We are now full force into the Attitude Era, and by this time the WWE was starting to gain momentum in the Monday Night War. They wouldn’t start winning until a few weeks after, but it was clear that their formula was working. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was quickly becoming the top star of the promotion, and plans were made in late 1997 that would have Stone Cold Steve Austin as champion. This probably was seen as a challenge for Shawn Michaels, who usually isn’t a fan of dropping titles clean, or jobbing at all, but a back injury in early 1998, along with his own personal problems, would put him out of action for the foreseeable future. It looked like Austin’s road to the title was going to be a smooth one, politically — his merch was selling like crazy, everyone loved the guy, who better to put the title on?
Vince McMahon wanted a hook for this show, however, and brought in someone that would cement the WWE’s future success: Mike Tyson. It was the right celebrity at the right place at the right time. Tyson’s antics outside the ring made him a character, to put it lightly. He was also a huge box office attraction, so by putting him on pay-per-view, it was guaranteed to generate attention. Tyson was the right celebrity to go with here, and the HUGE mainstream media coverage the show got definitely brought new eyes on the product. WWE became so hot following this show. RAW ratings spiked, the number of people watching wrestling in general skyrocketed and soon, for the first time in about eighty weeks, the WWE did what many thought was impossible by surpassing Nitro in the ratings war. WCW, who by this time was doing everything it could to kill its business with over inflated contracts, huge rosters and insipid booking among other things, never really recovered from this, and would continue its steady decline until 2001. But that’s another story for another time.
Though 1997 was the start of the Attitude Era, this show in particular paved the way to the real boom period that people talk about. Even with its problems, WCW was extremely profitable in 1998 and WWE finally became profitable again due to the success of this show. Pro wrestling was no longer just a high rated program people watched — it got mainstream media attention for the first time in years. People felt like stars. A new generation of fans were watching. Everything started to click for the WWE following this, and wrestlers and viewers alike would revel in the boom period that still, to this day, we look upon fondly, sometimes with rose colored glasses (pun not intended).
What is funny about this is that they edited the one “America the Beautiful” performance I thought sucked. The Chris Warren band performed the song and did a “alternative” version that completely sucked and was booed out of the building, so that’s probably why they didn’t put it here. Good call.
Tag Team Battle Royal: The teams, for those who want to know, are Sniper and Recon, Flash Funk and Steve Blackman (?), The New Midnight Express, Chainz and Bradshaw (??), The Quebecers (who came back in 1998 for a completely forgettable run), Jose Estrada and Jesus Castillo, The Headbangers, The Godwinns, The Rock and Roll Express, 8 Ball and Skull, Too Much, D’Lo Brown and Mark Henry and Miguel Perez and Savio Vega. None of these guys got entrances, but Farooq and Kama Mustafa did. The real stars of this match, however, were the newly christened LOD 2000, complete with a new look and Sunny as their manager. Kurrgan comes in and eliminates Sniper and Recon because the Truth Commission split up. Barry Windham then comes in and eliminates Bradshaw since the New Blackjacks split up a few weeks prior. What engaging feuds we were witnessing here! Bunch of mindless brawling. Last two teams are LOD and Midnight Express, but the Godwinns, who were just eliminated, laid out both LOD members with pail shots. BOMBASTIC BOB and BODACIOUS BART try and eliminate the two, but can’t get it done. I don’t necessarily mind a new Midnight Express, but the problem is they went with BOB HOLLY and BART GUNN, who were neither great workers or very charismatic. If either of them are reading this, however, I admire both of your performances in the Brawl for All and please don’t kill me. LOD laid them out and eliminated them for the win. Not much of a match. I get why they did the LOD thing, and maybe at the time it worked, but in the long run it’s kind of lame they never really went anywhere with it. They won the titles, lost them, then did a storyline where they got another member (Droz) who were constantly arguing while Hawk did a gimmick of being drunk all the time. Not fun times, but at least they had this. *1/4
