Sunday, March 23rd, 1997 – Rosemont, Illinois – Rosemont Horizon – One of the few WrestleMania’s that I hadn’t watched from start-to-finish, the Rosemont Horizon was the home for WrestleMania in 1997! One of the main reasons I never wanted to go back and watch this show, to me, was simple: How did the WWE get from the Royal Rumble 1997 pay-per-view with Shawn Michaels winning back the WWF Championship from Sycho Sid and Steve Austin eliminating Bret Hart to win the Rumble to Sid defending the title against the Undertaker and Hart and Austin having a submission match on the card?
The new motivation why I’m willing to sit down and watching, and blogging, about WrestleMania 13 is in part thanks to the Black Cat and Dre over at the Old School Wrestling Podcast, where on their 91st episode, released on Thursday, March 14th, 2013, they reviewed the main event from WWE In Your House 13: Final Four where Bret Hart won a fatal-four-way with Vader, the Undertaker, and Steve Austin, to win the vacant WWF title, where Shawn Michaels released the Raw the Thursday before (it was a special Thursday night edition of Raw, and the episode of the Old School Wrestling Podcast I was referring to can be found here ).
So, knowing a little bit more about the backstory of the two-main matches of WrestleMania 13 without going back and watching the Raw’s two months before, I decided to sit down and watch the whole show and blog about it, reviewing the show and adding in my opinion during the moments I feel necessary.
And, oh yeah, if you want more backstory leading up to WrestleMania 13 (and moreover, history of WCW and WWF television from 1996 and 1997, I’d suggest listening to the podcast “What a Maneuver!!,” where they go through and watch every WCW Monday Nitro, WWF Raw, their pay-per-views, and WCW Clash of the Champions. You can find the podcast here).
Welcome everyone to WrestleMania 13!
Vince McMahon welcomes us to WrestleMania, to the Rosemont Horizon, and to the city. Thanks Mr. McMahon! Vinnie Mac, Jim Ross, and Jerry “the King” Lawler, will be the announcers for the evening.
Fatal Four Way Elimination match to determine the #1 Contenders match for the WWF Tag Team titles :: the Godwinns (Henry and Phineas) vs. the Headbangers (Mosh and Thrasher) vs. Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon vs. the New Blackjacks (Blackjack Windham and Blackjack Bradshaw)
When Furnas and LaFon came out during their entrance, McMahon put them over as the most technical tag team in the World Wrestling Federation. McMahon gets a lot of flak of being a bad announcer but he knew how to put over his wrestlers.
Right before the New Blackjacks came out, we saw a short clip of the original Blackjacks, who are relatives to the New Blackjacks. Nice little history lesson for those who didn’t know that. Thanks Vince and JR!
One of the coolest things seeing JBL as Blackjack Bradshaw has to be his awesome mustache. Cody Rhodes, take notes and eat your heart out!
Something I appreciate about this match has to be the quick tags between the teams, keeping the fans into the match and a wonderful way to open WrestleMania.
Doug Furnas pulled out a hurricanrana, which brought a big pop from the crowd.
The New Blackjacks got themselves disqualified when Bradshaw hit referred Mike Chioda. Furnas and LaFon got themselves counted-out because they were brawling with the Blackjacks outside when they were DQ’ed. With this, the two teams that were left were the Godwinns and the Headbangers (a good way to eliminate two teams rather quickly without making them look bad).
Oh yeah, Hillbilly Jim was the manager of the Godwinns during this time! Makes perfect since when the Godwinns were hillbilly wrestlers.
The Headbangers picked up the victory when all four men were battling each other in the ring and Mosh went up top and flew crotch first into Phineas, and dropped him, landing his butt on his chest.
Winners and new #1 contenders for the Tag Team champions: the Headbangers!
We get an WWF In Your House commercial during WrestleMania! Yes, awesome! The next pay-per-view is April 20th. One good thing about this commercial is it doesn’t give away any spoilers for what will happen for the rest of Mania. Smart editing.
Once we come back from the commercial, the Honky Tonk Man’s in the ring, dancing to his theme song, “Cool Cocky Bad” and went over to the announce booth and was the fourth man on the three-man team. He’ll be for the next match.
