Godwinns (Phineas I. & Henry O. Godwinn)
Even with all these teams, there’s still outside interference by at least three other people, including Barry Windham (back for his second WM in a row after a layoff of 11 years) and Truth Commission members The Jackyl (aka Don Callis, currently of Impact Wrestling) and The Kurrgan (who took his name from the villain in one of the greatest b-movies of all time, Highlander, so we have to give him props for that.) Quite a few of these guys are pretty much forgotten from this era of heel stables run amok. I’m excited to see Steve Blackman, who was from Pennsylvania like me and who looked cool with his black martial arts pants and nunchucks, even if he doesn’t get to do much here. After a significant amount of chaos and the aforementioned interference, LOD 2000 and the New Midnight Express (Bodacious Bart, formerly known as Bart Gunn and Bombastic Bob, aka Bob “Hardcore” Holly) end up as the last two teams standing. The Godwinns are still hanging around, though, and one of them is wearing the traitor’s flag under his overalls, so it’s no surprise when they come up with their metal buckets and brain Hawk and Animal, temporarily giving Bart & Bob the edge. The LOD: Blade Runner Edition perks up quickly, though and each clotheslines a member of NME over the top rope for the win. Whew, I’m exhausted already.
RS: I don’t know what’s happening here. One of the Godwinns is sporting a Confederate flag shirt. I wonder how the Nation of Domination dudes felt about that? The Road Warriors…I mean Legion of Doom got some fancy looking armor now and have decked out their valet Sunny in matching skimpy, fantasy RPG-like armor as well. Eventually the action settles after an already aged Rock ‘n’ Roll Express get the boot and we’re just left with The New Midnight Express, one of the worst ideas in pro wrestling ever, and Future LOD. Predictably, LOD gets the big win. Meh. I feel like this is WWF trying to hold on to nostalgia with the older audience that is not their target anymore. Sunny is just with them to appeal to the target audience, horny teenage boys.
SIGN ALERT! As we mentioned last time, this is the era of a million fan signs, some amazing and creative, some pretty standard, and some puerile and gross. The animated series South Park has also debuted on Comedy Central just a few months earlier, so there’s a glut of South Park-themed signs. We’ve already spotted multiple “Cartman 3:16” signs; stay tuned for more of that kind of thing, I’m sure.
- Taka Michinoku vs. Aguila – WWF Light Heavyweight Championship
RS: WCW is kicking WWF’s ass in the ratings at this point. WWF gambled wrong in thinking Hogan, Macho Man, Lex Luger, Bobby Heenan, Brutus Beefcake, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Ted DiBiase, and a few other older guys wouldn’t be enough to draw their fans away. While in the long term WWF/E would strike gold with WCW cast offs like Dustin Rhodes, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and HHH, short term, those old, recognizable names with familiar storylines were crushing them on Monday nights. WCW, while carrying lots of aged talent in the heavyweights, established a cruiserweight division, featuring young and upcoming superstars like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Disco Inferno and Chris Jericho. WWF couldn’t fight the huge appeal of Hulk Hogan and Macho Man, but they could find their own “cruiserweights” and call them the light heavyweights. Luckily, this sets us up for a treat of a match, mixing Japanese wrestling and Mexican Lucha Libre style fighting.
The crowd takes a bit of time to warm up to them, but once these guys get all flippy and flying around, they really get into it. Hey! Tito Santana is back, but commentating on the Spanish broadcast team. Cool! We love that guy. Lots of really cool counters and daring acrobatics, ending with Taka landing the modified piledriver named after him. Really fun match and way ahead of its time.
