WrestleMania 14: The night the Attitude Era really began. The shift in tone for the WWF had been coming for a few years but the Main Event of WrestleMania XIV saw the crowning of arguably the single most defining star of this boom period. Business is on the up at this point but we’re still firmly in the era of arena Mania’s, this time emanating from Boston and the FleetCenter (now the TD Garden). A little over 19 thousand people in attendance.
A video package kicks us off that focuses on the degenerate attitude that has engulfed WrestleMania this year and talks about how even though the main event players might shun tradition they will become part of it tonight.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are the commentary team. The performances of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and ‘America the Beautiful’ by the DX band were apparently so bad they’ve been edited out of all future broadcasts.
WrestleMania 14: Tag Team Battle Royal (featuring: 2 of Los Boricuas, The Truth Commission, Bradshaw & Chainz, 2 of The Nation of Domination, The Rock n Roll Express, The Quebecers, The Headbangers, Too Much, Disciples of Apocalypse, Steve Blackman & Flash Funk, The Godwinns & LOD 2000… with Sunny)
It’s a big 15 team battle royal to kick the show off. If one team member is eliminated the whole team must leave. 14 of the entering teams were announced beforehand and the 15th is a surprise. It’s the Legion of Doom, accompanied by Sunny, their outfits are a bit ridiculous, hers more than a bit revealing.
With 30 men in the ring at the beginning, how do you think the action looked? It’s a big pile, nothing much interesting going on. Barry Windham sneaks out and helps eliminate his former teammate Bradshaw by taking out Chainz. Jerry Lawler doesn’t admit that Brian Christopher is his son but does give him special mention a few times. Things pick up a little when there are just four teams left, it’s LoD, The New Midnight Express, The Godwinns and The DOA. After a bit more scrapping it’s down to the New Midnight Express and LoD, meaning that both Jim Cornette and Sunny are still at ringside. Almost in stereo, the LoD eliminate the two men of the Midnight Express to become new number one contenders to the tag team titles. A big chunk of chaos that at least ended with a victory for a beloved team.
We get a few highlights of the many events in the week building up to the show, covering up Aguila’s entrance for the following match.
WrestleMania 14: Taka Michinoku vs Aguila
WWF Light Heavyweight Championship
The only time the Light Heavyweight Championship was defended at WrestleMania. The WWF never made as much of a deal out of this division as the WCW did of the Cruiserweights around the same time.
Jim Ross makes an early reference to Michinoku having won the title on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. The action is rapid, far ahead of most of what was happening in the company at the time. Unfortunately, there are one or two interruptions to do other admin like speaking to foreign language commentators. Or talk about Brian Christopher again. Or kamikaze pilots… Its 1998.
It’s a short match but a glimpse into what would become a much more prevalent style by the 2010s across wrestling. They pack a lot into the less than 6 minutes they get to play with. Michinoku hits his namesake driver to retain the title.
We go backstage to speak to The Rock, who’s with a woman named Gennifer Flowers. She’s most famous for alleging she had an affair with Bill Clinton, and her presence is probably a sign that the companies love of needling Clinton is still alive and well. It’s an engaging Rock promo as you’d expect, packing in a lot of instantly quotable lines and topical references.
WrestleMania 14: Triple H vs Owen Hart
WWF European Championship
Triple H had found his feet as a major player as part of D-Generation X, becoming European Champion for a second time just two weeks before this show after Chyna helped him defeat Owen Hart. Chyna is at ringside for this match and after an awful lot of pantomiming back and forth she is finally handcuffed to Commissioner Sgt Slaughter, as per a prior stipulation.
Hart comes down to the ring limping on an injured ankle but attacks HHH straight away and largely dominates. When Hart spills to the floor Chyna tries to attack but is held by Slaughter and the handcuffs. Lawler delights in one of his favourite pastimes, mocking the Hart family. The match momentum switches around and HHH gets his shots in. Neither man is in control for too long at any point, which helps things flow along. It takes a while before HHH zeroes in on Hart’s injured ankle but when he does Hart looks to be in agony. Hart is also bleeding from the nose which adds to it as well.
Nice back and forth, Chyna stalking from the outside whenever Hart takes charge, Slaughter struggling to contain her.
Hart manages to get the ‘Sharpshooter’ locked in but Chyna is able to help Triple H reach the ropes to break the hold. Chyna then blinds Slaughter with some white powder, and hits a low blow to Hart to allow Triple H to hit the ‘Pedigree’ and win. A fun match that didn’t overstay it’s welcome or get too bogged down in shenanigans. The finish continues the story of DX’s anti-authority crusade and sets them up for their post-Shawn Michaels run in the near future.
WrestleMania 14: Marc Mero & Sable vs Goldust & Luna Vachon
Marc Mero is in the midst of his storyline and real life run of being overshadowed by his wife Sable. In retrospect it’s a weird storyline to focus entirely on Sable given that she has almost zero charisma and little to no acting ability. She’s definitely one of those lightning in a bottle characters.