WWF Intercontinental Championship :: the Sultan (with Bob Backlund and the Iron Sheik) vs. Rocky Maivia (IC Champion)
A line that made me laugh was when the Honky Tonk Man was sitting down, Lawler asked for an autograph and JR responded, “You two cousins or something?”
When the Rock came out, Jim Ross put him over for being a third-generation superstar and the first in WWF history.
The Honky Tonk Man put over the Rock’s long sideburns, saying that he’s trying to be like him. The King laughed and Ross and McMahon questions Honky’s logic (as do I).
I popped when I recognized Earl Hebner as the referee for the Intercontinental Championship match. Come on Earl! Don’t screw anyone over!
The match was pretty well-paced yet the fans weren’t into the match. I tried to figure out why, and then I realized why when the Sultan had the Rock in a nerve hold. If I were there live, I would have been board (and coming from the fast-paced match before, I would be burnt out too).
Another rest hold happened when the Sultan had the Rock in a chin lock. When they were in that rest hold, the Honky Tonk Man was putting down the Rock’s dad, since the Rock thanked his dad the night before at the Slammies.
Easily noted was the Rock didn’t have the charisma that he’ll gain over time in this match. The crowd could care less for this match and these competitors.
A move I was surprised to see was when the Sultan pulled out the piledriver! Yes, the pile-freaking-driver! Lucky they pulled that out before SummerSlam, since it’ll be banned.
Out of the blue, the Rock school-boyed the Sultan and pinned him for the victory. After the match, Jim Ross tried to interview the Rock and the Sultan blind-sided him and attacked him. Mr. Backlund and Sheiky Baby held the Rock down for the Sultan was able to hit the big splash.
Sheiky Baby had the camel clutch on the Rock and Rocky Johnson, the Rock’s dad, ran down and helped his son on the three-on-one beating.
Winner and still Intercontinental Champion: the Rock (and the people, of course)!
Vince McMahon passed it to the back with Todd Pettengill, who was with Ken Shamrock (the special guest referee for the Submission match later). Before Shamrock was asked a question, Pettengill shown us a video package with Shamrock and Billy Gunn, showing us what Shamrock’s able to do, and that’s make someone tap! Shamrock said he won’t be intimidated for the submissions match and that’s what he was hired to be.
Todd Pettengill sent it to Dok Hendrix for the next interview, and we have a close-up of Chyna’s chest! We all know who the Freebird’s interviewing, and that’s Triple H! Hendrix asked what’s the relationship between Hunter and Chyna and Trips said that it doesn’t matter what their relationship is. The Game said that Goldust will lose in his match against him.
Triple H (with Chyna) versus Goldust (with Marlena)
Jim Ross and Vince McMahon put over Chyna and how massive she was. Back then, even now, I wouldn’t want to cross paths with Chyna. She’s one scary lady back then and I still wouldn’t want to grapple with her.
McMahon and JR put over the mind games Triple H was playing with Goldust up to their match tonight and Lawler mentioned that Marlena is a beautiful lady and doesn’t blame Hunter for wanting her to be his manager.
Unlike the match prior, the fans were into the match, which always is an encouragement to me. I can tell that in the spring of 1997 the WWF fans were into both Triple H and Goldust, so whatever the creative team was doing back then; they were doing something right with these two gentlemen.
Triple H was stomping a mud-hole into Goldust in the corner and the ref was counting him out, telling him to get off of Goldust and get out of the corner. The announcers put over that Triple H wouldn’t care if he got disqualified if it meant getting even with Goldust. Doesn’t Goldust want to get even with Triple H, not the other way around?
A few minutes into the match, the crowd went silent for the two competitors in the ring. Can’t fully blame them since Triple H was dominating Goldust with rest holds, mixed in with Goldust getting a few quick blows before Trips getting the upper hand again.
The match started to pick-up when Goldust got a second-wind and tried a few quick small packages. Triple H got one shot in and slowed the match down, taking Goldust’s second wind.
A few more minutes passed and Chyna moved over towards Marlena. When Goldust was going to hit the Curtain Call, seeing Chyna by Marlena distracted him. Goldust pulled her to the apron and Trips pushed those two together, causing Marlena to be caught by Chyna, which caught her in a bear hug, and Triple H capitalized and hit the Pedigree and picked up the victory.
Winner: Triple H, Chyna, and the bear hug that Chyna used on Marlena.
