August 27, 2004
Sheldon Kane III
A PERSONAL NOTE
In my earlier review about the first WrestleMania, I noted that my first live-an-in-person WrestleMania would not come until over a decade later, in 1998. In the years between the first and the 14th, I had seen every WrestleMania wishing I could have been there live to witness it up close (well maybe not IV, IX, or XI). So much time had passed in those years, and so many stars had come and gone. The era I grew up in, the '80s "Rock 'n' Wrestling" period, had long since ended. The awkward transitional period between '90 to '93 was thankfully over. And I was even more thankful to see the "New Generation" era on its deathbed. Not only was my first in-person WrestleMania an excellent show, it also signaled the beginning of one of the greatest growth periods in WWE history; the loved, hated, but never ignored, "Attitude" era.
My sister was the one responsible for me getting to WrestleMania XIV. If not for her generosity and the ticket she passed down to me, I never would have made it to the Fleet Center to see this show live as it unfolded before my eyes. So I am forever grateful to my sister for doing something for me she absolutely did not have to do (by the way, check out her columns on this site). The show itself, you just knew it was going to be an incredible event; the World Wrestling Federation Championship main event promised to be a monumental occasion, with Shawn Michaels defending the title against Stone Cold Steve Austin. Special enforcer on the outside: everyone's favorite ear-chomper, former heavyweight boxing champion "Iron" Mike Tyson. When you look at the card and the storylines behind the matches, you could just tell where things were headed in the World Wrestling Federation at the time. The company finally had its finger on the pulse of what the fans wanted, and the result was their most compelling product since the days of Hulk Hogan's reign at the top of the organization.
A few days before this event, I attended a free event the Federation was having in conjunction with WrestleMania XIV, called the "DX Public Workout". This event was held outdoors, at Government Center in Boston, and was a fun little event to help promote the event coming to our area. I attended with my friends Christy and Dave, both of whom were starting to get back into watching wrestling themselves. They had a couple of matches that day, TAKA Michinoku defending the Light Heavyweight Title against Scott Taylor (Scotty 2 Hotty), and the Headbangers taking on Los Boricuas. Of course the main highlight was the DX/Austin segment, which saw HBK getting hit with a car battery from a fan, Triple H cutting a wicked heel promo on Boston, Mike Tyson acting goofy, the debut of the infamous "Jason Sensation", master impressionist, and of course Stone Cold's arrival in a Boston police car. Fun little brawl ensued, with Austin getting tied in the ropes as HBK and Tyson smooched his bald head, and Austin stunning everyone who came near him when he was free, even a couple of Boricuas who were in the ring.
With the back story out of the way, let's get into the event they called "the first-ever (D)X-raided WrestleMania."
I came to the event looking stranger than anyone had a right to look that day; dressed in a Paul Stanley KISS mask with a top hat on my head. Yep, I was that obsessed with KISS at the time. Still can't believe I attended my first live WrestleMania dressed like that, but it sure made for an interesting time, with fans wanting to take pictures of me and stuff. The fans that day were so out of control. I already knew the fans of Boston love wrestling, but on this day they were more rabid than I had ever seen them.
The show started with a little opening video package talking about wrestling tradition. Interesting to note: considering we were in 1998 and Hulk Hogan was playing the evil "Hollywood Hogan" over in WCW, the clip shown of him got major boos from the crowd, while I felt like the only one in the Fleet Center who cheered. The clip of Bruno Sammartino got no reaction at all. That's sad. With that out of the way, we were ready for our opening contest.
TAG TEAM BATTLE ROYAL
These types of battle royals are rare, and this was only the second tag team battle royal I had ever seen. The first one I ever saw was in 1986, when The Islanders won a tag team battle royal in Madison Square Garden. Here we are 12 years later, and we have 15 tag teams headed to the ring for battle, although a few of them were obviously thrown together for this match. The winners got a World Tag Team Title show at Unforgiven, back when it was an April event. We had: Savio Vega and Miguel Perez Jr. of Los Boricuas; Faarooq and Kama Mustafa from the Nation of Domination; the Headbangers; Skull & 8-Ball of DOA; former World Tag Team Champions the Quebecers (Jacques and Pierre did not fit into this new era at all); the New Midnight Express; Jesus "Hurricane" Castillo Jr. and Jose Estrada Jr. of Los Boricuas; Too Much (the future Too Cool); Recon (Bull Buchanan) and Sniper of the Truth Commission; D'Lo Brown and Mark Henry of the Nation of Domination; the Godwinns; the Rock 'n' Roll Express; Chainz and Bradshaw; Flash Funk and Steve Blackman; and our special mystery team...the Legion of Doom! They were now going by LOD 2000, with Sunny as their manager. They had teased a team breakup a few weeks earlier, and I guess now they had reconciled. I was starting to miss Paul Ellering already.
