WWE | Pro Wrestling

WrestleMania XIV: Positive Attitude

-Where were you on March 29, 1998, when WWE WrestleMania XIV emanated from the (since renamed) Fleet Center in Boston, Mass? If you’re like me, you were watching the show. If you’re not like me, then you’re….well, not like me. I’m not here to discriminate against you. That’s Bill Watts’ job.

-WWE WrestleMania XIV was to the Attitude Era what Woodstock was to the sixties counterculture movement. It was a landmark moment that symbolized the era better than anything else. The show I am about to review in tidbit form was not the all time greatest show ever. It may not even be in the top five. However, it remains memorable because it did just about everything right. In a time when WCW was becoming more stale than a loaf of bread found in the remnants of Hitler’s bunker, the WWE was picking up serious steam with the elements of shock TV, fresh characters, and a stylistic approach to producing television. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Vince McMahon would soon throw himself out there for fans to boo with impunity. We never bought the smiling babyface act for a minute.

-Your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, who are starring in WWE Films new adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, wherein Ross seeks a new facial structure, and Lawler seeks the ability to actually care about the product he is paid to put over. The 2010 version of Lawler is more disinterested than Adam Lambert at the Vegas Bunny Ranch.

-Not featured on the actual televised version of the show was Chris Warren and the DX Band playing America the Beautiful in their nu-metal punkish style. It was done before the event so as to not offend any customers at home. What would then follow was a show that featured blood, sexuality, overt violence, and Shawn Michaels’ butt crack. But you know, at least there was no punk band playing an American anthem. That would have been taking things too far.

-The opening act is a fifteen team battle royal where the winners get a shot at Backlash, also known as “WrestleMania Rehash Sunday”. The roster for this match is the KFC Famous Bowl of the WWE KFC menu, in that it’s just the extras. It includes two teams of Los Boricuas, The Truth Commission, Bradshaw and Chainz, two Nation of Domination teams, The Quebecers, the freaking Rock n Roll Express, The Headbangers, Too Much, DOA, Steve Blackman and Flash Funk (The Black Men?), The Godwinns, The New Midnight Express, and the returning Legion of Doom, who have 2 additions: Sunny, and space helmets. Because, you know, that was all they were missing: a bitter diva with weight problems and fiberglass space helmets. Hold me back.

-You know this match is important when the show begins during the intros with more than half the teams in the ring. That’s Vince slang for “Let’s get this crap over with”.

-Sunny looks hot here. Of course, if you froze my dad in 1977 and woke him up now and he wanted to see Sally Struthers, he’d make the same face I’d make when I saw Sunny in XPW. That was when Sunny became Moony, because she definitely had the craters to earn such a name.

-I’d list the eliminations, but since the cameras can’t even keep up, I’ll leave it as an exercise to you to do a web search. Go to www.crappyopeningmatches.com. The final four teams are DOA, Godwinns, Midnights, and LOD. All I have to distract me are the jiggling breasts and bulbous buttocks at ringside. Yeah, Jim Cornette was getting out of shape at this point.

-So it comes down to the geezerly LOD and fake Midnights, and LOD wins to justify the cost of the space helmets. The real winner was Ricky Morton, who made it the entire night without getting arrested for failure to pay child support. Attaboy, Ricky, you mulleted coot!

-Earlier this weekend, a fan got the chance to meet 2 Cold Scorpio. If I was the kid, you know me, I would have definitely asked “So, was the rumor in Foley’s book true?”. If 2 Cold took time to prove the anecdote correct for the kid, would that have made the kid’s life or traumatized him? That’s open for debate.

-Next up, the WWE Lightheavyweight Championship is on the line as Taka Michinoku defends against Aguila, which is the Spanish word for “huge jobber whose entrance is not televised”. This match has promise and will blow away anyone who sees it for the first time. Except for Vince, who has zoned out and is daydreaming about riding a two seater bike with Triple H on the next warm, sunny day.

-Sidenote: how many smarks in this era do you think played their Firepro wrestling game with Taka vs. Rey Mysterio, dreaming of the day they’d face off? That’s a lot of disappointed college library supervisors.