We go backstage and we see Shawn Michaels trying to figure out how to work a laptop computer. McMahon laughed at him for not knowing how to use it.
WWF Tag Team Championship :: Vader and Mankind (with Paul Bearer) vs. the British Bulldog and Owen Hart (champions)
When the challengers came down to the ring, the announcers told us that the Tag Champs were having troubles with one another so the Vader and Mankind have an upper hand on winning the titles.
Jim Ross went to interview the Bulldog, wanting to ask him his thoughts on Owen’s comments the night before on being smarter than his partner, and Owen said “Don’t stir the pot Ross!” and the Bulldog agreed with his partner.
At this time, the British Bulldog was also the European Champion and Owen had two Slammy awards. Owen and the King were putting the Tag Champs over, for Owen having two Slammies and the Bulldog having two titles. Thinking of it, it would have been great seeing a European Championship match but at this time, I don’t think the WWE had anyone better to put the title on for the first champ.
For the first part of the match, Vader had control over Owen Hart. When Vader had the chance, the announcers got after him for not covering Hart and picking up the victory.
Right when Vader was about to hit the Vader-bomb onto Owen, Davey Boy Smith came over and punched Vader and all four men came into the ring and brawled for around 90 seconds.
A great spot that got the crowd into the match was when the Bulldog was able to pick Vader up and suplex him.
I guess this was the Bulldog’s ninth WrestleMania appearance. Lawler called him a “pug” at WrestleMania 2. Looking back at it now, it’s weird to know that he made that many Mania appearances.
One thing I found interesting that the announcers pointed out what I caught on during the middle of the match, and that’s when Vader and Mankind slow the pace of the match down, they easily have control. Whenever Hart and the Bulldog speed up the pace of the match, they have control and force Mick Foley and Vader to go at their speed.
Another interesting comment that McMahon, Ross, and Lawler keep mentioning was Vader and Mankind are smart for keeping Owen in the ring and keep him away from tagging Smith in, since Hart’s been the one who received most of the punishment in the match. I enjoy whenever the announcers mention something like this and point it out to the fans at home.
The finish came when Mankind had the Mandible Claw on Davey Boy Smith, which brought Owen and Vader into the ring, and on accident, Vader knocked Hart into both guys and they landed on the outside of the ring (in front of Stu and Helen Hart), and Foley left the Mandible Claw on, which caused both teams to be counted out.
Winners: A DRAW and still champions, Davey Boy Smith and Owen Hart.
We go quickly go to a video package building up to the Bret Hart/Steve Austin match. I enjoy how they put this together, explaining the hatred that both men have for one another and their feud that was built after Bret lost the WWE title at WrestleMania 12 and took several months off to clear his mind.
Submission match :: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret “the Hitman” Hart (special referee Ken Shamrock)
When Stone Cold came out, I was confused a little bit by the reaction of the crowd, or should I say the lack of reaction. Thinking of his build from the King of the Ring 1996 to WrestleMania XIV in 1998, the WWE drew out his main event build and had him go through some awesome feuds to help make him seem like a legit main event star. The lack of reaction by the crowd is making me look more forward to this match, more than what I had, knowing a lot of people love this match and the WWE doing a double turn.
At the opening bell, Steve Austin and Bret Hart started the match brawling. A great way to start a match where the competitors are in a blood feud with each other.
Within a minute of the match, Hart sent Austin face first into the outside of the ring post and you hear a loud smack when Austin’s face met the steel. It got a huge pop from McMahon at the announce table.
The fans love the brawl that both men are having outside the ring. It made me laugh when Vince brought up that they spent maybe 30 seconds in the ring and the rest of the time outside of the ring and into the crowd brawling. When Vinnie Mac mentioned that, we were maybe seven minutes into the match. Thanks Vince!
Once they got back into the ring, Bret turned the all-out-brawl into a technical, grappling match but attacking Austin’s bad left knee. A nice twist in my opinion, turning the fast-paced brawl into a slow-pace grappling war!
Talking about Bret changing the pace of the match, the fans and the announcers popped huge when Bret wrapped Austin’s legs around the ring post and slapped on the figure four, with him lying on the outside of the ring and Stone Cold on the inside. That move always brings chills to my spine.
To the rest of the card up to this match, Bret Hart and Steve Austin easily are taking this WrestleMania by storm and with head-and-shoulders is the best match of the night.