WWE Light Heavyweight Championship – Taka Michinoku vs. Aguila: Here’s a great example of WWE not getting it. They saw WCW bringing in all of this great international talent, so they brought in Taka Michinoku and a lot of AAA guys. Problem was that none of these guys, with the exception of maybe Taka at the time, were as good as the WCW cruiserweights were. Plus, no one was really given the time of day to get their character over — WWE just put them out there for a few months and expected them to get over. People didn’t react to them, and by the end of the year, GILLBERG won the title. Yes. Jim Ross says Taka Michinoku “ironically enough” won the title on December 7. No comment. Aguila, who would later be known as Essa Rios, landed a HUGE moonsault from the top rope to the floor. Taka responds with a huge springboard crossbody. They showed the Spanish announce team talking about the match. That’s when you know that someone in the back is bored. Aguila comes off with a huge corkscrew press, gliding over the top rope and to the floor. He had some amazing moves, but looked green everywhere else, especially when it came to selling. Taka eventually cut him off and pinned him after the Michinoku Driver. Really just a video game style match. A bunch of back and forth cool moves but zero psychology. **1/4
Gennifer Flowers, one of the many who allegedly had an affair with Bill Clinton, interviews The Rock. They talk about what it would be like if he was president. He thinks he should be the ruler of the nation, not the leader. He says as long as the homeless people don’t set up their boxes in his front yard, they’re good. Nine times out of ten, he says, he’d be a hung jury, and as long as all those white house secretaries don’t do anything orally- er, I mean, morally wrong then they’re good. Better than WWE 2015 humor.
WWE European Championship – Triple H (c) vs. Owen Hart: Chyna will be handcuffed by then-WWE-commissioner Sgt. Slaughter, because she interferes a lot. Keep this in mind. Owen jumps Triple H immediately at the bell. Most of the match was HHH working on Owen’s leg. Owen manages to get a pinfall on Hunter after an enziguri, but Triple H kicks out once the referee comes back. Owen blocks the Pedigree, hits a back body drop and locks in the Sharpshooter but Chyna helps HHH get to the ropes. Then, out of nowhere, Chyna throws salt in Slaughter’s eyes, low blows Owen and Hunter gets the win with the Pedigree. Why didn’t she just do that in the first place? Always nice to see the cool heel outsmart the dumb babyface, by the way. Considering who this is, we’ll be seeing A LOT more of this as we delve deeper. **1/2
Chyna lays out Slaughter after the match because he’s a geek too.
Video package of the upcoming mixed tag team match. This was kind of amazing. They said that Sable was way more popular than Marc Mero. Well, yeah, true. Then they buried Marc ten feet under by calling him mediocre. Must’ve been fun for him rewatching this on home video. Granted, they killed off whatever charisma he had by giving him a lame boxer gimmick, but why not just release the guy at this point if you see nothing in him?
Mixed Tag Team Match – Luna and Goldust vs. Sable and Marc Mero: Sable was easily the most over person on the card at this point. They erupted when Sable made a HOT TAG and took out Goldust and Luna. Mero and Goldust are back in and Marc does some cool stuff like a springboard moonsault and a hurricanrana off the top rope. Luna comes in afterMero hits a sloppy looking TKO, this brings in Sable, who tags herself in and gets a nearfall with a Sable Bomb. She eventually gets the win with the TKO. This is Sable’s best WrestleMania match ever. *1/2
Tennessee Lee is in the ring and introduces Double J, who comes to the ring with Gennifer Flowers. She says she’s been with great, and Double J you’re great. Well, good to know. I have no idea what the purpose of this was.
WWE Intercontinental Championship – The Rock (c) vs. Ken Shamrock: Back and forth quick match. Rock had heat for a bit, but Shamrock overpowers him and submits him quickly with the ankle lock. Not bad enough to make it look like a total squash, but still pretty much a squash. **
Shamrock is the champion, but for whatever reason he decides to kill a bunch of dudes anyway with takedowns. He doesn’t let go of the ankle lock. He takes down all the other Nation members. Farooq comes in and seems like he’s going to help Rocky, but instead opts to just walk away. More referees subdue him, and eventually it’s announced that the referee has reversed his decision. For what, kicking too much ass? AFTER A MATCH HAS CONCLUDED? That was really dumb. Rock, who was being carried away on a stretcher, was destroyed by Shamrock more after the reversed decision. Zero idea why they made Rocky look like such a dork.