-Taka lands his super awesome running springboard suicide dive, and Aguila would later come back with an insane corkscrew plancha. Crowd is into these crazy spots, but Vince has his eyes closed with his fingers in his ears and is singing “Stand Back” at the top of his lungs. What a poor sport.

-You know, I’m almost sad that Brian Christopher wasn’t out here to do his racist commentary bit, where he uses offensive words for Japanese people and has to be corrected by JR. It always seemed as if Brian wasn’t even saying them in character, rather he truly believed that they were appropriate names for said people. No wonder Lawler refused to claim him as a son. When JERRY LAWLER is ashamed of you….

-Taka spikes Aguila with the Michinoku Driver for the win. The two men shake hands and hug afterward, because WWE Attitude was all about love and respect and honor. 2 years later, Aguila would unmask and begin doing the nasty with Lita, while Taka’s ring entrance involved bad Japanese dubbing. Such a progressive time period.

-In a taped bit, infamous mistress Gennifer Flowers interviews Intercontinental Champion The Rock. You know you’re an A-Lister when they bring in a glorified call girl to interview you. Tune in to Raw tomorrow night when Ken Shamrock gives his rebuttal to interviewer Amy Fisher.

-Here’s Chris Warren and the DX Band to play Triple H to the ring. I guess the budget wasn’t deep enough to get Motorhead, so here’s a song sung by a man who looks like what Jeff Hardy will resemble at age 40 when the meth turns his bones to dust. D-GENERAYYYYYYYTION!!!!!!!

-Trips defends his European Title against Owen Hart, in a match where Chyna must be handcuffed at ringside to then-commissioner Sgt. Slaughter. Chyna and Slaughter handcuffed together? It’s like an outtake from Hell from the movie Exit to Eden.

-You know Owen’s feeling jaunty because he hit a hurracanrana and it’s after 1992. Maybe he’s just trying to bore Russo with wrestling so that he can get fired and go to WCW. Maybe.

-This is a weird time period for Hunter as he still has his sissy boy hairstyle, but was beginning to develop his body. And by ‘develop’, I mean he got breast implants. He looks like some dainty version of Super Macho Man from Mike Tyson’s Punchout. In other words, Stephanie has a thing for macho men. Just saying.

-HHH lands the so-called “Harley Race knee” to Owen. It’s not really a Harley Race knee unless you’ve drank 4 beers and got stabbed by a fan before the show. So Hunter’s really just a wimp.

-Owen crotches HHH, but not hard enough to prevent the spawn of Satan from being passed on. You fail, Owen. I love you, but you fail. Speaking of fail, this was a weird face turn for Owen, as we had no real reason to cheer him other than he hates DX. Then again, we were supposed to cheer Val Venis for speaking the wives of other men, so the whole time period was screwy. Pun intended.

-Owen with the Sharpshooter. RING THE F—oh wait, it’s on somebody who Vince likes. Damn it all. Chyna helps Hunter get to the ropes and then blinds Slaughter with some powder she happened to have on her. That powder would later come in handy when she realized that she was shacked up with X-Pac and needed to escape life for a spell. After a low blow on Owen, Hunter hits the burial device (aka Pedigree) to keep his European title. Good match, however, though Slaughter was just useless. Even the crowd mocked him and rightfully so. It’s what he gets for trying to mold Greg Gagne against our best wishes.

-Now for a match that everybody seemed to have low expectations for. It’s the mixed tag match pitting Marc Mero and Sable against Goldust and Luna. Sable and Mero had a rather typical love story going: guy meets girl, guy falls in love with girl, girl gets jumbo implants and the fans fall in love with her, guy turns into a jealous mess, guy eventually leaves her for Kevin Sullivan’s on screen ex-girlfriend. And really, nobody wants that.

-This is the match that solidified Sable as an icon in WWE canon, as she wants to rip Luna to pieces for weeks of physical torment. After Mero and Goldie set the table, Sable finally gets Luna inside and beats the Hell out of her to an ungodly pop. Even an undertrained bimbo was outperforming WCW’s main eventers, and fans noticed.

-Fun note: CCB writer Brett Clendaniel called me after viewing a copy of the show and swore up and down that Luna’s boob popped out during Sable’s beal across the ring. I scoured the internet for days, trying to find Luna’s breast. In an unrelated note, Brett and I were both 14 and still virgins. Unrelated, of course.