A move I was greatly surprised to see Austin pull out on Hart was an Octopus Stretch! If you guys don’t know what that move looks like, YouTube it! It’s an awkward way to contort your body to cause great pain to your opponent! Thanks Steve for that awesome stretch!
Hart busted Austin’s head wide open when he was Irish Whipped from one side of the ring to the other on the outside of the ring, forcing Stone Cold’s head to meet the steel guard rail on the outside, keeping the fans away from the carnage.
Several minutes when buy when Hart and Austin exchanged chair shots, choking one another out with cable cords, so-on-and-so-forth, until we came to the finish of the match where Hart slapped on the Sharpshooter onto Austin. The fans popped for the hold once it was slapped on and when Austin tried to power out of it.
McMahon put over the unwillingness of Austin choosing not to quick and Ross put over how many great wrestlers Bret tapped to the Sharpshooter. Once Austin faded into the black, Shamrock called for the bell and ordered Bret to let the Sharpshooter go.
Winner: Bret Hart and the fans.
I have to say, this was a great match! Using Dave Meltzer and the Wrestling Observer five-star scale to determine how great a match is, I have to say this match is a **** ¾ start match! I cannot see how the other two matches on the card can live up to this match or even out-shine Steve Austin and Bret Hart. One this night, the Hitman and the Texas Rattlesnake definitely stole the show and stole my heart with their performance inside that ring at the Rosemount Horizon.
After the match, Hart attacked Austin, making the double turn happen, enough for Shamrock to pull Hart off and throw him to the mat. Austin got cheered when he refused help from the referees to walk to the back by his own power.
Vince McMahon sent it backstage to Todd Pettengill, who’s with the Nation of Domination, and Faarooq told us that he’ll bring whatever he needs to to make sure his opponents won’t be victorious tonight.
Chicago Street Fight :: Nation of Domination (Faarooq, Crush, and Savio Vega) vs. the Legion of Doom and Ahmed Johnson
The fans were on their feet when the Legion of Doom’s theme song hit the PA system. LOD came out with black shoulder pads and Johnson wore the red shoulder pads, making them seem to be a uniformed team.
All six men were legal in the match, meaning that it’s an all-out-brawl with no rules! I’ll put in the highlights of the match.
To my surprise, the fans aren’t burnt out from the submission match before. The fans are into the big hardcore spots.
Animal tried to put Faarooq through the French announcers table with a piledriver but before he was able to sit down with the move, both men fell off the table and crashed on the blue mats to their side. I am sure that didn’t hurt as much as being spiked head first through it.
Minutes later, Johnson powerbombed Faarooq through it, making sure the French announcers had no table to call rest of the pay-per-view at, and giving us a table breakage.
More into this match, I can see why the fans were into this match. A totally different match than what was delivered before. In turn, we got a lot of hardcore spots that the WWF would make famous in their hardcore division in a few years later. Those head shots made me cringe.
The finish of the match came when Crush was powerbombed and pinned by Animal.
Winners: Legion of Doom and Ahmed Johnson, as well as the future hardcore division.
After the match, the rest of the Nation of Domination came in and got their teeth knocked in by Ahmed Johnson and the Road Warriors. Man, what a beating and what a brawl!
Then we get another WWF In Your House pay-per-view commercial on April 20th. Normally when I watched a PPV, I’m not too happy about seeing commercials like this, but as a historical retrospective piece on the time, I enjoy it. Thanks WWE for leaving both IYH commercials in the DVD.
“Sexy Boy” hits the PA system and the crowd jumps to their feet when Shawn Michaels came out to the ring and slapped hands with the crowd. Jim Ross and Vince McMahon put the Heartbreak Kid over when he came to the ring, saying that he was the “man at WrestleMania” the last two years, challenging for the World Wrestling Federation Championship, losing to Diesel at Mania XI and defeating Bret Hart in overtime for their Iron Man match at Mania XII.
After Michaels’ pyro went off, McMahon sent it to the back with Todd Pettengill, who was with the WWF Champion, Sycho Sid. Sid opens the promo with screaming, saying that WrestleMania is the biggest show of the year. Then he started to whisper, and I couldn’t understand what he said. Then back to yelling, telling us he isn’t scared of the darkness and isn’t scared of the Undertaker. Sid went back to whispering and I wasn’t going to move up to my television screen to figure out what he said.
