Attitude Era at its finest
WrestleMania XIV came to us from the Fleet Center in Boston, Massachusetts. It was billed as the biggest WrestleMania of all-time. Epic showdowns between the New Age Outlaws and Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie, the Undertaker and Kane, HHH and Owen Hart, and the WWF Championship would be put on the line when “Stone Cold” Steve Austin challenges Shawn Michaels. Special Enforcer Mike Tyson, aligned with D-X, would be at ringside.
Attendance wise, it would not be the biggest. In fact, given that it would emanate from a basketball/hockey arena, it would be one of the smallest. However, according the WWF, it was the highest grossing event in the history of Boston.
Given the level of Hall of Famers who participated in this show, it might have been the most important show ever. During this WrestleMania, D-X would transform. Mike Tyson would play a key part in fueling the inferno that was Steve Austin. Rocky Maivia would become The Rock in all his glory. Kane and the Undertaker would continue a rivalry so intense, the fire would burn for over two decades into the future.
Maestro, music please!
So, let’s start the show. It is customary for WrestleMania to begin with the singing or playing of “America the Beautiful.” Voices like Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Boyz II Men, and Lillian Garcia have all sang one of the most patriotic tunes about this great country.
For this show, the D-X Band was selected. They played a “alt- new wave” version mashed up with the National Anthem. To say it was terrible would be like saying Eddie Guerrero was an o.k. wrestler. From the first 15 seconds on, they were booed. By the end, the band could hardly be heard over the Bronx cheers. To their credit, they kept going and finished the worst rendition of any opening song in the history of the WWF/E.
After the “music” ended, the WWF did what they do better than any wrestling company has ever done. An excellent video package aired hyping the show and how this was an X-Rated version of the “show of shows.” Apparently, it was going to buck tradition. The opening song definitely did that.
A Tag Team all-out war
The opening match is a 15 team Battle Royale to determine the Number One Contenders for the Tag Team Titles to be fought over at Unforgiven. The rules of the match were simple. Once one member of the team was jettisoned over the top rope, the other member of the team was eliminated.
13 teams were in the ring. The 14th team represented the Nation of Domination, in the form of Farooq and Kama. The final team to come out gave the fans a rush. A returning Legion of Doom would make their way to the ring, accompanied by Sunny. As exciting as L.O.D. was, all eyes were on what Sunny was wearing, or not wearing.
It was a typical battle royale, where the big guys basically dominated, and the jobbers jobbed. Savio Vega and Miguel were out of the match first. Kurgan eliminated his stablemates in Sniper and Recon (one of the two would wind up Bull Buchannan later in his life).
Barry Windham would eliminate a former tag team partner when he cost Chainz and Bradshaw the match. A Rogeau was in the match, but not for long. D’Lo Brown and Mark Henry would also represent the Nation. They would go. The original Rock ‘n’ Roll Express would make an appearance. Los Boricuas was represented by Jesus and Jose (racism in wrestling was very much alive in March of 1998).
The Headbangers (before one of them became Beaver Cleaver), Scott Taylor and Brian Christopher (before joining Rikishi and becoming Too Cool), the DOA (imagine Aces and Eights from TNA, minus everything that made Aces and Eights cool) and the Godwins all lasted most of the match.
The final two teams would be L.O.D. and the New Midnight Express (they would turn out to be Bart Gunn and Bob Holly in later years, but were managed by the tennis racket wielding Jim Cornette). Needless to say, the crowd was very much behind the L.O.D. and Sunny.
Sunny would celebrate with the victorious team of the L.O.D. who would eliminate both Bart and Bob almost simultaneously. Whoever would win the dumpster match later in the show would face off against these two at Unforgiven.
They would cut backstage where Kevin Kelly (long before his genitalia would be questioned by The Rock) would be with the Honky Tonk Man. Honky (I am simply shortening his name, and in no way am referring to him as the racist slur for Caucasian people) would promote some award and then the two would pimp something that could only exist in the late 1990’s.
Call 1-900-737-4WWF in the U.S. and 1-900-561-WWF1 in Canada for the superstar line. Neither of these two had the phone number pimping powers of Mean Gene, but they tried. Those of you in the U.K., fear not, your number was 0-891-299888.