-What’s weird is that the crowd doesn’t want to cheer Mero, but they almost feel goaded into it as he’s Sable’s partner. When he beats down Goldust and avoids Dustin’s charge that leads to him running into Luna, the crowd loves it. I love those weird and temporary de facto face turns. It’s like when Jesse Ventura would praise a babyface and you’d feel validated somehow.

-The crowd just absolutely loses their mind when Sable powerbombs Luna. It was the Rick Pitino/Pete Carroll era of Boston sports, so they’ll take what they can get.

-Sable ends it with the TKO. Mero’s overcelebrating next to Sable’s overdone scorn is a riot. It’s a shame that Mero’s career ended up being cut short later in the year, because he was feeling this jealous heel schtick. Sort of like Randy Savage with an extremely nasally voice. Good match too, oddly enough.

-Did I mention that angry Sable is hot? Like, incredibly piping hot? I think that’s why somebody defecated in her bag backstage, just to see her face. Not all angry women can be hot, however. I hold up Donita Sparks as exhibit A.

-Next up, the Intercontinental Title match with The Rock defending against Ken Shamrock. Rock brings Nation of Domination members Kama Mustafa, D-Lo Brown, and Mark Henry with him, with Faarooq nowhere to be seen. This was during the struggle for leadership between Rock and Faarooq, which sounds weird today. In later years, Rock would become the most charismatic star in wrestling history, whereas Faarooq was relegated to saying just one word per promo. Weird.

-Wait, before the match, we have a time wasting segment where Tennessee Lee (formerly Col. Robert Parker) introduces Jeff Jarrett and Gennifer Flowers. Flowers is just here to proclaim Jeff Jarrett “great”. So it’s a segment to stroke Jarrett’s ego and waste everyone else’s time? Oh well. Better one segment than the first five years of TNA.

-So Shamrock and Rock do the “required brawl”, which entails of fighting all around the ringside area with no mind paid to countouts or DQs, and they eventually make it back to the ring to brawl some more. History was kind to Ken Shamrock, since he had a couple great matches and is a respected fighter, but, let’s face it, without the right opponent, he was nothing special. At least he’s one up on Lashley on promos. Then again, so is former WCW interviewer Scott Dunlap.

-Rock hits the People’s Elbow to a lukewarm reaction. Either it’s 1998, or Vince booked the show in Anaheim again. Nope, 1998.

-Rocky PASTES Shamrock with a chair shot, which doesn’t top the one he gave Shamrock on Raw the previous month that was directly to the face. That was the greatest chair shot of all time, next to the one Randy Orton gave Mick Foley at the 2004 Royal Rumble. We really need a list for this. 1 is Rock hitting Shamrock, 2 is Orton hitting Foley, 3 is any Terry Funk chairshot, and 750,000th place are the ones Lance Storm gave Rob Van Dam at Barely Legal.

-Shamrock makes Rocky tap to the ankle lock in under five minutes to win the title. However, afterward, Shamrock cleans house of the NOD members and several officials to have the decision reversed. Shamrock reapplies the ankle lock and Faarooq runs out for the save, but changes his mind and walks off to a nice reaction. As Rock is stretchered out, and the decision reversal is announced, a near comatose Great One raises his title on the gurney. Always classic. Shamrock runs over and pummels him some more, since he’s in a fit of rage. Also classic. Hey, for five minutes, it was fun. Let’s do it again sometime.

-Now to up the violence quotient a little bit, we move on to the Tag Team Title match with the New Age Outlaws defending against Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie. It’s a dumpster match, where both losers must be placed in a dumpster with both lids shut. It was originally to have been a barbed wire match, but the PPV carriers were mortified and refused to allow it. Which is probably just as well, since if Billy Gunn gets gashed enough times, he may actually bleed out his remaining charisma. Good thing Road Dogg has it in spades to spare.

-First truly sick spot is Cactus trying a flip attack off of the apron and missing Dogg, instead hitting the side of the dumpster. C’mon, Mick, you can bump harder than that. Collette needs a new piano!