TH: We’ve added two new championship belts for this WrestleMania, and here’s the first — the WWF Light Heavyweight title. Though the belt dates back to the UWA of the early’80s, it first premiered in WWF in 1997, where it was awarded via a tournament to Taka Michinoku. As Rich noted it was a concerted effort to bring in smaller, more nimble talent, in contrast to the muscle-bound behemoths of peak ‘80s WWF, but it ultimately lasted just five years, ending with X-Pac as the last champion in 2002. (By that point, smaller guys had become much more common in WWE, presumably making a separate “small guy” division unnecessary.) Michinoku (from Japan) and Aguila (from Mexico City) are a little green, telegraphing their moves a bit — at one point Taka jumps off the ropes and hits Aguila’s knees, which are up well before Taka begins his move — but they really bring the high-flying moves that they were hired to deliver. They give JR plenty of opportunities to break out one of our favorite wrestling cliches, “high risk maneuver.” There’s quite a few “oh shit” moments to see here — Aguila back moonsaults off the top rope to the floor; Taka jumps up onto, then off of the top rope to the floor; Aguila does a crazy twisting dive over the top rope to the floor. By the end of the match I was willing to pay either of these men $100 to do one move inside the ring, but then Michinoku hits the “Taka Driver” and it’s all over!
Special highlights of this match are spotting one of our heroes, Tito Santana, (hey Tito!) at the Spanish announcers’ table, and a fan Sign Alert! “Jeff Whitehead is Aguila.” Quick Googling confirms this is not the case. I hate it when the fans lie to me. If you can’t trust handmade poster board signs, who can you trust these days?
Time for an interview with The Rock, aka “The People’s Intercontinental Champion!” The interviewer asks him, “If you were the leader of this country, how would you handle things?” I don’t remember the details of Candidate Rock’s political platform, except that he promises to “lay the smack down in a major way.” I did notice, however, that he talks exactly like Barack Obama here. Do you think Obama picked up his distinctive cadence from watching The People’s Champion back in the day? It certainly seems possible. Also I feel like I need to put this out there now — I love The Rock. I think he’s an amazing performer, one of our most compelling entertainers, a hard worker, and an all around decent guy. I enjoy his films and his Instagram feed. I DO NOT want him to run for President, or for any elected office higher than Mayor of some town nobody cares about. By now we should have learned our lesson about electing completely unqualified celebrities, but we are a nation of idiots and I’m terrified that we will do it again. </End of political rant.>
RS: Funny you get political, since that’s Gennifer Flowers interviewing The Rock. Pretty sure this interview was the impetus for the show, Young Rock (Tuesday nights on NBC, streaming all the time on Peacock).
- Triple H, with Chyna vs. Owen Hart – WWF European Championship
TH: Chris Warren & the DX Band play Hunter’s intro music for the match for our second new belt, the WWF European Championship. In the 90s I would have bet money that the theme song was done by Rage Against the Machine, even though I knew in my heart it couldn’t actually be them. I think it was because X-Pac sorta looked like Zack de la Rocha from Rage, and yes I know that’s not logical, but I was also 20 and didn’t really know anything. ANYWAY, Triple H has moved past his ruffled shirt aristocrat phase and is wearing spiked shoulder pads over a velvet robe, which doesn’t seem like comfortable loungewear to me. He’s accompanied by Chyna, who looks like a total badass. Ah yes, the “Suck it” motion and fireworks — the WWF Attitude era has truly arrived. “Commissioner” Slaughter is here to handcuff himself to Chyna so she can’t interfere in the match. Is Commissioner a promotion from Sergeant, or was it a lateral move? Did he get to keep his fictional U.S. Army pension? I have so many questions. This starts off as a slow, grinding match, Hunter working on Owen’s “injured” ankle, which we saw him attacking with a baseball bat in a pre-match recap. Owen gets busted open across the bridge of his nose, which looks legitimately painful. Jerry “The King” Lawler is playing up his heel commentator role and at one point JR stops to ask him, in a tone of genuine concern, “Why are you so biased?” Reader, I LOL’d. After some more not terribly interesting action, Chyna can’t take being kept out of it anymore and throws chalk in Slaughter’s eyes, then gets up on the apron to nut shot Owen. Hunter hits the Pedigree and gets the dirty win to retain the title. There’s some extracurriculars when ref Tim Smith unlocks Chyna’s handcuff and she attacks Slaughter, tossing him over the barricade like a ragdoll. Dang, she was strong! I think the Commish might have permanent vision loss from that chalk attack. He should be able to get good care at the VA, at least.