World Wrestling Federation Championship match: the Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid (WWF Champion)
When both the Undertaker and Sycho Sid came out to the ring, Shawn Michaels put both guys over, saying that he respects both men.
Right when the bell rang, Bret Hart came down and asked for the microphone and right away, told Michaels to say out of the match (when that happened, McMahon stood up and held him down, telling him to stay sited). Sid defeated Bret Hart on Raw a few weeks prior for the title, after Hart won the title at the last pay-per-view when Michaels vacated the championship. When Hart called him out for “being a fraud,” Sid laid him out with a powerbomb, which the fans popped for that.
After Bret got carried out of the ring, Sid was watching him leave the arena and the Undertaker attacked Sid, to get the match officially started.
One thing I didn’t understand was why Lawler had so much heat with Michaels at this time. Michaels made a joke, saying that he might want to do this job over being in the ring, and Lawler replied, “Over my dead body!”
Both men were putting each other in several rest holds, which the fans weren’t into the match until they took the match to the outside. Sid threw the Undertaker over the Spanish announcers table and the crowd popped for that. Sid did slam the Undertaker onto the table, and the table didn’t break.
Sid and the Dead Man brought the match back into the ring and the crowd wasn’t too interested in the match again. Come on Mania 13 crowd, let’s get excited!
Something I found funny was it was mentioned that the Undertaker said the number 13 would be Sid’s unlucky number and will lose the title tonight at WrestleMania and Michaels replied that the Undertaker’s the only man he knows where the number 13 seems to be his lucky number.
The crowd usually popped whenever the Undertaker started to take control of the match and wasn’t interested in the match when Sid had control. I know this match was slow paced, since both wrestlers are giant men who work slow paced matches, but could the fans be uninterested on the storyline of the match, since we had three title changes since the start of 1997?
A spot where the fans popped for was when the Undertaker was going for the Tombstone Piledriver and Sid countered and hit the Dead Man with his version of the Tombstone Piledriver. The fans popped when the Undertaker kicked out at the count of two.
The champion and the challenger spilled to the outside of the ring and Sid had control of his challenger until Hart came back out and hit him with a steel chair, giving the Undertaker control of Sid and the match.
When both men got back into the ring, the Undertaker hit the chokeslam and crowd ate it up! The crowd popped again when Sid kicked out at the count of two.
Sid got control of the match again and was about to Powerbomb the Undertaker until Hart ran out again to distract him, enough to let the Undertaker hit the Tombstone Piledriver on Sid and score another victory under his belt and capture the World Wrestling Federation Championship.
This match defiantly seemed to drain the fans from the two matches before but am happy to see the title match end WrestleMania. I gave the Submission match a **** and ¾ * rating, I have to give this match a ** and ½ *, simply because these two men tried to put on a decent match and the fans got into the match towards the end where the pace picked up a little bit.
Overall, if you haven’t watched WrestleMania 13 before and want to see why the Austin/Hart match was, hands-down, the best match of the night, watch the whole thing since it is a WrestleMania. I feel that this isn’t the best of WrestleMania’s, which is one reason why I put off watching this WrestleMania for as long as I had, but I was entertained by the commentary and did appreciate the wrestler’s hard work, knowing that they were on at the Superbowl of the World Wrestling Federation.
If I have to give this WrestleMania a “Dave Meltzer 5 Star rating,” like I had with the two main events, I would give this WrestleMania a ** rating. The crowd didn’t seem too involved with any match until the Submission match and the Chicago Street Fight and fell off rather quickly in the WWF Championship match. Yes, all competitors did seem to do what they could to get the crowd into their respected matches, but watching back, I had a hard time being fully into each match, since the crowd didn’t seem invested either. I have to say that this WrestleMania is defiantly better than WrestleMania 1.
Eric Darsie is known as a ‘common-man’ among his peers, at least he thinks so. He works hard with his hands in the heart of Minnesota and on his free time, he thugs and a bugs with his family and friends. Whenever he doesn’t do that, he’s found to be writing. Now more of a rare thing, he’s gems could be found here. If you would like to see more of Eric’s work outside of the professional world, check him out at http://vintagedarsie.wordpress.com/, http://www.writerscafe.org/Darsie/writing/, and on Twitter @IAmDarsie.