Wrestlemania I-XXX Series. (13/30)

368
0

 ***Edited As Of March 28th, 2018. Took out broken pics/videos, added display pic, and cleaned up the text.***

Wrestlemania 13 drew 18,197 fans to the Rosemont Horizon venue in Rosemont, Illinois on March 23rd 1997. This is the only WrestleMania in history not to have been a sell-out. Out of a total of 18,197 who attended, 16,467 paid. The remaining 1,737 tickets were given out for free, just to fill the arena.

The card featured a no disqualification match for the WWF Championship, a Chicago Street Fight, and a submission match between Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler provided commentary alongside Jim Ross (last commentated a Wrestlemania event at Wrestlemania IX). Spanish and French commentary was also provided.

The event included familiar faces making their Wrestlemania debuts, including Flash Funk (2 Cold Scorpio in the Dark Match), Blackjack Windham (Barry Windham), Blackjack Bradshaw (JBL), The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher), Rocky Maivia, Rocky Johnson, Chyna. Mankind, Faarooq, D’Lo Brown and Ken Shamrock.

Just like Wrestlemania XII, the most apparent differences to previous Wrestlemania were the absences of a national anthem and celebrities. Also the event marked the first occasion the event was not numbered with roman numerals, and the number “13” was quoted as a lucky number for The Undertaker. The event saw a push towards adult themes, stronger violence, and blood, as the company headed towards the popular time known as “The Attitude Era”. The dark match included Billy Gunn defeating Flash Funk in a singles contest.



Match #1 – The Headbangers (Mosh and Thrasher) vs. The New Blackjacks (Blackjack Windham and Blackjack Bradshaw) vs. The Godwinns (Henry O. and Phineas I. Goodwin) (with Hillbilly Jim) vs. Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon


Four-way tag team elimination match to determine the number one contenders for the WWF Tag Team Championship

An average match with little crowd interest. No one in the match was over to any degree, so the crowd had little to cheer for. Bradshaw got his team disqualified by pushing the referee down, disappointing. No idea how Furnas and LaFon were eliminated, they were an afterthought. The main feud was between The Headbangers and The Godwinns, and in the end The Headbangers worked some high-spots in to give the crowd something to watch. The Headbangers had the better chemistry between the teams, and Mosh ended it with a Cannonball, which you don’t see everyday.

Vince told us Brian Pillman and Sunny were manning the hotline. I was hoping to see Pillman on the show, but sadly it never happened. He died later that year from arteriosclerotic heart disease.


Honky Tonk Man appeared randomly to sit on commentary for the next match. Not sure why exactly. All he did was disrespect Rocky and cheer on The Sultan .. like The Sultan didn’t have enough support already.



Match #2 – Rocky Maivia (c) vs. The Sultan (with Bob Backlund and The Iron Sheik)

Singles match for the WWF Intercontinental Championship

At the time, Rocky Maivia and The Sultan were two guys nobody cared for. Today we know them as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, former WWF/E Champion and movie star, and Rikishi, WWE Hall Of Famer. Both men are related through the Anoaʻi family.

Rocky received no pop as his generic theme music (which would later be spruced up to what we know today) played. The Sultan received a reaction mostly because of The Iron Shiek, and perhaps Backlund. The match was slow, and the two cousins did not work well together. Rocky was too energetic and one-dimensional in his offense (kinda like Roman Reigns today), and The Sultan just didn’t want to move, even though we all know how agile he can be.

The funniest part was listening to the crowd chant “Rocky Sucks” (which I’m sure was edited to be quieter in the version released in 2005), as he tried to play the good guy, but received little respect for it. Remind you of anyone? Rocky Maivia was being shoved down the fans throats, and the fans expressed their hatred for his bland personality and lack of wrestling skill.


As Rocky appeared to be closing in on the victory, Shiek and Backlund distracted the referee. Despite the interference, Rocky was able to roll The Sultan up after taking a few moves. The trio attacked Rocky after the match, and his father Rocky Johnson made the save. Still, not much reaction from the crowd, despite what I felt to be a heartwarming moment between father and son, and the last televised appearance for Rocky Johnson..


Match #3 – Hunter Hearst Helmsley (with Chyna) defeated Goldust (with Marlena)


Another flop, which saw the commentary team be more exciting than those involved. Lawler was on fire as he plugged the most ridiculous jokes, much to Vince’s displeasure. Goldust has always been a decent worker, but even he couldn’t pull a decent match out of Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who really liked to use that knee often.

The only interesting part was the end, as Chyna actually moved (which shocked Lawler as he repeatedly labelled her a statue from the start) towards Marlena, with Goldust completely oblivious. Chyna got in Marlena’s face, and after what felt like a lifetime, Goldust realized what was happening. He lifted Marlena from the outside on to the ring apron.

Helmsley saw his opportunity and knocked Goldust, who then knocked Marlena off the apron into Chyna’s arms. Helmsley took advantage and delivered the pedigree on Goldust, as Chyna literally ragged Marlena around like a doll. The heels left as Goldust consoled Marlena and blamed himself for what happened. The match was simply to introduce Chyna, and give fan sympathy for Goldust. The match was forgettable, but I suppose it achieved. Lawler blamed Goldust for throwing Marlena into Chyna, and Jim Ross questioned his eyesight. You could already see the chemistry of Ross and Lawler at this point.