RS: Apparently Chris Warren did lots of wrestling rock work, which is a pretty interesting gig. Also sad to see he died in 2016, RIP.
Anyway, how hard do you think Slaughter got when they handcuffed him to Chyna? I’d imagine he’s attracted to like-chinned women. I’m really glad they got two dudes from North America fighting over the European Championship. This is probably the most American thing WWF has done since having Lex Luger wear a flag on his banana hammock and body slam Yokozuna on an aircraft carrier. USA! USA!
I keep getting distracted. Owen and HHH have a pretty sound technical match with totally expected dirty finish. Owen gets color the hard way and accidentally when he eats a boot to the face. Also, mad props to the crowd giving us a loud “Woooooo!” when HHH lands a sound chop on Owen’s chest.
- Marc Mero & Sable vs. The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust & Luna Vachon – mixed tag team match
RS: Goldust is slowly morphing back to Dustin Rhodes, a sign that WWF is following a bit of the WCW trend of having folks fight under their real names, or at least a real sounding name (Sorry Eric Bischoff, but WCW had plenty of bad gimmick names, such as The Zodiac, Oz, Glacier, The Yeti, The Taskmaster, Disco Inferno, and, ahem, The Booty Man.) Jesus, I keep getting off topic.
Anyway, we can always rely on the Rhodes family to bring us mixed tag action. This one is pretty sloppy on the part of Mero and Sable. Sable, while a very attractive valet, has no ring skill at all. It’s more than obvious as you watch Luna deflect errant punches and kicks that would have legitimately injured someone. But Luna and Dustin are always professional and do their best to make this look good. Mero just doesn’t seem to fit the WWF style, whatever that means. It’s very clear that Sable practiced landing the TKO and nothing else. It was an impressive spot, but not enough to save this match for me. Good on Dustin and Luna on putting this couple over.
TH: The recap leading up to this one plays like a complete season of The Young & the Reckless, with some jealous lover angles between Sable and Mero and Goldust and Luna. I think we end up with Luna feuding with Sable because she (Luna) is jealous that Sable is getting attention from Goldust? I’m not exactly sure, I just know it doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test. Anyway, enough with the Daytime Emmy Award highlights, let’s get to the match, our first mixed tag team affair since WrestleMania VI. Goldust’s outfit is something else — he’s got a sleeveless silver jumpsuit with black lingerie over it, red face paint, and silver hair dye. Mero and Sable get a big pop for their entrance; I guess they’re the faces again. Sable looks terrified so I’m thinking this is her first actual wrestling appearance. Hope she doesn’t throw up in the ring. Goldust and Mero start off, but the crowd is clearly waiting for Sable vs. Luna. Sable gets a big pop when she jumps on Luna and starts wailing on her. Sexist Sign Alert! “Sable vs. Luna: Who’s are bigger?” That’s both sexist and grammatically incorrect, bro. The ladies are trying to have a match here. This match is a little messy but pretty exciting overall. Mero does some kind of crazy jump off the top turnbuckle but the camera angle’s bad and we miss it. Luna kicks Mero from the apron and, when Mero turns to attack her, Goldust tries to hit him from behind and ends up clobbering Luna by accident. For the finish, Sable picks up Luna and nails her with a power bomb, clearly her big planned move for this match. She picks up Luna a second time and gets her with what I’d call an “F5,” though Brock Lesnar won’t debut in pro wrestling for another four years. Whatever you call the move, Luna lands on her face and flips herself right over to be pinned.