-Mostly it’s lunch tray shots being exchanged, which is a 7 on WWE’s hardcore scale, but about a 3 on ECW’s hardcore scale. But if the fans had brought the trays themselves, then the smarks would call it EXTREME. E-C-DUB! E-C-DUB!

-The Outlaws slam the dumpster lids on both Cactus and Chainsaw’s heads to allow Lawler to make the timeless “Terry Funk gets hit by the toilet seat lid when he gets a drink” joke. When I say “timeless”, I mean that I can’t recall a time when it was witty.

-Billy’s got a nice blood mustache going, which equates him to the Hitler of pro wrestling, in that I think he’s evil and repulsive. Actually, no, that’s insulting. Hitler could get thousands of people on his side, whereas Gunn can’t pop the Impact Zone.

-Cactus applies dual Mandible Claws to both Outlaws, and it’s good that the Outlaws are facing each other eye to eye so that Road Dogg can use his hands to teach Gunn how to sell. How far gone must Bart Gunn have been to be the less interesting half of the Smoking Gunns?

-And now to make things just a little bit sicker, Cactus and Gunn go falling off of a ladder from the ring into the dumpster, which just looked nasty. Then, after Gunn climbs out, he and Dogg tandem powerbomb Funk into the dumpster, which led to a deeply purple bruise that encompassed Funk’s entire hip, as was seen late in the match. Funk didn’t even know he was hurt, according to a shoot interview with Gunn. Seriously, how can you not love Terry Funk? The man’s probably been dead 10 years and doesn’t know it.

-The fight leads backstage to where a cooler of Powerade gets knocked over (cheap crap) and Cactus knocks out both Outlaws onto a pallet, which Terry Funk then elevates with a forklift(!), then drives it to a second dumpster, where Cactus rolls them off into for the win and the gold. Terry’s madman laughter afterwards is frightening if you’ve never seen him before. Having watched him for over 20 years, it’s just merely kinda frightening. Great brawl.

-And now, a family rivalry as Undertaker’s streak is on the line against his charred brother Kane. If you don’t know the story, Undertaker burned down the mortuary as a kid and killed his parents and, presumably, his younger brother Kane. However, Kane lived and managed to get his degree in oral hygiene, before Paul Bearer (Kane’s dad) convinced him to wear a leather mask and pretend to be a burn victim. Kane liked the mask because it impressed women, especially a dead cheerleader that he fell in love with. Undertaker was so disheartened by the whole thing that he now dates a corpse himself named Michelle. At least, I THINK that’s how the story goes.

-Update for this show: Undertaker is a face. Kane is a heel. They currently hate each other. Expect updates for all ensuing WrestleManias.

-Now for another guest: Pete Rose, who insults Boston baseball fans and gets Tombstoned by Kane. Kane later inducted Rose into the WWE Hall of Fame, because they are true professionals. Except one’s a pyromaniac and the other gambles. But we can’t all be winners.

-#14 for Finkel. Go Fink.

-Taker makes his entrance amongst the druids and the fight be on, yo. Kane was still green at this point, but Taker’s reigning him in through the brawl nicely. At least Kane looks believable out there.

-Kane batters Taker on the floor with the ringsteps. I love in the Attitude era when they would use weapons liberally, but had to especially announce some matches as having no DQ’s. Russo, that’s brilliant!

-Did I mention that Paul Bearer eerily resembles Oliver Humperdink at this point? It’s worth noting.

-Now for a famous moment, as Taker clears the top rope with a dive and overshoots Kane, crushing the Spanish announce table. It could have been much worse than that. Jimmy Snuka’s kid could have failed to catch him here too.

-Back in the ring, Kane lands a Tombstone for 2. Dun dun DUNN.

-Taker then says “To Hell with this” and lands three tombstones to put his brother away and make it to 7-0. Oh, and Kane attacks him afterward, but I believe that this was the end of the feud and they never crossed paths again. Solid match, all things told.

-And now for the big one: Shawn Michaels defends the WWE Title against Stone Cold Steve Austin. The big story here is that Michaels’ back was completely shot and it’s a near miracle that he had the match that he did. I’ll explain in further detail as we get there.