Laying the foundation for the Cruiserweights
The next match is scheduled for one fall and is for the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship. Aguila (also known as Juventud Guerrera) challenged Taka Michinoku.
The match itself was entertaining. If I could explain it, imagine high flying NWA action. It was not as gravity defying as some of the stuff the Hardys and Edge and Christian would do a few years later, but entertaining nonetheless.
Jim Ross did sneak in a nice, albeit racist, line. Taka Michinoku, a native of Japan “won the title, ironically enough, December 7th.” (Of course, referring to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It is worth noting that Gorilla Monsoon would refer to any attack from behind as a Pearl Harbor job.) Another tidbit about the commentary team, during this match (and probably because of Aguila) the Spanish Announce Team was introduced.
The crowd was super-hot for this match (as they were for most of the night). The ending came when Aguila went to the top rope and leaped. He would be met by a beautiful dropkick from what would become one half of Kaientai. After a Michinoku Driver, Taka would secure his victory.
In a nice show of sportsmanship, the two exchanged a handshake after the match. It is refreshing to see that when the WWF was dominated by middle fingers and crotch chops, some fair play and respect was still exchanged on television, even if you had to spend $49.99 to see it.
Are you ready for some cringe?
Gennifer Flowers, fresh off the Presidential sexual…whatever scandal, would interview the Rock. In a segment dripping with puns about the Oval Office, multiple references to sex acts, and the Rock trying to his best to be funny, the cringe level reached a new high, even putting the opening “music” to shame.
DX vs the Foundation
The next match is scheduled for one fall. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (with his bodyguard Chyna) will be facing Owen Hart. There is a stipulation here. Chyna will be handcuffed to WWF Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter.
Before the match began, Sarge tried to command Chyna to come outside to be handcuffed to him. Triple H, loud enough to be picked up on the microphones from the ring camera:
“You want her to do it, you come in here and make her do it.”
After some trepidation from both sides, it took Chyna being distracted for Sarge to slap on the cuffs. The two, begrudgingly on Chyna’s part, left the ring. A familiar “ding ding” was heard and the match was underway.
Owen took it to Hunter vigorously in the early going. Hunter struggled, but found some offense, especially off the many distractions Chyna presented at ringside.
It was mentioned by good ol’ JR that senior WWF official Earl Hebner was in ICU. Hate to kill your suspense here, but SPOILER ALERT, he pulled through.
With Triple H working over the ankle of Owen, the brother of Bret started to bend the rules. As Tim White admonished Owen Hart for not listening, Chyna would blind the Commissioner of the WWF. Owen would leave the ring to yell at Chyna, and get pounded on by Triple H. The ref would pull Hunter off, but that would be the only good news for Owen. Chyna would try her hand at sterilization with a low blow on Owen.
Back in the ring, Hunter would hit the Pedigree and get the victory. Chyna would get the handcuffs removed and commence the beatdown of Sarge. When she was satisfied with the beating she gave to Slaughter, her and Triple H would celebrate in the ring.
Pre-online shop commercial
While everyone was getting reset for the next match, a replay of the match a commercial for the Stone Cold University t-shirt would air (this was pre-wwfshop.com. It was also the best Stone Cold shirt made.) and a video package would air for the next contest.
Mixed Match Challenge
The next match is a mixed tag team contest scheduled for one fall. The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust (clever WWF with the pop culture references) and Luna would take on “Marvelous” Marc Mero and the Playboy Centerfold (and future Mrs. Brock Lesnar) Sable.
Vinny Pazienza is at ringside, which would be the best boxer to appear on this, or any other show after this (feel free to send me hate mail Mr. Tyson and Mr. Mayweather). While you are ripping me apart for claiming the Pazmainian Devil was better than Iron Mike, can someone tell me why Goldust is in silver?
It was a usual mixed tag match. The bad guy and gal baited the faces. The female face was the one everyone anticipated to see in the ring. There was some intergender violence. The crowd was hot, but not in the sense of rooting for Sable or Mero, but more in the way a teenage boy would be “hot” for Sable.