Anyway, the whole thing lasted 8:24 and had interventions from Kurrgan
(attacking the Truth Commission) and Barry Windham (coming after
Bradshaw). The LOD won this one after dumping "Bodacious" Bob (Holly)
and "Bombastic" Bart (Gunn) of the New Midnight Express. Not too bad,
definitely a rare type of match, and even more rare at a WrestleMania.
I was so happy to see LOD back, especially considering they are, to
me, the greatest tag team of all time. I had no idea what WWE had in
store for them, and if I did know, I would have been screaming "Hawk,
Animal, get out while you can!"
WINNERS: LOD 2000
A highlights package was shown of WrestleMania weekend, including Stone Cold Steve Austin's appearance on Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee (Vivica A. Fox was there instead of Kathie Lee that day). Funny bit with Regis sporting a "Philbin 911" shirt and rubbing Steve's head. What was with people and his bald head that week?
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
TAKA MICHINOKU (Champion) vs. AGUILA (Challenger)
Aguila, of course, went on to become Lita's first partner, Essa Rios. Good cruiserweight battle here, TAKA was red-hot at the time of this match, since the Federation was trying to push their own Light Heavyweight division in response to WCW's much-talked about cruiserweight action. TAKA and Aguila really impressed the crowd here, especially when Aguila hit an Asai moonsault on TAKA outside the ring. The match is over when TAKA nails Aguila with a top rope dropkick, followed by the Michinoku Driver. It's all over by pinfall at 5:57.
WINNER : TAKA MICHINOKU
Up next, we had one of our disgraced guest celebrites, Gennifer Flowers, interviewing the-then Intercontinental Champion, The Rock. You can tell Rock's having fun with his new persona, saying that he wouldn't be a leader for our country, he'd be a "ruler". And of course lots of innuendos which seemed to make Ms. Flowers squirm in her seat. The Rock's "hung jury" line is a classic, check it out sometime if you haven't already.
TRIPLE H (Champion) vs. OWEN HART (Challenger)
The deal here was Chyna was handcuffed to Commissioner Slaughter, to prevent her from interfering in the match. I wanted to cut the power on that DX band, they sounded like a poor Rage Against the Machine cover band. It was like Vince couldn't get the real Rage, so he got a bad knockoff. Triple H and Owen were in the midst of quite a little feud coming into WrestleMania over the European Title, so this promised to be good. A lot of brawling on the floor, a lot of good action on the mat. Had a little of everything. A nice succession of near falls from Owen late in the match as well, each following a top rope dropkick, a belly to belly suplex, and an enziguri kick, respectively.
I was really enjoying this match until the frustrating finish, which
Chyna just had to be part of; she throws a handul of powder into
Slaughter's eyes and low blows Owen from outside the ring. Hunter hits
the pedigree and gets the pin at 11:28. And of course Chyna had to
keep her beatdown of Slaughter going. You have no idea how much I
hated watching Chyna always getting the better of the guys. I am so
happy to see this no-talent whiner long gone from wrestling.
WINNER: TRIPLE H
MIXED TAG TEAM MATCH
"MARVELOUS" MARC MERO & SABLE vs. THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS GOLDUST & LUNA VACHON
At the start of this match, we find out that boxers Vinnie Pazienza and Marvelous Marvin Hagler are in attendance. Of course the Paz would end up having a role in the following WrestleMania. A lot of fans enjoyed this match, but I really didn't think a whole lot of it. This was at the height of everyone's love for Sable, so of course she got all of the biggest reactions. To me, the highlight of her career will always be the 1997 Slammy Awards. So let's see what he have going on here; Luna making Sable look like a million bucks by constantly running from her...Mero and Goldust having an okay match together with some good spots here and there...Sable beating down Luna A LOT...and finally Sable beating Luna by pinfall at 9:10 with the TKO (does anyone else think the TKO resembles the F-5?). For me this match went about four minutes too long. Mero celebrates like he got the pin himself. What a Baaaaaadd man.