Goldust is deep into his weird ‘Artist formerly known as’ run, so he comes out in a silver jumpsuit with red face paint in a rare change of style. Mero and Goldust start out, briefly, before Luna comes in and Sable joins. Luna runs away, the men and women not allowed to officially wrestle one another here. Sable does hit Goldust with a kick at one point but it’s mostly Mero and Goldust. Commentary keeps talking about the potential for a Sable and Luna collision even as Mero and Goldust work well together in the ring.
We do finally get that collision and it’s classic sloppy catfight stuff, Luna bumping around and making Sable look great. The crowd seem into it. The rule of thumb seems to be that the in-ring is better when Mero and Goldust are together, but the crowd care more when it’s Luna and Sable.
There’s a miscommunication as Goldust hits Luna, before Luna finally attacks Mero. Sable has Goldust covered but the referee is distracted. Sable manages to hit the ‘Sable Bomb’ but can’t get the pinfall. Sable does though his Mero’s finisher, the ‘TKO’, to pin Luna and win. A hot crowd definitely elevates what was otherwise a fairly ordinary, TV level match.
WrestleMania 14: The Rock vs Ken Shamrock
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Before the match we get the introduction of Jeff Jarrett, accompanying Gennifer Flowers. Flowers is serving as the guest ring announcer for this match. She banters back and forth with Jarrett and talks over the Nation of Domination’s music whilst the Rock enters. Rock and Shamrock had faced off at the Royal Rumble in a match then ended in a disqualification and would go on to feud for the rest of 1998. The Nation of Domination are accompanying the Rock, who is in the middle of a bit of a power struggle with Nation leader Faarooq, conspicuous by his absence.
Shamrock goes straight after Rock as soon as he makes it to the ring. It’s a big stiff brawl with momentum shifting back and forth. Shamrock looks to snap, as he regularly did. His attempt to bring a chair into the ring ends with the referee being knocked down and Shamrock taking the chair right to his face. Shamrock though manages to fight back and locks in his ankle lock, forcing The Rock to tap out.
It looks like Shamrock has won as he beats up the Nation members at ringside. Faarooq appears for the first time all match but he doesn’t help The Rock as Shamrock locks the ankle lock in again. Several officials and referees try to calm Shamrock down and he suplexes a few of them for their trouble. A long unclear period passes until Shamrock is announced as having been disqualified. The Rock retains but Shamrock beats him down some more across the set. Shamrock looks like a killer but his temper lets him down again.
WrestleMania 14: The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg & Billy Gunn) vs Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie
Dumpster Match for the WWF Tag Team Championships
A classic example of the more hardcore direction that the WWF took in the Attitude Era. This is the first Dumpster match in company history, and features two of the most important wrestlers in hardcore wrestling. Cactus Jack is Mick Foley, Chainsaw Charlie is Terry Funk (making his Mania return for the first time since Mania 2. An entertaining pre match spiel from Road Dogg during the Outlaws’ entrance.
The fight starts straight away, Funk attacking Billy Gunn before Gunn has even taken his title belt off. Nothing pretty here. Funk and Foley taking some nasty looking bumps to really make the Outlaws look good. It’s vicious stuff at points, particularly a long sequence where the Outlaws drop the dumpster lid on both opponents’ heads repeatedly.
The Outlaws get both Funk and Foley into one of the dumpsters pretty quickly but take their time to close the lids and Funk/Foley fight out. The weapons come out as the fight makes it to the ring for a moment. Gunn and Foley take a spill off one of the ladders, and right into the ringside dumpster. Funk ends up in dumpster before the other three men brawl right out into the backstage area, getting in plenty of zany spots. Funk magically reappears and ends up driving a forklift with both Outlaws trapped on top. The Outlaws are dropped into a backstage dumpster and after a moment, Funk & Foley are announced as the winners and new tag team champions.
WrestleMania 14: The Undertaker vs Kane
Somewhere, there will be a great breakdown of the complicated and long road that led the Undertaker and Kane to this point. But to do it here would be too much. Essentially it boils down to The Undertaker discovering that his long-thought-dead brother, Kane, is not only alive but also coming for him in the WWF. The lengthy pre-match video package does a fantastic job of catching anyone up who is lacking context. It’s epic, captivating stuff.
It’s a bit of a tonal shift from that to guest ring announcer, baseball legend Pete Rose. He immediately starts ripping into Boston sports before introducing Kane. Rose seems to irritate Kane, who hits him with a tombstone piledriver. This set off a trilogy of appearances for Rose in the coming years. An epic entrance from the Undertaker, accompanied by a dozen or so Druids and wearing a gorgeous, very regal, robe.
Once the match starts, it’s two very big, but agile, men throwing everything at one another. Very physical early on, commentary talking about how no one has ever manhandled The Undertaker quite like this. Not sure that’s necessarily true but it’s rare for Undertaker to wrestle someone who is not only bigger than him, but also mobile. Especially at this point in his career.