The crowd was as behind Sable as they were anyone on the card, including Steve Austin. Sable would unleash a Sable Bomb on Luna, but only got a two count. Luna, apparently selling the move very little, was on her feet and went to whip Sable into the ropes. Sable would counter and get Luna on her shoulders. TKO from Sable (should I call it an F-5?). It would be the death knell for the match, as Sable and Mero would get the victory after the future Women’s Champion pinned Luna.
A little bit of entertainment on the side
After a brief replay, Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie are in the AOL room, providing an exclusive interview, only available on AOL, with Kevin Kelly. Who woulda thought that AOL would merge with Time-Warner and help kill WCW. Strange bedfellows media companies make sometimes.
Now I got one question for ya. Are you ready for some more cringe? In the ring is someone who could be called offensive to the south (or any fan of Colonel Sanders or KFC), Tennessee Lee. He would grab a mic and introduce J-E-Double F-J-A-Double R-E Double T and Gennifer Flowers.
Quick side note, I wonder if this was in some way politically motivated. I mean, the McMahon family are Republicans (I assume since Linda ran on the Republican ticket when she ran for Senate). Gennifer Flowers’ main claim to fame was being involved in President Clinton’s (a Democrat) sex scandal. I am not saying it is one way or the other, but this fact would not have been lost on Vince.
Double J gets on the mic and says he has one question for Gen, “Ain’t I great?” This is all we would see of Jeff Jarrett. Thanks for coming Slap Nuts.
Battle of the rocks
Ms. Flowers would introduce the Rock and Ken Shamrock. Coming out with the Rock was the Nation, minus Farooq.
The next match is scheduled for one fall and is for the Intercontinental Championship. Ken Shamrock will challenge the Rock. If the Rock gets disqualified, he will lose the match, and the belt.
Early on, it was all Shamrock. The Rock would throw Shamrock (boy that seems kind of redundant) outside and bounce him off the ring steps. Back in the ring, Shamrock is on his back in the middle of the squared circle. Could we see…yes! It is the People’s Elbow, except it isn’t. This was before it was the most electrifying move in Sports Entertainment. As such, Rocky only got a two count.
I guess this infuriates Shamrock, who leaves the ring and grabs a chair. The ref takes it away (we haven’t seen a full on nuclear meltdown from Shamrock yet). In the process of this, the ref bounces off the turnbuckle.
Enter the Rock with a chair. Bang. However, this was young Rocky before he knew how to really swing a chair. He only got a two count. Shamrock took control (because he only got hit with a steel chair, not like it hurt him or anything…). A scoop slam netted another near fall.
Shamrock is turning a shade of red that not many humans can achieve, aside from the Nature Boy (WOOOOOO). He grabs the Rock’s ankle and locks in his signature submission move. You guessed it, the ankle lock. The Rock begins to tap like Gregory Hines (I really hope someone gets this reference).
Your winner and NEW Intercontinental Champion, Ken Shamrock.
The bell would ring, except Shamrock was too far gone. He would not let go. He was hell bent on breaking the Rock’s ankle into little pebbles. He would relinquish the hold and take it to the Nation. After dispatching the Rock’s faction, he would return to the Rock.
As the not-quite-yet-to-be-crowned People’s Champion is laying in agony, Farooq would come down the ramp. He would give the Rock, and the fellow Nation of Domination members the finger before walking out.
The officials were finally able to get Shamrock to let go of the Rock. How do they get repaid for their hard work? Belly to Belly suplexes at the hands of The World’s Most Dangerous Man. Three referees feel Shamrock’s insane rage. The original referee goes to the time keeper as multiple WWF officials try and calm down the new Intercontinental Champion. Howard Finkel informs the crowd that the referee is reversing his decision and disqualifying Shamrock.
Now, I am not the smartest man in the world, but even Lloyd Christmas could figure out it is not wise to upset a man who is already over the edge. Shamrock decided to take his anger/frustration/blind rage out once again on the Rock. As the future star of films like “The Tooth Fairy” and “Fast 8” was being carted away on a stretcher, Ken jumped him. He knocked the Rock from the stretcher and beat him down on the band stage. (I still think it was the second worst savage thing to happen on that stage. Seriously, that opening song was terrible.) Shamrock would pose with the IC belt before walking to the back.
Fittingly, a “Don’t try this at home” video package aired.
Now we get what we all paid (or illegally downloaded) for.