WINNERS: MARC MERO & SABLE
THE ROCK (Champion) vs. KEN SHAMROCK (Challenger)
I wonder how many fans remember seeing Col. Robert Parker (Robert Fuller) as "Tennessee Lee" in the Federation. I'd be willing to bet not many of them do. Tennessee Lee introduces Gennifer Flowers accompained by "Double J" Jeff Jarrett, and Gennifer handles the ring announcer duties for our next match, the Intercontinental Title matchup. This match entertained me quite a bit. I was really into The Rock at the time, and Shamrock was another favorite of mine in '98. Shamrock seemed to be getting the better of The Rock for almost the entire match, and of course when The Rock did have the advantage, we got to see him in his full glory, People's Elbow and all (at a time when the move wasn't stale). The chairshot Rock gave Shamrock let out a big "ooooh" from the crowd. Shamrock clamps on the anklelock and seemed to have the title won. But after the match, after Shamrock disposed of the rest of the Nation of Domination, Shamrock re-applied the anklelock on The Rock, who sold it like he was getting stabbed. Faarooq, the leader of the Nation, comes to the ring, but ends up walking away from The Rock. Finally, the referee reverses the decision and disqualifies Shamrock. This of course just inspires Shamrock to keep the beatdown going. Good stuff. Time of the fall: 4:49.
WINNER BY REVERSE DECISION: THE ROCK
DUMPSTER MATCH FOR THE WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
THE NEW AGE OUTLAWS (Champions) vs. CACTUS JACK & CHAINSAW CHARLIE (Challengers)
Why a dumpster match? Think back to the infamous RAW moment where the New Age Outlaws sealed Cactus and Chainsaw (Terry Funk) inside a dumpster and pushed it off the edge of the entrance way. And of course the end of the show where Cactus and Chainsaw came back to the arena with the IVs still attached to their arms. This led to the first and only dumpster match in WWE history.
If there was ever a match at this WrestleMania which best depicted the
time period, this would be the one. ECW was still hot at the time, so
naturally the Federation started to borrow heavily from them. They
never had a dumpster match at the bingo hall, but I could easily
picture it happening. The object of the match was to throw both
members of a team into the dumpster and close the lid to win. Too bad
one of the stipulations wasn't to throw "Badd Ass" Billy Gunn into the
dumpster and send it off to the indies. My favorite part of this match
was Cactus Jack grabbing a ladder, and both he and Billy Gunn started
to climb it. As they brawled on the ladder, Road Dogg whacked Funk
with a cookie sheet. Funk then fell into the ladder, and both Cactus
and Badd Ass fall off the ladder and into the dumpster. Great
sequence. Eventually, Cactus and the Outlaws fight their way to the
back of the arena. Out of nowhere, Funk appears and he's driving a
forklift. After Cactus floored both Road Dogg and Badd Ass with
chairs, Funk lifted them with the forklift and dumped them into a
dumpster backstage to win the match at 10:20.
WINNERS & NEW CHAMPIONS: CACTUS & CHAINSAW
It should be noted, this decision was voided by Federation officials the following day, because Cactus & Chainsaw didn't use the original dumpster. The two teams had a steel cage match on RAW that night to settle the controversy, which the Outlaws ended up winning with help from DX.
UNDERTAKER vs. KANE
If you don't count Undertaker's matches against Isaac Yankem D.D.S., this was the first of many, many Undertaker-Kane battles. Pete Rose performs ring announcer duties here, and my God, the heat he got for calling Boston "the city of losers". Kane shows up and takes him out with the Tombstone Piledriver. The first of four WrestleMania appearances for "Charlie Hustle", which led to him getting a WWE Hall of Fame induction. What a joke. Makes the whole HoF look ridiculous when Hulk Hogan and Bruno Sammartino don't get inductions, but Pete f'n Rose does. Whatever.