OK, what next? Tennessee Lee (aka Robert Fuller) introduces Jeff Jarrett (aka Double J, aka the Ric Flair ripoff and generally terrible human) and Gennifer Flowers, who was flogging a book at the time about her affair with President Bill Clinton, an affair that had become a hot topic during Clinton’s 1992 campaign. Once again, WWF with its finger on the pulse of what the people want — political scandals from six years ago. It’s unclear why they’re here, though. Oh, she’s a guest ring announcer, but Nation of Domination’s music starts too early so you can’t really hear her over it. Great job, everyone.
RS: I totally forgot Colonel Parker from WCW jumped over to WWF and called himself Tennessee Lee. He’s so annoying, I almost like Jeff Jarrett here. Almost. Fuck that guy.
- The Rock, with D’Lo Brown, Kama Mustafa, and Mark Henry vs. Ken Shamrock – WWF Intercontinental Championship
TH: We get a video flashback to The Rock nearly breaking Ken Shamrock’s face in half with a chair. Ken Shamrock! Man I loved that guy, even though I think he’s a legit crazy person now (and likely was at least half crazy then.) When my friends and I checked out those first Ultimate Fighting VHS tapes from the video store back in the day, though, we thought he was the shit. And we were right. At age 57 he could still probably beat the ass of 90% of the current WWE roster for real, maybe even all at the same time. Oh, Sign Alert! Some jackass is trying to hold his sign out in the aisle for the camera but it’s like four solid lines of text. Take it easy, Hawthorne. Maybe save it for your poetry slam. The Rock and Shamrock (heh) start off super fast and aggressive. Too bad the crowd doesn’t seem interested — Rock is a heel with Nation of Domination (and Boston is racist AF) but I also don’t think people are really digging Ken Shamrock. We get lots of boos as Rock winds up and lands the People’s Elbow.
Shamrock brings a chair into the ring, and Rock takes it from him then nearly kills him with it. Good lord, my own nose started bleeding from that shot. I’m pretty sure that was illegal in 47 of 48 continental United States. (Nobody knows what’s legal or illegal in Florida anymore.) Somehow, Ken survives the chair shot to the face and gets Rock in an ankle lock, doing his best to snap off Rock’s foot. Three different members of NOD (including Mark Henry) try to come to Rock’s aid but Shamrock slams them all, belly-to-belly style, and goes back to wrenching off the Rock’s ankle. I’m not sure when it happened but Rock is bleeding from the mouth. Farooq comes down and stands on the apron, but turns his back and walks away. Cold, bruh. I guess Rock is too weak to stay in the NOD after this. Now Shamrock has a crazy look in his eyes, which I think may just be acute head trauma and/or the beginning stages of CTE. The bell has rang and rang, but he won’t let that ankle go. He’s like me reaching for the last Buffalo wing. Four referees and two officials (including Pat Patterson) come down to defuse the situation. Please don’t hurt Mr. Patterson, Ken. Nope, instead he slams all the refs in sequence, 1, 2, 3. EMTs arrive and load Rock on a stretcher (for a twisted ankle?) and wheel him away, while Shamrock is DQ’d for using a UFC hold (tho, somehow, NOT for slamming like four non-wrestlers in a row?) so that Rock keeps the belt. Shamrock is further enraged by that decision, causing him to attack Rocks on his stretcher and then on the DX Band riser. They’re gonna have to tranq dart Shamrock to wrap this thing up.
RS: We finally have some indicators of the future Rock. He’s no longer smiley Rocky Maivia, trying to show his third generational wrestling heritage that no one who still has their own teeth can remember. I don’t remember Ken Shamrock being this good, but also, The Rock is really selling for him, which is making this match great. The only thing that really sticks in my mind from this match, though, is “The Chair Shot.” It deserves the quotes and capitalization. Good God, Ken is going to be pooping his pants and eating through a straw after that one. His kids probably felt that. The Chair Shot probably damaged his medulla oblongata, causing Ken’s inability to control his rage, and thus suplexing three fake refs, then chasing down the Rock and kicking his ass while on a stretcher. I still can’t stop clenching my jaw.