Who hired Vince Russo?
The following contest is a Dumpster Match for the WWF Tag Team Championships. The only way to win the match is to put both of your opponents in the dumpster, close the lids, and wheel the dumpster away from ringside (the last bit is important!).
Hardcore legends Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk) and Cactus Jack (Mrs. Foley’s baby boy, Mick Foley, or Dude Love, or Mankind) are the first to come out.
I must get this off my chest. I know there is a certain level of theatrics in wrestling. Hell, it makes it watchable sometimes, and I understand Terry Funk’s character was named Chainsaw Charlie, but was a chainless chain saw really necessary? Was it given to him to offset the barbed wire 2x4 Mick had? I guess it goes to show, no matter how much attitude you may have, you still can laugh a bit.
Speaking of laughing…
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, children of all ages, the World Wrestling Federation proudly brings to you, its WWF Tag Team Champions of the Woooooooooorld…The New Age Outlaws. The Road Dogg Jesse James and Bad Ass Billy Gunn.”
The D-O-Double Gizzle would cut an entertaining, and scathing promo on the “Hardcore Legends.” Before the bell rang, Funk was already laying waste to Mr. Ass. As far as the other two, Foley went for a cannonball onto Road Dogg. Mick needs to work on his aim, as the only thing he connected with was the dumpster.
Not to be outdone, the Funkster took a back body drop into the dumpster. I hope there was padding in there. I mean, Funk is a legend and all, but he was still 50 something when this match took place. Old men tend to have that kind of pain linger.
It would just get more insane from here. A ladder (in a dumpster match?), a cookie sheet, a fork lift, and so many more ridiculous things were used in this contest. The shots looked legit, but it was comical in the way ECW used to use whatever fans would bring to ringside, like records, paintings, and even kitchen sinks.
As the fighting found it’s way backstage, Foley found a chair, and, oddly enough a pallet. The Funkster had previously been taken out by some malfience with weaponry by The New Age Outlaws.
With the help of a chair, Cactus Jack turns the tides. A DDT later and both Outlaws are laid out on a pallet. This pallet was already on a fork lift. I have done a serious amount of workplace safety classes, and I know that isn’t how that piece of equipment should be kept, out in the open with the keys in the ignition nonetheless.
Wait, the fork lift is in motion?! Who is driving it? Why it’s none other than Chainsaw Charlie. The Outlaws get raised high into the air, and using some decent technical skill, Chainsaw dumps the Tag Team Champions into a different (and hopefully cleaner) dumpster. He plants the pallet on the lids and uses the fork lift to hold them down.
Ladies and Gentlemen, at a combined age of almost 90, we have new Tag Team Champions, Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie!
Hooray in Boston
We cut back to the crowd in Boston. Apparently, according to the voices (on commentary, not in my head), this is the highest grossing event in Boston ever. I know at the time, all four of the Boston sports franchises were in a down period, but this is kind of hard to believe. I mean, there couldn’t have been more than 20,000 people in that arena (actual attendance was 19,028), and as bad as the pre-Tom Brady Patriots were, I am sure Drew Bledsoe put some butts in seats in Foxboro.
After a video package for the next match, the special guest ring announcer for the match is introduced. Who would have thought, after 4000+ hits, and being one of the best all-round baseball players of all-time, it would be the WWE Hall of Fame Pete Rose would be in? He makes his way to the ring in a tuxedo that was only fashionable in the late 1990s.
Charlie Hustle would have one of the best jokes ripping on Boston ever. And I quote:
“I left tickets for Bill Buckner, but he couldn’t bend over and pick them up. How ‘bout it?!”
For those of you who may not know who Bill Buckner is…
It is a sad story if you are from Boston. The Red Sox were a few outs away from ending the Curse of the Bambino in 1986 (The game in question was Sunday, October 25th, 1986). Long story short, Buckner booted a routine ground ball at first base, the Red Sox lost the game, the series, and we had to wait until 2004 for that curse to break, on my favorite team’s home field. He was made a bigger scape goat than Steve Bartman ever was, and had such a villainous vitriol attached to his name, he was offered a spot in the Cobra Crime Organization and a spot on the Galactic Empire Softball team.
