Thursday, March 19, 2020

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XIV

WrestleMania raids my hometown to kick off the Austin Era....

Fleet Center - 3/29/98

It's fitting that 'Mania 14 took place on the anniversary of 'Mania 3.  The 14th edition was to the late 90s WWF as the 3rd was to the late 80s.  In both cases a major star (with serious back problems) seemingly nearing the end of his career passed the torch to the man of the hour, and a major boom period followed.

In the main event, Steve Austin defeated Shawn Michaels for the WWF Title, which kicked off possibly the most successful financial run any single wrestler has ever enjoyed.  The match itself, while not a five-star classic, was a very strong main event, and Shawn's performance is nothing short of a miracle given how badly he was hurting at the time.  This would be his final match for over four years.  On the outside of the ring was celebrity guest Mike Tyson, whose presence sparked a media frenzy which garnered a ton of mainstream hype for the event.  This, my friends, is how you utilize a celebrity guest star in wrestling.

The semi-main event slot went to the Undertaker and his onscreen brother Kane.  The buildup for this match lasted about nine months, from the original announcement that Taker had a brother.  When Kane finally debuted, the company did an excellent job of establishing him as an unstoppable monster, and held off giving away too much physical interaction between him and Taker.  By the time this match finally took place it truly felt like Taker would be facing his ultimate adversary, and the match didn't disappoint. This was arguably Taker's best 'Mania match to date and was also a career-making match for Kane.

It's like King Kong vs. Godzilla!  OH MY GAHD!!!

The top undercard match was the European Title bout between Triple H and Owen Hart, an extremely well-worked secondary title match that at the time reminded me a bit of Savage vs. Steamboat.

Also on the card was a fun hardcore-style Tag Title Dumpster Match between the New Age Outlaws and Cactus Jack/Terry Funk.  It was ten minutes of garbage wrestling (pun intended) featuring brutal spots and a dash of humor.

The I-C Title was represented as well, with The Rock defending against Ken Shamrock.  Unfortunately this match only went about four and a half minutes, followed by about ten minutes of Shamrock losing his mind, getting disqualified, and beating up every WWF agent.  I'd have preferred a much longer match with a shorter angle at the end.

Ah, here we go....STONE COLD! STONE COLD! STONE COLD!

Aside from that we got a weak Tag Team Battle Royal that marked the surprise reunion of The Road Warriors under the name LOD 2000 (and with Sunny as their manager), an abbreviated but entertaining Light Heavyweight Title match between Taka Michinoku and Aguila, and a bizarre but surprisingly fun mixed tag match pitting Marc Mero and Sable against Goldust and Luna Vachon.

WrestleMania XIV brought the WWF Attitude era into full swing and ushered in a major boom period for the company and the industry as a whole.  Soon after, the WWF would finally regain their former status as the #1 wrestling promotion and a pop culture phenomenon.  The Austin Era had officially begun.

Best Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin
Worst Match: Tag Team Battle Royal - even this isn't terrible though
What I'd Change: Not much, other than giving Rock-Shamrock an extra ten minutes
Most Disappointing Match: Match: Rock vs. Shamrock, obviously
Most Pleasant Surprise: I was shocked how good the Marc Mero/Sable vs. Goldust/Luna match was.
Overall Rating: 8/10


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