Happy Maniacal Saturday Everyone!
I’ve already reviewed Royal Rumble and No Way Out from 1998, so I decided to complete the set and do Mania XIV as well so we can finish that little arc off. Main Event is Stone Cold challenging Shawn Michaels for the WWF Title with Mike Tyson as the guest enforcer, whilst Semi-Main is Kane Vs Undertaker.
The event is emanating from Boston, Mass on the 29th of March 1998
Calling the action are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler
We get an excellent opening video talking about how WrestleMania has a new Attitude but the traditions of old are still inspiring the wrestlers of today. We even get Bruno and Hogan showing up, with references to Vince Snr for good measure.
Tag Team Battle Royal for #1 Contender to WWF Tag Team Titles
The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Animal & Road Warrior Hawk) (w/Sunny) Vs Bradshaw & Chainz Vs Flash Funk & Steve Blackman Vs Los Boricuas #1 (Miguel Perez & Savio Vega) Vs Los Boricuas #2 (Jesus Castillo & Jose Estrada) Vs The Disciples Of Apocalypse (8-Ball & Skull) Vs The Godwinns (Henry O. Godwinn & Phineas I. Godwinn) Vs The Head Bangers (Mosh & Thrasher) Vs The Nation Of Domination (D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry) #1 Vs The Nation Of Domination #2 (Faarooq & Kama Mustafa) Vs The Midnight Express (Bodacious Bart & Bombastic Bob) (w/Jim Cornette) Vs The Quebecers (Jacques & Pierre) Vs The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) Vs The Truth Commission (Recon & Sniper) Vs Too Much (Brian Christopher & Scott Taylor)
Hawk and Animal had teased splitting up in the weeks prior to Mania, but now they’re back with a makeover and Sunny as their manager. They get the big pop of course and that pretty much guarantees that they’ll be picking up the win. This match happened just so they could get everyone on the show so that they could all share in a WrestleMania payday.
It’s pretty hard to keep track of all of these guys going at it in there. Kurrgan and Barry Windham make cameo appearances as well, even though they aren’t in the match, with Kurrgan causing Truth Commission to be eliminated as he was feuding with them at the time whilst Windham causes Bradshaw’s team to be eliminated because he was feuding with him.
It comes down to The Godwinns, Midnights and Road Warriors, with The Godwinns getting eliminated but then coming back in to lay out The Road Warriors so that The Midnights can have an advantage. That leads to a decent closing section, as The Road Warriors make the big comeback and end up winning to pop the crowd.
WINNERS: THE ROAD WARRIORS
Not the hottest opener outside of The Road Warriors being over, but it was watchable at least
The Road Warriors celebrate with Sunny, although their alliance wouldn’t last that long as she was gone to ECW in the summer.
We get a recap of all the media work the wrestlers did to build-up the show during the week.
WWF Light Heavyweight Title
Champ: TAKA Michinoku Vs Mr. Aguila
Aguila would go on to be renamed as Essa Rios and would get a little bit of a push for a bit whilst having Lita as his valet before he settled into working mostly HeAT and Jakked/Metal. This one is all high spots, with a crowd that doesn’t really care. Jim Ross tries very hard to get both guys over on commentary, although Lawler undercuts it a bit by doing the Larry Zbyzko “these guys aren’t very bright for doing high-flying moves” shtick.
The dives are done well enough, but some of the transitions from Aguila especially are a bit lacking due to him being so green at this particular stage in his career. If you view it as just a collection of spots then it’s pretty entertaining, but if you view as an actual wrestling match then it’s not really good due to anything other than the dives not being executed all that well. The crowd does react to the dives and big moves at least, so it’s not a totally dead atmosphere, and TAKA eventually gets the Michinoku Driver for the three.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: TAKA MICHINOKU
I didn’t mind it that much, but I totally get why some would hate it
Aguila shows respect to TAKA following that, which makes Lawler gag.