I should note the entrance of Kane gave me a heart attack and a half
when I was there. I was sitting right near the entrance, and I not
only felt the heat of the flame towers, but the explosions they made
almost killed my eardrums. Undertaker had an excellent entrance as
well. Awesome to witness live. These two had a great match together,
in my opinion their best to this day. Their styles are of course very
similar (they're supposed to be "half brothers", don't forget), so for
much of the match it seemed like a lot of "can you top this?" type of
stuff. Highlight of this match sees Undertaker leaping over the ropes
with Kane outside on the Spanish announcers' table. Kane moves out of
the way and the Dead Man ends up looking like a real Dead Man,
crashing into the table. No matter; Undertaker ended up winning
anyway, but only after three Tombstone Piledrivers. Time: 16:56.
A promo was shown featuring several wrestling legends, including Gorilla Monsoon, Killer Kowalski, Fred Blassie, Ernie Ladd and Pat Patterson. The gist of the promo was to put over the evolution of the business, with Gorilla and Fred capping it off by saying, "Today, I cheer for them." Nice promo.
WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION CHAMPIONSHIP
SHAWN MICHAELS (Champion) vs. STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN (Challenger)
God, it's that awful DX band again. They play Mike Tyson's entrance music, and out comes "Iron Mike", with Tony Garea playing protection on the way down. Wonder if Mike still feels the effects of the beatdown I gave him in "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!". When I watched the tape of this event later, I wanted to slap Jim Ross for calling Shawn "the greatest champion of all time." He knows that's complete BS, especially when guys like Hogan, Bruno, Bob Backlund, and Bret Hart had much better reigns and didn't act like spoiled punks backstage like this guy did. So, you can imagine I was solidly behind Stone Cold here, as was the entire Fleet Center crowd. This was a history-making match, and was also saw the final link to the "New Generation" chain broken once and for all, allowing a rush of "Attitude" to flood through the gates of WWE, much to my relief.
A few notes about this match: first, the original in-ring referee
chosen for this match, Earl Hebner, was rushed to the hospital before
the event after suffering an aneurysm. HBK even looked at the camera
before the match and said "Earl, this one's for you." Mike Chioda
ended up replacing him as the in-ring official. Also, HBK was
competing with a severe back injury. For his efforts in this match
even though he had a major injury, my respect for Shawn Michaels grew.
Now, onto the match: match started off quick, and also borrowed a cue
from the Razor-Shawn WrestleMania X match, with Triple H in the Diesel
role getting kicked out of the arena for attacking Austin outside the
ring. Now the action was taken to the outside, and right near my
section, with the DX Band's drum set coming into play. They even
utlilize the dumpster from the World Tag Team title match. This match
was packed with a lot of great action, and reached its climax when
Chioda gets knocked out. Austin scores with a turnbuckle smash, and
plenty of mudhole stomping. Austin gets a back bodydrop, but HBK
retaliates with a flying forearm. From high above, Michaels drops a
flying elbowsmash on the challenger. Michaels then prepares to deliver
the Sweet Chin Music. The Texas Rattlesnake ducks the move, but
Michaels blocks Austin's attempt at a stunner. In turn, Austin blocks
another try at the Sweet Chin Music, turns him around, and a kick to
the gut followed by the Stone Cold Stunner follows. Mike Tyson runs
into the ring and registers a slightly fast three count at 20:01. I
must have cheered until my throat bled, I was so loud. The Austin era
begins, as Stone Cold becomes the new World Wrestling Federation
Champion. Postmatch, HBK confronts Mike Tyson, who was supposed to be
a DX member. Tyson knocks HBK out, rips away the DX shirt, and reveals
an Austin 3:16 shirt. Austin is the new champion, the "Attitude" era
begins, and we all leave happy.
WINNER & NEW CHAMPION: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
AFTER THE SHOW
I made a stop at the hotel where the wrestlers were staying at following the show, as did other fans. Got to meet Terry Funk, Savio Vega, and Michael Hayes. Referee Tim White thanked me and told me he was glad I enjoyed the show. Also spotted the Jackyl (Don Callis) talking to a group of women, Sgt. Slaughter at the bar watching the replay of the show, and Mike Tyson (still in the Austin shirt) walking through the lobby with a bunch of his handlers surrounding him.
All in all, I had a very enjoyable evening at WrestleMania XIV. I don't know when I will see another live WrestleMania, but if I do, I hope it's just as much of a history maker as this one was.
And Michelle, thanks again for the ticket.