Match #4 – Owen Hart and The British Bulldog (c) vs. Mankind and Vader (with Paul Bearer)

Tag team match for the WWF Tag Team Championship

An odd tag team contest which saw two heel tag teams face off. As the crowd had no idea who to cheer for, they ended up siding with Owen. Bearer was not managing The Undertaker for the first time at a Wrestlemania event. Bulldog was the European Champion and brought it to the ring with him. Jim Ross tried to stir the pot in an impromptu interview as Owen and Bulldog made their way to the ring. Ross claimed Owen had declared himself the leader of the team, and Bulldog told Ross he had no idea what he was talking about. After Owen blasted Ross for trying to stir things up, Bulldog walked off, Owen told Ross he was the leader, and by that time Bulldog didn’t return to comment.

It seemed clear the strategy for Vader and Mankind was to isolate Owen, the weaker of the two champions. Lawler continued to remind us throughout the match. Owen was selling everything from Vader and Mankind, and when Bulldog got the tag, he was unstoppable and took on both monsters. Mankind looked rather slim, and delivered offense as ugly as his attire. Vader’s mask came off at one point, and he also made the Hulk Hogan gesture to the crowd, which received some negative reaction.

As Bulldog appeared to be close to victory, Mankind locked in the Mandible Claw, and refused to let go. Vader threw Owen into Bulldog and Mankind and knocked them both out to the floor. A costly mistake as Mankind refused to let go, and both men were counted out. He refused to let go of the hold after the match, and it took Vader to separate them. Average match, lame ending. Sadly this was the last Wrestlemania match for The British Bulldog.


 Match #5 – Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin

No Disqualification Submission match with Ken Shamrock as the special guest referee

The video package beforehand was so eerie and coincidental, it makes you wonder whether time travel exists. I’ll post it here so you can see how close the kayfabe story reflected reality later that year.

 

The match is often considered the greatest match in Wrestlemania history. Bret Hart was on the verge of a heel turn, and Austin was still playing the heel, but had plenty of fan support. Having already seen this match (and included it in my Best Matches Of All Time series), I don’t want to go into the match too much. As much as I love The Undertaker, this should have been the main event for the WWF Championship, with no changes to the match … but that’s the only way it could have been better.

The story telling, the innovation, the violence, Bret Hart’s callous manner, Austin’s never give up attitude, everything in this match was perfect, even if Austin tends to disagree when he looks back on it (you can find a video of Austin reliving the match on Youtube). The fans started the match mixed, and gradually began to side with Austin as the match went on. The “double turn” (Hart turning heel, Austin turning babyface) happened gradually until the end, as Austin (who bladed heavily earlier on) screamed in pain in the sharpshooter, as the camera focused on his bloody face. The fans were really behind Austin at this point, and then he passed out. Shamrock ended the match, leaving the crowd stunned.

Bret was already over as a heel, but he decided to solidify it by beating up on an unconscious Steve Austin. Shamrock took exception to this and threw him across the ring MMA style. Hart decided to leave the ring instead of fighting Shamrock, to a chorus of boo’s. Austin (still playing the heel) stood up under his own power and delivered a stunner to Hebner. He slowly made his way to the back, as the crowd chanted “AUSTIN!” loudly. Austin ignored the fan reaction, and made his way to the back.

Jim Ross sold the match as one of the greatest in Wrestlemania history, and noted the fans reaction for Austin. Vince ensured everyone not every match was as brutal as that, which told me he didn’t know the match would be as graphic as it was. Lawler had me laughing uncontrollably at one point, as he found out Stu and Helen Hart were at ringside (and when the camera panned to them, Stu looked surprised, and somewhat terrified) and continued to ask if Stu was awake or not.

The match launched Austin’s career into legendary status, and the last Wrestlemania apperance for Bret Hart as an active competitor. Hart would return thirteen years later to face his old nemesis Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania XXVI.


 Match #6 – The Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal) and Ahmed Johnson vs. The Nation of Domination (Faarooq, Crush, and Savio Vega) (with Wolfie D, J.C. Ice, D’Lo Brown, and Clarence Mason)

Chicago Street Fight

Hard to follow a five-star match, but this one delivered! Seriously, how many members of the Nation of Domination? And Faarooq was freaky big at this point in his career. I didn’t mind Ahmed Johnson sporting the LOD attire, it seemed to suit him. This was a 3-on-7 handicap match in reality, as the entire Nation of Domination fought LOD & Johnson.

It was a pure fight with so much action it was hard to follow. I remember Johnson dropping Faarooq through a table with hellacious force. I also remember Lawler getting excited after a wrestling hold was used at one point. Members of the Nation kept using a cable with a noose to tie their opponents up. Animal was having fun using a fire extinguisher to clear the way.