Brother vs Brother
The next thing was the first of several run-ins the former star of the Big Red Machine (the nickname of the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s) would have with the Big Red Machine. Kane would demolish Rose with a Tombstone Piledriver, and begin Rose’s path toward the Hall of Fame.
Kane’s opponent was his brother, the Undertaker. In true Undertaker fashion at WrestleMania, the Deadman was brought to the ring by druids, carrying torches. At the time, it was eerie to the max (Is that some authentic 1990s cool kid lingo? Yes, yes, it is).
The Brother versus Brother showdown was about to begin. While their father, Paul Bearer (may Percy Pringle rest in peace) looked on, Kane and the Undertaker began with the most intense match on the card. Give the WWF credit, with all the nonsense that existed in wrestling at this time, this had the big fight feel, the intensity, the intrigue of something that even two decades later, has a high rewatchability.
The following match is scheduled for one fall and is the Brother versus Brother grudge match.
This was a wrestling match in the sense it occurred, mostly, within the ring. There were almost no wrestling moves involved, unless you count punches and Irish whips in to ring ropes.
Anytime Paul Bearer is at ringside, you can bet he will be in some way involved in the action. He distracted the referee and the Devil’s Favorite Demon used the “steel” ring steps. Undertaker’s longtime manager would commence a beatdown on the Deadman. This gave Kane the chance to nail his older brother with a chokeslam. With the match all but won, Kane picked up the Undertaker on the two count.
The match slowed down considerably from here on out. They were building towards something. This match was not as pretty as the likes of Steamboat and Savage or Flair and Sting, but damned if it didn’t entertain (pardon the pun) the hell out of the fans.
The ending was something rarely seen outside of a video game with cheat codes. Taker goes for the Tombstone. His brother reversed the move into a Tombstone of his own. You can’t kill the Undertaker that quick, as a near fall was all that could be managed. A frustrated Kane threw Taker into the corner. The Deadman battled back with some quick jabs and a powerful clothesline. A chokeslam followed and Taker was feeling it.
With Kane on his back, the Undertaker brought the crowd to their feet with a throat slash. Only problem is, Kane sat up. Regenerating health runs deep in this bloodline. Taker would nail a Tombstone of his own. As per the norm, a darkness pin would follow. As not per the norm, the Undertaker’s opponent kicked out.
Now it was the Undertaker who was frustrated. He borrowed a leg drop from one of the best in Hulk Hogan. Another tombstone. Match was over right? Nope, another kick out at two by Kane.
Kane sat up again. Now it was Taker’s turn to climb the turnbuckle. The clothesline would show almost no effect on the Monster Kane, as he sat up again. A third tombstone would be hit, and the Undertaker proceeded to extend his streak.
After the bell rang, Paul Bearer, with a steel chair, got into the ring. A swift kick to an exhausted Taker seemed to do more damage from the foot of Paul Bearer than Kane’s Tombstone. Bearer went to his other son, Kane, not noticing Taker got to his feet. A hard shot connected with Bearer’s cranium, and the manager was down.
With Taker distracted, Kane got up and grabbed the chair. A mighty swing slammed the metal furniture onto the back of the Undertaker. Kane would deploy another Tombstone, this time with the Undertaker planted onto the chair. While Taker won the battle, Kane might have won the war.
After Kane and Paul Bearer left, the Deadman sat up. You cannot kill that in which has no life.
Who is the baddest wrestler on the planet?
Back before palette cleanser matches (a term used for a minor match between the two main events of the evening), video packages allowed for the crowd and ring area to be reset before the next contest. We saw highlights of the match, and one of the best video packages ever, narrated by legends of the business like “Classy” Freddie Blassie. A third package hyped the main event of the evening, Shawn Michaels versus Steve Austin for the WWF Championship.
Out first was the man the main event was based around, Mike Tyson, the “special enforcer” for the match. Donning the D-X colors, Tyson was flanked by two WWF officials. At ringside, another boxing legend, “Marvelous” Marvin Haggler was shown.
We get a backstage shot at the challenger, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Once the glass shatters and Austin steps through the curtain, the crowd comes unglued. The pop was so loud, Howard Finkle could not be heard over it.
In the ring, Tyson and Austin get face to face and everyone was hoping the physical confrontation between the “baddest man on the planet” and the “toughest s.o.b in sports entertainment” would happen right then and there.