Jennifer Flowers interviews WWF Intercontinental Champ The Rock, which leads to Rock doing a fantastic job getting his arrogant personality over. This was one of his best early interviews and did an excellent job of making him come across as a big star. This is well worth watching if you’ve never seen it.
WWF European Title
Champ: Triple H w/ Chyna Vs Owen Hart
Chyna will be handcuffed to Sgt Slaughter in this one. This feud pretty much ended any chance Owen had of being a top babyface, as he was moved from a feud with Shawn Michaels into a feud with Triple H and ended up doing a bunch of jobs so that Triple H could get over at his expense. Owen would be a Heel again by April and he’d stay that way until his tragic death in May of 1999.
This is a good match at least, with Owen showing some good fire and both men selling each other’s offence well. Owen in particular sells his leg a lot as he’d done an injury angle in the weeks leading up to the show. They do some good spots with Chyna and Slaughter as well, as Slaughter stops her getting involved a few times and Owen pokes fun at her for it.
Owen ends up bleeding from the nose at one stage as well, which makes me think some live rounds are getting thrown, which is odd for two guys as smooth as these two. Owen eventually makes a comeback after Triple H has worked his leg a bit, leading to some nicely executed near falls. In a nice call back to all the leg work, Owen gets an enziguri at one stage, but he stops to sell his leg and it leads to a delay in the pin attempt, which allows Triple H to kick out, thus protecting the move.
They do protect Owen in the finish somewhat, as Chyna throws some powder in Slaughter’s eyes to neutralise him and then clocks Owen right in his nuggets. This allows Triple H to pounce with a Pedigree and that’s enough for the three count. Triple H was probably past the point that he needed the European Title at this stage and it would have made more sense for Owen to finally get a measure of revenge and put the belt on him, but Triple H was needed to take over as leader of D-X the following night on Raw so he kind of had to win as a result.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: TRIPLE H
A good match with both men putting in a strong effort and the finish at least protected Owen. It would have been nice for him to win here but the timing wasn’t right, as was often the case in his career
Chyna clobbers Slaughter again following the match just for the heck of it. They at least focused more on making Slaughter look like a goof than they did Owen I suppose, but Owen’s babyface goose was cooked following this feud.
Luna Vachon and The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust Vs Sable and Marc Mero
The storyline here is that TAFKA Goldust and Mero were momentarily aligned over their mutual dislike of Sable, but Luna and Sable have now started feuding so Mero has fallen out with TAFKA Goldust and has called a momentary truce with Sable in order to take care of business here at Mania. They probably could have done the redemption arc with Mero here and turned him back babyface, as the crowd is super into her and he could have gotten over by proxy.
Interestingly Luna doesn’t want any of Sable here, even though the video package was full of clips of Luna having to be held back from fighting her. Sable is way over with the crowd and shows a lot of fire and intensity, so the parts involving her in this match are pretty good as a result even though she wasn’t much of an in-ring performer. TAFKA Goldust is working super hard here as well, taking great bumps for both Mero and Sable at different points.
Sable does eventually get the hot tag and runs wild on Luna whilst the crowd explodes. Sable’s offence doesn’t look all that great, but she’s so over that it doesn’t matter and Luna does a great job bumping all over the place for her. The reaction to Sable here is something to behold. It’s the most heat anything has had on the show thus far, and a testament to how well they promoted this match. The lads get a chance to do some more stuff as well, with TAFKA Goldust getting a very slick counter to the TKO by slipping out and getting a DDT.
TAFKA Goldust has been “on” in this match and he’s been the best part of it from a purely wrestling quality perspective, with Sable clearly winning the crowd reaction battle. The Heels end up bumbling, with Luna accidentally splashing TAFKA Goldust, which leads to Sable getting a nice powerbomb on Luna before delivering her own TKO for the three count.
WINNERS: SABLE & MERO
This match had no right to be this good, but TAFKA Goldust and Mero had a good night from an in-ring perspective and Sable was so over that the lack of polish to her work didn’t really matter
Sable and Mero’s alliance is still tenuous following that and they would continue to feud for the rest of the year.
