Following the career-ending back injury (haha!) in the Rumble '98 Casket match, how close were we to no Shawn Michaels to drop the WWF Title to Stone Cold at WMXIV? I still can't think of a more important 'sucking it up' than Michaels' gutting that main event out before hanging it up (at the time). He surely had his share of 'bitching-out' previously (including the previous year's Wrestlemania) but if you have no Michaels (and no Bret at that point), what happens with Austin's first title win?
If Shawn Michaels can't go at Wrestlemania 14:
– Do you hotshot Michaels' belt to Shamrock for a main event of "World's Most Dangerous Man" vs. "World's Toughest SOB", enforced by the "Baddest Man on the Planet?" (Someone else could challenge Rocky for the IC title, with Shammy moving to the main event).
– Do you do some contrived Triple Threat and put Austin in the middle of the Undertaker-Kane issue for the title?
– Pull Vader out of mothballs as Vince's 'hired moster' and have him against Austin for the vacant title? The big guy was shunted down pretty far by then, but had that legitimate tough guy image to threaten Austin.
– My favorite: Give Owen the mega-push as Vince's top heel and 'Corporate champ'-type (even going so far as saying Owen had kayfabe involvement in 'Montreal' to get his brother out of the way?). The Owen-Austin blowoff would have made storyline sense as well, with Owen nearly putting Steve out before his meteoric rise the previous summer. Vince probably didn't want to push Owen to the top following Montreal, but what a way to get him his well-deserved moment in the sun!
Boy, that's a toughie. Shawn would have had to be pretty injured, like unable to walk, in order for Vince to allow him to no-show Wrestlemania. Another option besides some of the really good ones above might be Austin taking on DX in a handicap match, so that Hunter could work the match and Shawn could stand on the apron. Shamrock would be tough to pull off because you're hotshotting a babyface v. babyface match as the main event, but it was a possibility. That roster was so ridiculously thin that the only other possibility I can even think of would be Undertaker. And it's not like there was any big stars floating around WCW or ECW (aside from X-Pac) that they could steal for it, either.