A video package to demonstrate wrestling is real and partially serving as a “Don’t try this at home” PSA plays and all I can do is stare at Steve Austin’s hoop earring. Damn, dude.
- Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk!) vs. The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg & Billy Gunn) – Dumpster Match for the WWF Tag Team Championship
RS: Remember to recycle so we can leave a better world for Betty White, Keith Richards, and Terry Funk. Jesus Christ dude, you’re old AF. You’re a niche hardcore guy now. You’re an odd fit for WWF, but I guess they’re also dealing with not just WCW, but Paul Heyman’s ECW out of South Philly, too.
Damn it, my attention span is shit today. So, we have the New Age Outlaws here right before they join DX. I preferred them with DX. Well, these two teams both nearly kill each other. The ringside action was alright, but fairly stale. The best way to really cover this match is highlight the best spots. Road Dogg eats a nasty DDT on a baking sheet (did they make pre-show cookies?) Cactus Jack sets a ladder that gets tipped, sending Billy Gunn from the top of the ladder into the dumpster. In the back, Dogg and Gunn eat heinous chair shots and are laid out on the pallet of a forklift. Funk then drives the forklift to a dumpster, dropping the Outlaws into the dumpster, then sealing the top with the forklift. As Funk celebrates, we get a glimpse of an absolutely disturbing blood blister on his lower back.
TH: So I checked the card for this match before watching and said to myself, “Huh, I don’t remember Chainsaw Charlie. Wonder who he is/was?” So imagine my delight when Chainsaw Charlie turns out to be Terry Funk with a goddamn chainsaw. I’m so ready. We’re told that this is a Dumpster Match — one team has to throw both opponents from the other team in a dumpster and close the lid to get the win. I have a few suggestions for people who could go in the dumpster, starting with Double J. Road Dogg and Billy Gunn have their classic intro: “Oh you didn’t know? Your ass better call sumbodaaaaay.” I have to admit it’s still a pretty dope intro. The seat of Billy Gunn’s trunks say “Mr. Ass,” which I’d have a hard time explaining to children, if I had any. We’ll just chalk it up to the 90s. Attitude Era, y’all.
Also before we get too much further I feel I should point out that Terry Funk is 53 here. We haven’t seen him since WrestleMania 2, when he had an absolute slobberknocker of a tag match with brother Hoss Funk against Junkyard Dog and Tito Santana (hey Tito!) And of course we also saw him in Road House (1989), the Greatest Movie of All Time. At various points during this match he gets back body dropped into the dumpster, knocked into a ladder, and power bombed into the dumpster again. I hope he survives, but honestly I’m not sure if he can be killed. OK, back to the action. Billy Gunn is bleeding from the nose already. He and Road Dogg almost get the lid closed on Foley and Terry, but Mick props open the lid at the last minute. Apparently there are catering trays in the dumpster? Two people have gotten whacked with them at this point. That spot Rich mentioned with Billy and Mick falling off the ladder over the top rope and into the dumpster is a classic — the timing and precision are pretty impressive. Now Mr. Ass and Road Dogg are taking Mick backstage, and the camera loses them for a minute until we find them again in the catering area. Mick’s taking a lot of shots into the baking racks and into some giant plastic soda bottles (Surge! PowerAde!) While I’m wondering when Terry found time to get rated to drive a forklift, Mick slams the lids on Billy and Road Dogg for the win! This match shaved at least 5 years off the careers of everyone involved, including the caterers who had to recover their battered baking trays and spray off the blood.
- The Undertaker vs. Kane, with Paul Bearer
RS: Before we get into this match, I need to mention that Kane has the most epic debut of any wrestler in WWF history. Paul Bearer warned the Undertaker multiple times that his brother survived the fire and is coming for him. Finally, during the Undertaker’s Hell in a Cell match with Shawn Michaels, the arena goes red and Kane slowly walks down the aisle. He approaches the cage, and rips it open to get to a stunned Undertaker and carries out an epic ass kicking. Anyway, Kane comes out and gives a solid bump to Pete Rose for talking shit about Boston, so now it’s kind of confusing as to whether Kane is a heel or not.