-And now for the big celebrity involvement: guest outside enforcer Mike Tyson, who is fairly subdued here, oddly enough. He had joined DX to further stack the odds against Austin. Austin was overcoming odds when Cena was still studying for his midterms. Take that, Mr. Hustle, Loyalty, Respect.

-Tyson comes out first to major boos. Austin is shown walking in the backstage corridor and gets a scary pop. Then Shawn makes his way to the entrance way with Hunter and Chyna and says to the camera: “This is for you, Earl”, referencing Earl Hebner, who had a stroke days before. Earl had a stroke and Shawn’s back was kaput. Anyone sense the hand of karma?

-The match begins in chaotic fashion with Austin taking Shawn down and pummeling him. After getting whipped early, Shawn tries to escape to the floor, but Austin grabs the tights and exposes half of his butt to the world. Then, for a bonus, Austin backdrops Shawn to the floor and Shawn’s butt cheeks hit Hunter in the head. Well, I think that establishes the pecking order of the Kliq once and for all….

-Hunter interjects himself and he and Chyna find themselves ejected. If only Hunter got tossed everytime he’s tried to eject himself. Booker T may still have his passion.

-And now for more random brawling, as Shawn and Austin fight to the DX bandstand, and Austin gets hit by a cymbal. Would you have laughed if the ref disqualified Shawn then and there, five minutes in, and Shawn kept the belt? Yeah, me either.

-Then we have the telltale moment: Austin knocks Shawn off the apron, and Shawn awkwardly lands against the commentary desk, leading to him puffing his cheeks and bugging his eyes in serious pain from his back just dying. Even if you hate Shawn for all of his hypocrisy, it’s hard not to feel for him at this moment. All the times he’s tried to play Superman and steal the show, and it was all summed up in one moment. Poor guy.

-Shawn’s carrying on, though, and he even backdrops Austin over the rail, which had to be tough enough, considering he’s walking at a snail’s pace and wincing the entire way. Knowing the full story now, the match is hard to watch, especially 12 years later when he’s STILL WRESTLING. The man has no peer. Seriously.

-Now it settles down, and Shawn uncharacteristically slows his pace and begins to pound Austin with punches, followed by working the knee. He’s struggling to even get his breath. I wouldn’t be surprised if Vince came running down the aisle with a morphine needle right now. I wouldn’t blame him, either.

-Tyson throws Austin back into the ring, giving him a wedgie in the process. Shawn takes out Austin’s leg and applies a figure four as the match begins to crawl, yet is still flowing without fail. Christ, even when Shawn’s near death, he’ll hit at least a four star rating. If I sound like I’m kissing up to the guy, trust me, I am.

-Referee Mike Chioda gets taken out, and Shawn catches Austin with a horrible flying forearm. After he kips up, he lands the Savage elbow (HOW?!) and then begins the stomp. He tries to throw Sweet Chin Music, but Austin catches the boot. A series of reversals later and Austin plants him with the Stunner. Tyson slides in and counts to three (rather quickly) to give Austin his first World Title. Shawn’s injury accounted for, this was a damn incredible match, and I give Shawn all the credit in the world for finishing.

-Afterward, Austin and Tyson celebrate, and we get a symbolic torch-passing moment: Shawn whines about Tyson siding with Austin, so Tyson drills him with a hard punch, and lays Austin’s shirt over his face. Goodbye Heartbreak Kid, hello Texas Rattlesnake. Shawn would not wrestle for the company for over four years after this, but if his career had ended here, he did it as he does best: stealing the show, even with the odds against him. As for Austin, the best was yet to come.

-CYNIC SAYS: The first two matches were basically “filler” in Vince’s eyes: the useless midcarders and the light weights had their moments. From there, it was the Attitude all star team, putting on an exciting and era-defining show. The topper: the babyface hero won in the end without chicanery, which was big when you consider that Starrcade 1997 ended with an indecisive Hogan/Sting match that SHOULD have been decisive.

This show is a hallmark moment in wrestling history, one that helped lead Vince’s army into a comeback, crushing WCW beneath their wheels and never looking back. Truly, this was the highlight of the Attitude era.

For a low light of the Attitude era, well, wait till I do my next rant. If you dare reading it.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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Justin Henry

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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