Instead we get cut backstage to see D-X leave their locker room. Triple H and Chyna accompany the Heartbreak Kid to the ring. As Mr. WrestleMania is on his way to the ring, Jim Ross calls him “The Greatest WWF Champion of All-Time.” I guess since Hogan was doing his best to destroy the WWF, HBK could be placed ahead of him, and maybe rightfully so.
Remember way back at the beginning of the night when the DX Band gave the worst rendition of a song honoring America ever? Well, they’re back. They played the D-X entrance live. It was not great, but not nearly as bad as the abomination 2 and a half hours earlier.
In the ring, Tyson and HBK shared a high five. Commitment thy name is Shawn Michaels.
Ladies and Gentlemen (or whatever pronoun you identify as), the following match is scheduled for one fall, and is the main event for WrestleMania XIV. It will be for the WWF Championship. At ringside, the Special Enforcer, “Iron” Mike Tyson. Mike Chiota is the man in charge in the ring. The challenger, from Victoria, Texas, is the “Texas Rattlesnake”, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. His opponent, from San Antonio, Texas, is the reigning, defending WWF Champion, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels.
The bell rings and the match begins much the way a lot of the WrestleMania main events did at this time, with a lot of walking around. The crowd is as hot for this match as they were for anyone ever.
Austin was the first one to try and offensive move. The classic collar and elbow tie up was ducked and HBK responded with a hard right. After another minute or two of walking around, the same move was attempted by Austin, with the same result. I guess it is a slow build we are looking for. The crowd, and many watching at home, were salivating at the violence that should be coming. Making the crowd want it was something both men were excellent at, and the crowd wanted it more than Steven Seagal wants to be relevant.
As Stone Cold was taking it to Michaels, it what would be his final match in the WWF for almost four years, Triple H inserted himself into the fray. When Tyson refused to do anything, the man in the striped shirt would toss 2/3 of D-X.
The Fink would get back on the mic and announce the ejection of Trips and Chyna from ringside by Mike Chiota. Needless to say, the leader of D-X was upset. As the King and J.R. contemplated the end of Michaels master plan, he would come off the top turnbuckle and hit a huge axe handle to Austin, who was leaning against the barricade. Another hard-right capped off Michaels’ offense.
Austin would stagger up the ramp as HBK would grab an oddly convenient water bottle and take a drink. As the camera followed the Champ, Austin found Triple H, who had not made it back to the locker room. Austin introduced HHH to the band stage in hard way.
As SCSA was admiring his work, he turned right into another hand shot by HBK. HBK would grab a cymbal from the drum set and show Austin how to do a proper cymbal clash via his noggin. Stone Cold was not a fan, as he fought back the only way he knew how, hard right hands.
Austin went to whip Michaels, but HBK reversed it and sent Austin into a dumpster (presumably the one from the Hardcore Geriatrics and the men who would be soldiers in the D-X Army, the New Age Outlaws).
After the dumpster, Michaels “escorts” Austin with a side headlock halfway down the ramp. An “over the top” punch sent Austin into the barricade once again. Grabbing Austin by the hair he doesn’t have, Michaels rolled him into the ring.
Michaels, as spry as ever, leaps to the top rope. With Austin on his feet, Michaels jumped. He was met with a fist into his gut. Austin was on fire. He sent Michaels into the ropes and nailed an inverted Atomic Drop. To be honest, it looked like he was gearing up for a Lou Thesz Press, but it was botched. Austin would go for a cover and we were one second away from a new Champ.
Now will begin some of the traditional wrestling. Move was matched by counter and another move. This interchange did two things. It proved Austin could actually wrestle and was more than a brawler, and it proved that he was capable of hanging with one of the best, most talented athletes in the company.
Both men were back to their feet. Michaels gets sent into the ropes again. This time a kick to the gut. STUNNER! Nope. Got ahead of myself there. A push would send HBK outside of the ropes to the apron. A forearm to the moneymaker sends HBK, face first, into the announce table.
I guess Stone Cold didn’t like how HBK’s face looked, because he tried to rearrange it with the ring steps, forearms, elbows, and saliva from the eventual cursing.