Tennessee Lee introduces Jeff Jarrett and Jennifer Flowers so that Flowers can do ring introductions for the next match. Jarrett had gone back to his country music gimmick after his spell as an Aztec Warrior had failed to set the world on fire.
WWF Intercontinental Title
Champ: The Rock w/ Kama Mustafa, D-Lo Brown and Mark Henry Vs Ken Shamrock
Rock clobbered Shamrock with a chair multiple times but then tapped out to him at No Way Out in a ten man tag to set this one up. Shamrock runs wild on Rock for the majority of this one, with Rock doing an excellent job bumping around and selling for him. According to Ross this DQ rule is waived in this one, so Rock can lose the belt if he gets himself DQ’ed. Faarooq is notably absent here as he wasn’t getting on with Rock at the time.
Rock does eventually manage to work a bit of heat by low bridging Shamrock to the floor and then bouncing his head off the ring steps. The crowd cools down a bit, despite the fact they were into it during Shamrock’s initial flurry at the start. Shamrock tries bringing a chair into the ring and ends up shoving the ref down, which allows Rock to grab a chair and CLOBBER Shamrock with it for a near fall. Shamrock shrugs that off though and makes the comeback, getting the Ankle Lock for the clean submission win.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: KEN SHAMROCK
Too short to really be anymore, but they put Shamrock over strong there
But wait, Shamrock batters all of Rock’s buddies following that and goes back to attacking Rock for good measure, with Faarooq running down and teasing that he will help, only to then walk off. Rock is bleeding from the mouth and doing one heck of a sell job. Sharmock ends up going after some refs for good measure, and that leads to the decision getting reversed and Rock retaining the belt on a DQ. Rock gets another great moment in a series of them from him tonight, where he gets taken out on a stretcher but still takes the time to raise the IC Title aloft. Rock’s understanding of the little touches played a big part in him becoming the star he eventually became.
Despite getting screwed out of the belt there, Shamrock still got a big pop for destroying Rock after the bell so he didn’t lose any standing and Rock got over just for being able to contrive a way to escape with his belt once again.
WWF Attitude video
WWF Tag Team Titles
Champs: The New Age Outlaws (Badd Ass Billy Gunn and Road Dogg Jesse Jammes) Vs Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie
The Outlaws put the challengers in a dumpster and pushed it off the ramp, so the challengers are looking for revenge tonight. This one is a wild brawl from the off, with neither team even attempting to make it an actual tag match and just going at it like it’s under Tornado rules. Cactus takes a bunch of big bumps into the dumpster, including a moment where he tries to give Road Dogg a cannonball off the apron but ends up finding nothing but dumpster waiting for him.
Cactus and Chainsaw both have their heads trapped between the dumpster and dumpster lid at one stage, leading to them getting bonked on the head numerous times. Somehow Gunn has managed to bust open his nose or lip during this, which is either the 2nd or 3rd case of fortuitous juice that we’ve seen tonight. The crowd reacts to the big bumps and weapon shots, with them being into the idea of the belts changing hands.
At some point in this one Chainsaw ends up taking a nasty bump into the dumpster and it led to him having a build-up of fluid in his spine, which he stilled worked through the following night on Raw, because Terry Funk is just likes to defy medical science for the fun of it. A ladder gets introduced into the match at one stage, which of course leads to Cactus and Gunn taking a spill into the dumpster off it, destroying the dumpster lids in the process.
Chainsaw ends up getting double powerbombed into the dumpster, which I believe was the move that wrecked his back, which leaves Cactus on his own with The Outlaws as they brawl to the back. Cactus doesn’t do too well in a handicap situation of course, but he gamely keeps fighting, taking some more big bumps in the process. Chainsaw eventually returns to help him, which leads to both Outlaws getting put on a forklift and then dumped into another nearby dumpster to give the challengers the belts.
WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: CACTUS-CHAINSAW
This was an energetic brawl and it was nice to see the babyfaces get some revenge
Because The Outlaws didn’t get put into the original dumpster it led to a rematch the next night in a cage, where The Outlaws regained the belts and joined D-X in the process.
Baseball star Pete Rose joins us and winds up the Boston crowd with baseball references that I don’t understand but the crowd reactions lead me to think that they were zingers of some kind. Rose is supposed to be the guest ring announcer, but Kane decides to just give him a Tombstone instead for a big pop. This would become a running gag where Kane would get Rose at three Mania’s in a row.
Kane w/ Paul Bearer Vs The Undertaker
Kane was Undertaker’s long lost brother back for revenge after Undertaker had set fire to their family home, supposedly burning Kane in the process. Taker refused to fight Kane numerous times, but Kane eventually locked him a casket and set it on fire, which was finally too much for Undertaker to put up with, hence we finally get the big match between them. The WWF had built Kane up perfectly for this event, giving him big wins and making him look like a monster so that there was genuine doubt as to whether Undertaker could beat him.
The match itself is what you’d expect; it’s Undertaker and Kane working a deliberate pace, although they book it in such a way that Kane takes most of the match to really get him over as the real deal. Undertaker puts Kane over loads here, selling big for him, whilst Ross and Lawler on commentary are almost in awe at just how much of the match Kane is taking. It’s simple storytelling but it works and booking like this played a huge role in Kane going on to be an enduring character in WWE history as opposed to just a dragon for Taker to slay during Mania season.
The action itself is pretty plodding, and they go for nearly 17 minutes so it does start to drag after a certain point, even though the storytelling is on point and Undertaker’s selling is really good. I’m not someone who thinks a match needs to be all-action or anything like that, but this one goes too much in the other direction in my opinion. There is a very impressive spot at one stage where Undertaker goes for his big WrestleMania plancha but Kane side steps him, sending Taker exploding through the Spanish announce table.
Undertaker does finally make the comeback, managing to put Kane down with a clothesline and then adding a Choke Slam, with the idea being that he’s soaked up all of the pressure from Kane and worked a smarter game plan, which makes sense as he’s the more experienced of the two. Three Tombstones follow that, with the fact Taker needed to hit three of them just to win going that extra step to make Kane look like even more of a monster.
WINNER: THE UNDERTAKER
The middle portion of this one dragged for me, but I liked the story they were telling and I thought the finishing stretch was done well. If you were going to have Kane lose here then this was the absolute best way to do it, as he looked like an unstoppable titan even in defeat. They didn’t present it as Undertaker clobbering him, but instead Undertaker taking an absolute beating and only just managing to eke out the victory
Kane and Paul Bearer do a beat-down on Undertaker following that so Kane can get his heat back and set up more matches between the two.
We get a video package showing old school wrestlers talking about how they admire the wrestlers of today.
Mike Tyson gets his special WrestleMania entrance, to a song that would eventually get reworked into X-Pac’s theme.
Guest Enforcer: Mike Tyson
Champ: Shawn Michaels Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin
This was the WrestleMania that really helped the WWF push its way ahead of WCW, with the coronation of Stone Cold as the WWF Champion finally leading to them winning a round in the Monday Night Wars less than a month later. Tyson of course played a huge role in making this match such a big deal, as the angles where he got in the face of both competitors before finally siding with Shawn caused fans to excitedly slam down the cash for the climatic bout to see just what “The Baddest Man on the Planet” would be doing.
Rumours persist that Shawn decided to get a bit uppity over whether he’d actually do the job or not for Austin, which caused Undertaker to tape up his fists in preparation to give him a battering if he tried anything. This has been disputed, notably by Shawn himself, but I kind of want it to be true just because it’s a funny story. Shawn gets sung down to the ring by Connecticut Yankee, as they utterly butcher the DX theme, but it helps give the match a special feel at least.