It’s fairly even, Kane on top for the most part, but Undertaker gets some bursts of offense to show off his speed and remarkable agility. Paul Bearer distracts the referee to let Kane start to use the ring steps as weapons on the outside of the ring. Bearer himself even kicks Undertaker a few times in very rare display of any kind of physicality for him. This all lets Kane take over even more and he hits the first big move of the match with a chokeslam.
Undertaker fights back by knocking Kane to the outside and going for a huge suicide dive, which misses and sends him crashing through the Spanish announce table. This puts Kane back on top yet again. Undertaker goes for a Tombstone Piledriver but Kane, after a few adjustments, counters it into one of his own, Undertaker kicking out to stay in the match. Finally Undertaker manages to get a protracted spell of offense, first with a chokeslam, then with a Tombstone, which Kane kicks out from and commentary claim is the first time that has happened. Another Tombstone, another kick out from Kane. A top rope clothesline, a third Tombstone. Undertaker pins and wins.
The narrative around Kane and the Undertaker is that they had poor chemistry but this match was a good first chapter in the in-ring portion of their rivalry. Both men look strong and for such big men they don’t wrestle a slow contest by any stretch.
Post-match Paul Bearer brings a chair into the ring and Kane beats the Undertaker down to somewhat level the playing field after losing. The relationship between these two would continue until they both retired, either as enemies or as a team.
WrestleMania 14: Shawn Michaels vs Stone Cold Steve Austin
WWF Championship, Mike Tyson as Special Guest Enforcer
Stone Cold had been growing in popularity ever since his face turn at the previous years WrestleMania. He won the Royal Rumble in January and at that same event, Michaels suffered a serious back injury. The added ingredient in the match is the then-banned boxer Mike Tyson, who undoubtedly helped bring eyes to this match. In the build, Tyson has been aligning himself with DX and Shawn Michaels and how his loyalties will play into the match are a big narrative leading in.
Tyson is the first to enter, seemingly struggling with how exactly to smoothly do a crotch chop. The noise ramps up even further when Austin makes his entrance, he’s already being received as a superstar. Austin gets right in Tyson’s face straight away. Michaels is accompanied by both Triple H & Chyna and gives a little shoutout to Earl Hebner (who was in the hospital at the time) before he heads out. His entrance is soundtracked by the live DX band and he looks incredibly intense, not much of the smirking and grandstanding one associated with Michaels. Some of the grimaces might be due to said back injury.
Michaels and Austin circle each other early on, a slow feeling out process. Tyson makes a swipe at Austin’s leg seconds in to underline which side he’s on. Michaels’ mockery earlier gets the customary two fingered salute from Austin. It doesn’t stay slow and tentative for long, Austin taking over with some big strikes, Michaels baring his ass and taking a big spill to the floor all in one short sequence. Triple H interjects himself by attacking Austin, the match isn’t thrown out but Triple H and Chyna both are. Austin lets himself get distracted by further attacking Triple H on his way to the back, Michaels chases him down and the two men brawl around the stage and the entranceway.
Neither man is in their absolute physical prime at this point, Austin is post neck-injury and Michaels suffering with his back issue. But they don’t let that slow them down, it’s physical and intense throughout. There are lull moments but they aren’t too long.
The match isn’t announced as a no-disqualification match but it’s fought as if it is one at times. Austin gets thrown to the concrete floor and hit with the ring bell to put Michaels back in a dominant position. Michaels flips off the crowd after dominating for a while, which seems to wake Austin up briefly. After teasing it earlier Michaels zeroes in on Austin’s braced knee, attacking it repeatedly. Austin ends up getting knocked over the announce table and almost into Jim Ross and Lawler’s laps. Tyson gets involved for the first time all match by throwing Austin back into the ring. A lot more damage to Austin’s knee, the pace a little slower than before but still just as intense.
The referee gets crushed in the corner by both men crashing into him, just as Austin takes over for the first time in a while. Michaels gets an opening for the ‘Sweet Chin Music’ but misses and Austin hit’s the ‘Stunner’. Tyson jumps in the ring to take over as referee and counts the pinfall.
Tyson has turned his back on DX and helps crown Steve Austin. Michaels is distraught at the betrayal afterwards but Tyson knocks him out with a single punch.
This was the last match Michaels would have for four years as his back injury proved too severe to continue. Thankfully he would be back. The coronation of Stone Cold Steve Austin in the main event feels like the final definitive point that began the ‘Attitude Era’ and a new peak of the company’s popularity.
Overall – WrestleMania 14:
All in all, WrestleMania 14 was really enjoyable. It’s the first to feature the ‘Attitude’ branding that would carry the WWF right up until they were forced to drop the F and become WWE. Not every match is absolutely fantastic but there aren’t any that are bad. The tag team battle royal features a crowd-pleasing return, and victory, for the Legion of Doom. And Ken Shamrock vs The Rock served a purpose in furthering both men’s characters.
All the major players are in place for the next boom period, and pretty much all of them are in the roles they would carry into that era. WrestleMania 14 is also the first one with genuinely good commentary throughout for a few years certainly helps…