Nevermind, the Undertaker hits hard with an added Carmina Burana to his already ominous theme music. A procession of robed men with torches line the aisle for the Undertaker’s casual stroll to the ring. The crowd is so hyped, they all pissed themselves (if they hadn’t already from all the beer) and ruined Boston Garden’s famed parquet floors. These guys are doing some real story telling in the ring. A staredown, hard, clubbing punches, vicious choke slams. The Undertaker jumps onto Kane’s shoulders in a bonkers spot. The Undertaker has changed his style a bit, he’s more of a striker here — more of that wrestling/MMA line blurring. Taker goes flying over the top rope, trying to land on Kane, but Kane sidesteps and Taker puts himself through the Spanish announcers’ table. I hope Tito is OK! They reverse each other’s tombstones, giving shades of the Undertaker vs. Undertaker mirror match from a few years back. Finally, after a third tombstone, Kane fails to beat the three count. I need to change my pants.
TH: The recap of the Undertaker-Kane feud is epic. WWF must have used up a decade’s worth of their pyro budget on this storyline alone. There are people getting hit by lightning and catching on fire, Kane burned in effigy, the Undertaker surviving a coffin inferno, fireworks and more fireworks, and more. This has to be one of the top ten angles in WWF history, and it comes to a beautiful, violent head here. Then we get, um, guest announcer… Pete Rose? He earns a solid round of boos (and middle fingers), and hams it up, taunting the Boston crowd. Choice “comedic” content: “I left tickets for Bill Buckner, but he couldn’t bend over to pick them up.” Hardy har har. Sign Alert! “Infection 3:16.” Hmm, not sure about that one; sounds icky. Thankfully, the lights go out before Rose has to introduce Kane. More fireworks, of course, then Kane (champion of working class Boston that he is) takes out Pete Rose. Sure, why not. Time for the Undertaker’s entrance, which is always an elaborate affair. This time he’s accompanied by a horde of druids(?) with torches, set to the dramatic strains of “O Fortuna,” by Carl Orff. You may not know the name of this piece but you’ll know it when you hear it — it’s been used in John Boorman’s Excalibur and roughly one billion other films when gravitas is called for. (Check out Rich’s excellent Popcorn Match on classical music in wrestling for more on some of the most commonly used pieces.) There’s lightning, the toll of the bell, then the Undertaker emerges, wearing his Ming the Merciless robe. This is amazing theater, y’all, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I am, however, ashamed for the young man holding the sign (Sign Alert!) that says, “Poopdog 3:16.”
Let’s get to the action. Undertaker starts off with his invincible schtick for a bit but is quickly overwhelmed by the power of Kane. Kane slams the ring steps on ‘Taker but you can clearly see that the corner of the steps hits before it touches him. ‘Taker sells it pretty well, though, and the people behind Kane probably couldn’t tell the difference. There’s a Peak 90s fan in acid washed jeans tucked into his boots and a Shawn Michaels ponytail who stands up and takes a picture of Undertaker as he’s lying on the floor. Kane does a couple of Undertaker’s moves — the flying clothesline off the top turnbuckle, reversing ‘Taker into a tombstone piledriver — before Undertaker starts to make a comeback. He nails Kane with two tombstone piledrivers in a row (the second of which is broken up by the weakest kickout ever — it looks more like a muscle twitch from Kane but somehow it works.) He lands his own flying clothesline off the top turnbuckle, followed by a third tombstone for the win. The Streak now stands at 7-0 since it began at WrestleMania VII. JR opines: “I’ve seen wars between small countries with less intensity than what we’ve just seen here.” Hehe, nice one, JR. Wonder how many wars he’s seen? How many men have you killed JR? We have questions.