For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the backstage stuff, Michaels was dealing with a ton of issues, both on and off the stage. His back was jacked up, forcing him out of the ring for over three and a half years. Issues with personal demons would make him increasingly more difficult to deal with. Michaels was in a ton of pain, and Austin carried this match for the most part.
Both men were getting tired, and the go to move for a breather during the match is a sleeper. Austin locked it in on Michaels, and it seemed like maybe Austin was choking the life out of HBK. After several long and excruciating moments, HBK broke the hold with a jawbreaker.
It was Michaels’s turn to go on the offensive. He left the ring and dragged Austin to the corner. With a leg on each side, it appears Michaels was going to introduce the Austin Family Jewels to the ring post. However, a break in the concentration of the Champ allowed Austin to use his leg strength and pull Michaels, once again face first, into the ring post.
With Michaels feeling the pain of the ring post to the face, Austin went outside and grabbed HBK. After a botched slam into the ring bell, he finds a better target and bounces the head of HBK off the barricade. Two right hands connected, and Austin backed off. He attempted for a clothesline to knock Michaels into the crowd. What he got was back body dropped over the railing. By my count, this is the third time Austin went for a clothesline and missed.
Austin seemed unfazed. Maybe he got a cold Steveweiser from one of the fans. He went to climb over the railing and Michaels showed him how to use a ring bell, by bouncing it off the skull of the Rattlesnake.
It was here you can tell Michaels was feeling his back. Anyone who has had a back injury knows the walk. You are cocked off to one side and every time you take a step you wince in pain. Michaels was selling this hard. It was almost to the point to where you felt bad for the guy.
After both men got back in the ring, HBK hit a double axe handle. If Michaels was not in pain, boy he could make you believe it. It was almost painful to watch, and it makes my back hurt just writing about it. For all the stories that are out there about Michaels being difficult and all, the way he valiantly fought through this injury in the biggest match in the biggest show to date, he should be commended.
Michaels began a ground and pound type set of moves, something often used by the Rattlesnake. He would hammer away at Austin in the midsection, or solar plexis, if you will.
Since it was mentioned, how many people knew what solar plexus was before Jim Ross told us what it was? I went to health class and had anatomy class in college, and to this day, if it was not for Jim Ross, I would not have known what that particular part of the body was.
As Michaels was placating the crowd’s hatred, Austin was playing possum in the corner. As Michaels turned, a Lou Thesz Press slammed HBK into the mat. “Vintage” Austin meant mounted punches were coming Michaels’ way. Austin, satisfied with his work, would roll off Michaels and allow him to stagger to his feet. Two birds of his own, and Austin would send HBK over the top rope.
With Michaels within arm’s reach of the top rope, Austin grabbed the Champion by the hair. Michaels would take the feet out from underneath SCSA. Michaels dragged Austin to the ring post and this time wrapped his left leg, the kicking leg for the stunner, around the post, not once, not twice, but three times.
Austin was able to squirm away from the corner. Michaels was moving very gingerly as he got back into the ring. Slowly, wincing in pain, he picks up Austin’s boot and drives Austin’s knee hard into the mat. From over the top rope, the cameras at ringside picked up Michaels asking Jim Ross “Who is the toughest SOB?”
With Austin licking his wounds in the corner, Michaels would lay into the left leg once more with repeated kicks. A single leg pick up would assist Michaels in going for the Figure Four Leg Lock. Two things with that, one, another connection with Michaels and Flair, and two, wouldn’t it have made more sense for Michaels to go for the Sharpshooter, to capitalize of the heat still radiating from the Montreal Screw Job?
Michaels would not lock in the move, as a kick to the buttocks would send Michaels into the corner. Austin would go for a school boy roll-up, but only get a two count for his troubles. After the near fall, Michaels was the first one to his feet. He would take out the leg of Austin once again, and perform another knee driver on Stone Cold. Michaels was really going after the leg of Austin, as he propped Austin’s ankle on the bottom rope and dropped his center of gravity onto the surgically repaired leg of the challenger, twice.
As pain was engulfing his leg, Austin rolled outside the ring. A baseball slide from Michaels would send Austin into the laps of The King and J.R. In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t mentioned Mike Tyson hardly at all during this match. With Austin laying halfway on the announce table, Tyson mocks him with crotch chops. ESPN got their photo opp. Austin would roll off the table and on his feet, just in time for the suspended boxer to roll him into the ring.
