WM PPV Countdown: #11 – WrestleMania XIV

While WrestleMania XIV didn’t feature any standout matches it is still one of the most memorable WrestleMania events in history thanks to the time period it was happening in, the birth of Stone Cold Steve Austin as the legitimate leader of the company and the appearance of Mike Tyson as the special enforcer for the WWF Championship main event match between Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold.

Despite his traditional villainous tactics, he actually turned out to be the anti-hero that the company sorely needed. By early 1997 it was becoming evident that Austin would be THE guy in the company; it was just a matter of time. And that time came on March 29, 1998 at WrestleMania XIV in Boston, Massachusetts, when Stone Cold Steve Austin won his first WWF World Heavyweight Championship. The stage was set when Austin won the 1998 Royal Rumble match in order to earn that Title match. To say that Austin was on fire at this point in his career would be a vast understatement, and his Rumble victory was perhaps the most obvious and telegraphed one in history. He marched into WrestleMania to challenge Shawn Michaels, the reigning Champion. But on that night that Austin earned his Title shot, Michaels successfully defended the WWF Championship against Undertaker in a casket match. However in the process he severely destroyed his back and was in desperate need of surgery to repair the injury. The injury was so bad that Michaels completely stayed out of in-ring action in the two months leading up to WrestleMania. To say Austin’s Title victory was inevitable would be an understatement.

To add the excitement of WrestleMania it was announced that WWF had reached an agreement with boxing legend Mike Tyson to make an appearance at the pay per view, serving as the main event’s special ringside enforcer. To help hype up the appearance, Tyson was shown in a skybox at the Royal Rumble, and then made a historic live appearance on Monday Night RAW to confirm his appearance. Naturally that appearance on RAW was interrupted by Stone Cold, who got in the face of Tyson and gave him the “two-finger salute,” which caused a pull-apart brawl between the two fighters. With Tyson’s appearance and Austin’s meteoric rise that was leading the WWF to its biggest heights in years, WrestleMania looked to be something historic.

Austin came into the match as the clear fan favorite and the clear odds-on favorite. Michaels’ back injury was incredibly serious and it was thought that this would be his last match. Despite his hurting, Michaels went out and did the job he was called upon to do. He grimaced and fought through constant back pain he was feeling to give Austin the main event level match he needed to solidify him as a superstar. Michaels bounced and bumped all over the ring for the new hero and after a punch from Tyson and a Stone Cold Stunner, Austin pinned Michaels to become the new WWF Champion.

It’s often hard to truly see the beginning of an era in a crazy medium like pro wrestling, but Austin’s win at WrestleMania XIV was the clear indication of the start of something new. His victory signaled the official dawn of the WWF’s “Attitude” era, with Stone Cold leading the charge. Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart were working for the competition and Michaels became a thing of the past. Austin became the beer drinking, middle finger raising, and foul-mouthed anti-hero for a new generation of pro wrestling fans. Whole new groups of people were exposed to pro wrestling under the watch of Austin and his peers like The Rock and DeGeneration X. He carried the WWF to its highest highs and made himself and the company more money than they could have imagined. Today he is considered the highest-drawing wrestler in WWE history, and probably in U.S. wrestling history.

The rest of the card was a caption of the chaotic “Attitude” era of the time and a chance to showcase its massive roster. The Rock, who was still finding his moneymaking main event persona, beat Ken Shamrock to retain his Intercontinental Championship. The Undertaker, battled his “little brother” Kane in an epic brother versus brother struggle that had been building well before Kane’s debut in October 1997. It’s hard to believe that the Kane character is still around a staggering 12 years later, when he could have just as easily disappeared within months.

In the undercard, the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship was immortalized on WrestleMania for its first and only time as Taka Michinoku beat Mr. Aguila in the company’s feeble attempt to compete with WCW’s amazing cruiserweight division. Also Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) teamed with his mentor Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk) to win the WWF World Tag Team Championships in a jumping off point for the wildly DeGeneration X that would follow shortly thereafter. In addition the Legion of Doom (and their new manager Sunny) got one more chance to revitalize their career by winning a 30 man, 15 tag team battle royal that showed off the vast nature of talent under the WWF’s umbrella at the time.

Match Results:
– LOD 2000 (Hawk and Animal) won a fifteen-team battle royal. Other teams in the battle royal include The New Midnight Express (Bob Holly & Bart Gunn), Nation of Domination (Faarooq & Kama Mustafa), Nation of Domination (D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry), Flash Funk/Steve Blackman, Los Boricuas (Savio Vega & Miguel Perez, Jr.), Los Boricuas (Jesus Castillo & Jose Estrada, Jr.), Henry & Phineas Godwinn, The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher), Too Much (Brian Christopher & Scott Taylor), Armageddon (Buchanan & Pourier), The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson), Bradshaw/Chainz, The Quebecers (Pierre & Jacques) and DOA (Skull & Eight-Ball).
– Taka Michinoku (c) pinned Aguila to retain the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship.
– Triple H (c) beat Owen Hart to retain the WWF European Championship.
– Marc Mero & Sable beat The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust & Luna Vachon in a mixed tag match.
– The Rock (c) beat Ken Shamrock by disqualification in a WWF Intercontinental Championship match.
– Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie beat The New Age Outlaws (c) in a Dumpster Match to win the WWF World Tag Team Championships.
– The Undertaker pinned Kane.
– Stone Cold Steve Austin pinned Shawn Michaels to win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. Mike Tyson was the special guest referee.

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