D’Lo Brown was doing a lot for the Nation, and taking a lot of punishment as well. As the match began to drag a little, LOD hit an amazing Doomsday Device outta’ nowhere. They also did a 2×4 spot. The match ended with LOD delivering an awesome Double Doomsday Device, which yeah … I was seriously into.

I didn’t expect anything from the match, but it managed to show the new “extreme” direction for the WWF, and they delivered. I was expecting it to stink, but it didn’t, and I liked the ending as well.


 Match #7 – Sycho Sid (c) vs. The Undertaker

No Disqualification match for the WWF Championship

Shawn Michaels entered wearing street clothes, as the commentary team reminded us of his knee injury. Despite not being on the card, Michaels was given a full firework display on his entrance (which frustrated Lawler). Afterwards he sat down at the commentary table for the main event. He was impartial throughout, and put both competitors over. Lawler wondered why Michaels was being so nice, and Vince replied saying Michaels does things his way, which Michaels agreed with.

Jim Ross noted The Undertaker’s attire, which was similar-looking to the attire he wore at his first Wrestlemania against Jimmy Snuka. For the first time at a Wrestlemania event, Jim Ross made it known that The Undertaker was undefeated at Wrestlemania (5-0 so far). Thanks for the stats JR!

As always, the fans were in awe of The Undertaker’s entrance. Sid received a clear heel reaction, as he made his way to the ring. The name “Sid” hovered above him, and the letters shone brightly as fireworks made sure we knew the name of the champion. Before the match could get underway, Bret Hart appeared and got on the microphone, immediately running down Shawn Michaels. He then told everyone about his disappointment for The Undertaker, who he thought “was a friend”. He turned to Sid and called him a “fraud” of a champion, and that he screwed him. Sid caught Bret by surprise and powerbombed him to the mat, much to the delight of the crowd.

As Sid said his goodbyes to Hart, The Undertaker attacked him from behind and the match finally got started. So initially there was no mention of the no-DQ stipulation, but Vince reminded us later as Sid plowed The Undertaker through a table. Despite the stipulation, the match dragged quite badly, and The Undertaker was selling more than the champion. I can’t remember much of the match, but I do remember The Undertaker trying for the tombstone, and then Sid reversing it into one of his own, but it only got a two-count so Sid obviously didn’t do it right.

Bret appeared again, obviously pissed after the powerbomb from earlier, and hit Sid with a chair. The referees managed to hold Bret back for a little while. The Undertaker tried to get back into the match, and I distinctly remember Undertaker trying for something (perhaps a clothesline?), only for Sid to move out of the way, leaving Undertaker to crash and burn. Looked like a Sycho Sid botch to me.

Sid took advantage and delivered the power bomb to Undertaker. Sensing the end, Hart found a way back to the ring and distracted Sid well enough for The Undertaker to recover and deliver the Tombstone Piledriver. The number ’13’ proved to be lucky for The Undertaker, as he won the WWF Championship for the first time at Wrestlemania, a deserved win for one of the most loyal and hard-working wrestlers for the WWF.

Conclusion

Enjoyed the commentary a lot more, as Jim Ross made it bearable. Lawler was still doing an amazing job of providing the most tasteless jokes in existence. The production didn’t see much of an improvement, not surprising considering the WWF’s status in the business at the time. Hogan and The New World Order were taking over, and WWF was struggling, to the point they couldn’t sell-out Wrestlemania.

Luckily enough, this event was the stepping stone for the greatness ahead. Austin would soon become the face of the company, while Rocky Maivia was swiftly repackaged a few months later into “The Rock”. Chyna’s debut meant D-Generation X was just around the corner, and The Undertaker was finally on top again after so many years of mediocrity. Bret Hart’s kayfabe frustration would become real-life frustration, leading to the Montreal Screwjob, and the birth of the Mr. McMahon character, which gave Steve Austin someone to fight against.

The PPV started slow, and slowly got better until the submission match which blew everything else out of the water. I’d never seen the entire PPV, but I have seen the submission match several times before. It still amazes me, especially the ending … you won’t see anything like it today. The street fight kept the level of intensity flowing, and the main event ended up a disappointment filled with interference from Bret. Overall the PPV was below average, and the crowd reaction lined up with that. The crowd were very vocal during the submission match, and dead for the rest of it. You got to be a little jealous of those fans who saw Bret Hart vs Steve Austin for free.

I would recommend the PPV for anyone who would like to see the entire event which produced (one out of only a few) a 5-star match in the WWF/E. Also you see the last Wrestlemania matches for Bulldog and Sid. Also you get to experience a crowd giving Rocky Maivia the John Cena/Roman Reigns treatment, which to some may be surprising, or not surprising at all. You could gladly watch Hart vs Austin on youtube/dailymotion and skip the rest of Wrestlemania 13. Without that match (exaggerating for dramatic effect), the PPV would have been worse than Wrestlemania II, IX and XI combined.

I hope you enjoyed reading this more than I enjoyed watching. Wrestlemania XIV will be reviewed at the same time next week. Until then, have a beer, put your feet up, and remember the good ol’ days of Bret Hart vs Steve Austin.

Trending Stories