- “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels – WWF Championship, Mike Tyson, “special enforcer”
TH: Alright, time for my main man, Stone Cold. The recap of Mike Tyson joining DX and feuding with Austin includes way too many shots of Shawn, Hunter, Mike, et al pointing at Mike’s crotch in the “Suck It” motion. If there was anyone in the WWF who didn’t point at Mike Tyson’s crotch during this era, I couldn’t tell you who they were. We get a live version of the D-Generation X theme by Chris Warren & Co. again. The lyrics are juvenile nonsense that would only seem “edgy” to a 14 year old (“You think you can tell me what to do?”) but that drum heartbeat still gets the blood pumping. Mike Tyson makes his way to the ring wearing a DX shirt (“Two words: Suck it.”) Somehow I don’t think he’s going to be a fair and impartial enforcer in this match. Sign Alert! “I want Tyson’s ass.” Umm, phrasing? Marvelous Marvin Hagler is at ringside! One of the great champs — I was sorry to hear we lost him earlier this year.
The crowd is losing its collective shit for Stone Cold as the camera follows him from backstage. That’s actually a really cool shot. It feels like we’re getting an unvarnished look at a no-frills tough guy, which of course is Stone Cold’s entire brand. He struts into that ring like he owns it and climbs the turnbuckles in turn to raise his fists to the crowd. Man he is absolutely rolling at this point; he couldn’t be any more over with this crowd if he tried (which obviously he wouldn’t because trying is for losers, not for tough SOBs like Stone Cold.) By contrast, Michaels looks ridiculous in his spangly chaps and cowboy/rockstar gear, a vestige of a more elaborate, cheesier era. Bret Hart never needed all that nonsense — just a black leather jacket, some cool-ass shades, and the ability to outclass anyone who got in the ring with him. But I digress. Austin shoots the double birds to Shawn, who looks legitimately offended (a stretch for someone who spends the first five minutes of every match pointing to his own crotch.) And it wouldn’t be a WrestleMania without an appearance by Shawn’s ass — Austin grabs him by the tights and we get yet another look at his crack. As an added bonus, he doesn’t fix his pants right away so we get treated to a couple of moves with a bare-assed Shawn running around the ring. I’m starting to think he might be an exhibitionist. In non-Shawn Michaels ass-related action, Triple H and Chyna interfere, ramming Austin into a steel barrier, and quickly get tossed from ringside by the ref. With all that distraction I was sure Austin was gonna come up busted open from that shot, but no such luck. The match ranges outside the ring a bit with some hardcore elements, fighting on the DX Band’’s stage and against the dumpster from the earlier match, before returning to the ring. Shawn tries something off the top turnbuckle but gets caught in the breadbasket and tossed into the corner, complete with the Ric Flair flip. Back and forth they go, Michaels working on the damaged left knee of Austin and getting Austin into the Figure Four, though Austin reverses it and nearly gets the submission instead. Austin has something on his back that looks like it may be popcorn from when he hit the arena floor earlier. Time for the finish, and it’s a great one — Michaels sets up for Sweet Chin Music and misses; Austin goes for the Stunner but gets pushed off into the ropes; Michaels tries a second Sweet Chin Music but Austin catches his foot, then STUNNER! Tyson slides in to give the quick three count, and JR starts shouting like a holy rollin’ preacher: “Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!” The Austin Era has begun.
Sign Alert! “Stone Cold is Cartman’s Father.” JFC what is it with you people and South Park? That doesn’t even make sense. Stone Cold, who is decidedly not Cartman’s father, gets a couple of 3:16 t-shirts and tosses one to Mike Tyson, who looks bashful then holds it aloft for the crowd. Shawn’s up again and his feelings are hurt — maybe he should do some cocaine about it. Instead he throws Mike’s new shirt away and tries to punch him, which doesn’t turn out well. Tyson lays his new shirt over Michaels’ face while he’s out cold on the canvas. Somebody better call the Undertaker back out here. Seriously, though, what a great finish.