What Shawn Michaels was doing during this time is anyone’s guess, as he was off camera, presumably in the ring, and hopefully getting checked on my medical personnel. Austin got back to his feet and began a war of words with Tyson. From nowhere, HBK hit a chop block to the bad wheel of Austin. This time, Michaels locks in the Figure Four.
In typical Ric Flair fashion, Michaels used the ropes to gain more leverage every chance he got. Every time he did, Austin’s shoulders would be in the mat. Two near falls would come, but the hold would remain locked in. That would be until Austin rolled over and reversed the pressure of the move. If this sounds familiar, the NWA had run that play in every Flair match in most of the 1980s.
Once both men caught their breath, HBK pulled Austin to his feet. Big mistake Shawn. He would be pelted with more stiff right hands. Austin would then catapult Michaels into the corner, and Michaels came awfully close to smacking his head off the ring post. It looked legitimately like he may have. Austin would roll Michaels up again for a two count.
Ready for the fun part to begin? Austin would pull HBK to his feet and try and throw him into the ropes. HBK reversed it and on Austin’s rebound would lock in a sleeper. Austin, ever the ring general he is, would back Michaels into the corner. The hold would break, but there is a problem. Referee Mike Chioda was standing behind Michaels. He was sandwiched into the corner. Chioda might be unconscious.
The ref’s head was the meat in an HBK butt and turnbuckle sandwich. This would be a triple decker, as it would happen two more times. Austin would back out and Michaels would charge. HBK would have another close encounter of the turnbuckle kind, followed by fist after fist from Austin.
Austin would launch HBK into the corner again. Michaels attempted to jump and land on the second rope, but still banged his head in the corner. Austin was playing four corners and Michaels was the ball. Another corner would get to meet the skull of Michaels.
Here we see more “vintage” Steve Austin, as he stomped a mudhole in the gut of Michaels and proceeded to walk it dry. HBK got to run some more ropes and Austin planted him in the middle of the ring with another back body drop.
Austin now has HBK on the middle rope, and with the ref down (and possibly in a butt induced coma), the Rattlesnake choked out his opponent. Austin, presumably with few options left, sent Michaels into the ropes once again. Michaels ducks a back elbow and rebounds with a forearm, knocking both men to the mat.
We have seen vintage Austin, now it is time for some vintage Shawn Michaels. The patented kip up brought the crowd to their feet. Normally, HBK would begin tuning up the band. This was not a normal match. He wanted to do more damage. This time, he would replicate another great, “Macho Man” Randy Savage. A bionic elbow would nail Austin.
Now the band begins to warm up. With his back in knots, Michaels slams his foot into the mat, awaiting Austin to come to his feet. The challenger does and turns. He ducks the Sweet Chin Music! Austin goes for a stunner! It’s reversed, sending Austin into the ropes. On the rebound, Austin catches another attempted superkick by Michaels.
HBK is spun around! Here it comes! Kick to the gut, and STUNNER! There is no referee to count the pin! Enter…Mike Tyson? Tyson makes one of the quickest counts of all-time. The bell has rung! WE HAVE A NEW WWF CHAMPION!
After the match, Austin gets the belt and poses while flashbulbs pop like lightning in a thunderstorm. Tyson looks lost while Austin celebrates. Austin calls to someone at ringside. He is not asking for beer, but instead an Austin 3:16 shirt. He tosses it to Tyson, who instead of wearing it, holds it up. Weird choice but we get the gist of what is happening.
Shawn Michaels got to his feet. He is livid. He yells at Tyson ‘What are you doing?” and snatches the shirt from the former Heavyweight Champion. The two begin to argue and HBK throws a punch. With one of the quickest counter jabs I have ever seen, Tyson blocks the offense and connects with a right hand to the jaw of Michaels. Shawn Michaels was knocked out of the WWF with that punch.
Austin, watching all of this, gives Michaels the finger. Tyson drapes the shirt over the former WWF Champion and leaves with the new title holder. Hmm, a second man would make it to the WWF Hall of Fame, when he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for his sport.
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