Shawn was dealing with a serious back injury here after banging it on a casket at the Royal Rumble, and he wouldn’t work another match in the WWF for over four years after this (Although I do believe he worked a match for his training school company in the meantime). Austin pinballs Shawn around in the early stages before giving him a back body drop over the top rope onto Triple H and Chyna. Triple H attacks Austin in retaliation, so Mike Chioda kicks him to the back, leaving Tyson as the sole DX representative at ringside.
I can’t remember which WWE 2K game it was, but on one of them they had this match and couldn’t be bothered paying up for Tyson’s image rights, so they just had a generic man at ringside as the enforcer. Austin and Shawn brawl down the aisle, where Shawn hits Austin with Connecticut Yankee’s drum kit and then throws him into the dumpster left over from the previous bout. Austin goes back to flinging Shawn around back inside however, even getting the Stun Gun for old time’s take, which gets him a two count.
Shawn bails when Austin tries the Stunner, so Austin simply punches him off the apron and Shawn takes a fantastic bump face first onto the announce table. Even with a destroyed back Shawn Michaels was still an absolute bump machine! Shawn eventually manages to get a desperation back body drop to send Austin flying into the front row and then adds a shot with the ring bell. Surprisingly Austin doesn’t come up bleeding from that, which you think they might have done being that it would mirror Austin’s bloody bout from Mania 13 and would give him even more of a mountain to climb in order to win.
In a funny moment, the crowd chants “Holyfield” as a way to annoy Tyson. Shawn is clearly struggling due to his back now, but he keeps plugging away and takes a big bump over the top rope when Austin flings him over. This allows Shawn to trip Austin up when he comes to get him however and he goes after the challengers heavily braced left leg by ramming it into the ring post. Shawn stays on the leg back inside the ring and eventually locks in the Figure Four Leg Lock, to some scattered Woo’s from the crowd.
Austin manages to turn the Figure Four over and then catapults Shawn into the corner for two, only to then get locked in a sleeper. I actually love the story being told here, with Shawn trying to use holds and veteran smarts to keep the aggressive brawling Austin from trying to get any momentum going. Chioda gets squished in the corner, leaving us with no ref, as Austin makes a minor comeback only for Shawn to (just barely) get the running forearm. He does deliver a doctor befuddling kip up though before heading to the top for an elbow drop.
Shawn teases the Sweet Chin Music, but Austin dodges it and we get the counter sequence immortalised in the opening of WrestleMania 2000 for the N64, as Austin eventually catches the kick and swings Shawn around into a Stunner. Tyson turns on DX by counting the pin and the Austin Era begins.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
I don’t think this match is universally that popular, but I’ve always enjoyed it. I love the psychology on display from Shawn to try and take Austin down and I’m always impressed that he was able to gut through the match with such an injury. For the most part Shawn still bumped around like normal as well, although you could really tell he was struggling by the end. I’ve had back issues in the past and I could barely lift anything when mine flared up, so to think that Shawn went into the ring and wrestled for 20 minutes whilst also getting clobbered for large chunks of it is super impressive in my opinion.
Shawn is unhappy at Tyson’s betrayal and tries to punch him, but Tyson blocks it and delivers a punch of his own before raising Austin’s hand just to give him that extra rub. This was a great bit of business and an excellent match to boot!
This was a very easy watch, even if some of the matches weren’t especially great. The presentation was on point and the big matches all delivered in their own way, with even Kane/Taker at least delivering on what you would expect from those two characters going at it. The Main Event is excellent and was ahead of its time. That probably explains why some either didn’t really like it or didn’t like it quite as much as I do. I think Scott Keith really likes it as well, so think it comes down to who you ask.
You can see why this show helped get the WWF into a position where it could finally overtake WCW, as they did as good a job as absolutely possible to give Austin the rub from working with Tyson and he came out of this show as the biggest star in the entire North American wrestling scene. I’d say this show was probably the best WrestleMania of the second half of the 90’s, although there wasn’t a great amount of competition in that regard.