RS: I mean, Tim has this one very well covered (in his own drool). There are three things I want to mention though. As Stone Cold came to the ring, a female fan leaned over the rail and got a hardy handful of Austin’s ass, then looked embarrassed. Second, at the start of the match, Austin gives Shawn his own personal set of double birds. The look of offense on Shawn’s face is amazing and sets up the story of this match perfectly. Third, in the match, Shawn has Austin in the figure four leg lock. Normally the victim of the hold would go for the ropes, but Austin is a no-nonsense son-of-a-bitch. Instead, he suffers and drags himself and Shawn to the center of the ring, knowing he would reverse the hold and not let Shawn grab the ropes for the break. It’s little things like that which make a wrestler great. That’s totally a move a dude like Stone Cold would do. Endure more pain just for the opportunity to throw it all back on his opponent like a fucking bad ass. God, I wish I could have beer.
TH: I know I’m a mark for Stone Cold, but I gotta go with the main event, Austin vs. Shawn Michaels. The action is great, Mike Tyson really gets into it and adds to the drama, and we get to hear JR’s famous refrain, “Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!” The Austin-McMahon feud will begin soon after, and all of professional wrestling will be better for it.
RS: As much as Shawn is a douche, he does good in putting Stone Cold over for the best match of the night. Shawn is indeed the showstopper. Stone Cold is Stone Cold is Stone Cold.
RS: as much as I love every wrestling member of the Rhodes family, the Wrestlemania mixed tags are always a let down because they are a tremendous waste of their talent. I would have preferred a Luna vs Chyna match and then have Dustin and Marc go at it. Or something, anything else.
TH: Once again we don’t really have a terrible match in this WrestleMania, so I’ll pick the opening tag team battle royal. There’s just too damn much going on, and I nearly wore out my typing fingers trying to write up the complete list of participants.
Oh Sh!t Moment
TH: Nathaniel Alexander, an African American inventor from Lynchburg, VA, patented a folding chair in 1911. He built on earlier work by Bostonian John Cram, but made Cram’s model more portable and, thus, more practical for daily use. His patent, filed on March 11, was approved on July 4 that same year. 87 years after that, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson picked up a folding chair, similar to the model imagined by Mr. Alexander, and proceeded to nearly murder Ken Shamrock with it in front of 19,000 people at WrestleMania XIV, said attempted murder causing me to say, “Oh shit!” while watching that event another 23 years later.
RS: Undertaker taking off like a god damned bird just to put himself through the Spanish announce table. That table exploded into toothpicks. I still am concerned for Tito and his workspace.
TH: I’m giving this one a 4.25, just a hair under the rating for WrestleMania XIII. Overall it’s a very strong show, with an excellent main event, plus I really liked the Dumpster Match, the culmination of the Undertaker-Kane feud, and the Light Heavyweight championship match. We’re not quite to the classic stage of in-ring Rock yet, and the tag team battle royal is kind of a disappointing start, plus the celebrity guests for this one are really lackluster. But still a solid show from the beginning of the Attitude era, and the start of Stone Cold’s reign as WWF Champion.
RS: It’s a 4 from me, dawg. The matches are tight. There’s some new stuff, and there’s already a passing of the torch from Shawn to Stone Cold, which is funny because Stone Cold is actually a little older than Shawn, but Shawn was a stale face in WWF by this time, while Stone Cold was just hitting his prime. You can see Ken Shamrock develop CTE before your very eyes from the Rock’s chair kiss. WWF has been fumbling their women and tag team roster for quite a while at this point. All I can say is God bless the curtain call so it was Stone Cold winning the King of the Ring and giving that amazing promo instead of HHH. That moment saved us all.
Paul Bearer (Bill Moody), d. 2013
Chyna (Joanie Laurer), d. 2016
“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, d. 2021
Owen Hart, d. 1999
Pat Patterson, d. 2020
Road Warrior Animal (Joe Laurainitis), d. 2020
Road Warrior Hawk (Michael Hegstrand), d. 2003
Luna Vachon, d. 2010
Chris Warren (of the DX Band), d. 2016
One thought on “WrestleMania XIV”