WWE Tag Team Championship – Chainsaw Charlie and Cactus Jack vs. The New Age Outlaws(c): Terry Funk, who they named Chainsaw Charlie because I have no idea, carried a CHAINSAW to the ring. That seems more dangerous than anything ECW ever did, and I’m serious. They showed the dumpster angle from RAW a few months prior, which they played up BIG on that episode if I remember correctly. All the heels and faces were mad at the Outlaws which was pretty goofy, plus ECW did it better like three years prior. This is a dumpster match, it’s much like a casket match, except you put your opponents in…well, you know. The Outlaws have it won several times, but Cactus and Chainsaw escape each time. Cactus brings out a ladder and manages to shove the Outlaws into the dumpster, but fails to close it in time. The Outlaws powerbomb Chainsaw into the dumpster and they brawl with Cactus backstage. Charlie manages to get there, however, and the Outlaws are soon put on a forklift and carried into a dumpster which is closed for the victory. They’re the new champions, but in fact the titles are stripped from them the next day because they did not use the proper dumpster. Yes, two dusty finishes in a row. **1/4
Kane/Undertaker video package. You know the story by now. They’ve done this feud so many times, in fact as recently as 2010 they were doing it again. All I can say is this stuff is a million times better thanks to Paul Bearer’s promos during this era.
Pete Rose (no relation) comes to the ring. He ran down the Boston Red Sox repeatedly until Kane made his way to the ring and destroys him, giving him the tombstone. Dramatic music plays as druids appear with torches and Undertaker makes his way to the ring.
The Undertaker vs. Kane: Given the months of hype regarding this feud, actually dating back to the previous summer, you’d think they’d have a barnburner. Well, it wasn’t BAD, per se, but it got awfully dull at parts. Bearer was probably the best part of the match. Early brawling around the ring gives the advantage to Kane as he gets the heat. Ok, I take it back. This got REALLY boring at parts. Long rest holds. Then just as I type that Undertaker did his top rope suicide dive and crashed into the spanish announce table. Holy cow. Kane reversed an Undertaker Tombstone but Taker kicked out. After more back and forth, Undertaker hits the chokeslam and the Tombstone but KANE KICKS OUT. A legdrop and another Tombstone DOES NOT seal the deal. A clothesline from the top rope and a third Tombstone gets Kane down for the three count. I liked the booking of this finish, but aside from Taker’s huge dive this was not particularly interesting. *3/4
Bearer jumps Undertaker (you read that right), but Undertaker smacks him to the floor, only for Kane to rise and beat him with a steel chair, then Tombstone him on said chair. They would have 436,346 more matches after this , and for all I know we might not even be through yet.
Amazing video shown of guys like Gorilla Monsoon, Ernie Ladd and Freddie Blassie talking about their past. It’s really worth watching if you’ve never seen it before.
Another video shown of the upcoming title match, mainly focusing on Tyson. Hey, he brought people in, so without a doubt he should be the focus.
WWE Championship – Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin: When the DX Band actually performs the DX song, it’s great. Michaels prances around like he’s Satoru Sayama to start. Chyna and Triple H interfere and are immediately booted out. Austin throws Triple H around and beats him up with the musical instruments in the aisle. Austin comes back and Shawn takes a huge Flair ring post bump into the corner. Given Michaels’ back injury, that HAD to hurt. Another long brawling spot on the outside, this time controlled by Austin. Michaels back body drops him into the crowd, and when he comes back Austin get smacked with a ring bell. Shawn works on him for a while in the ring, selling his back big time throughout. He stops to give a two finger salute to the crowd when Austin comes back and jumps him. Michaels comes back and wraps Austin’s leg on the post and works it over. HBK goes for the figure four, but Austin counters with a foot shove on Michaels into the ring post and rolls him up for another nearfall. HBK shoves him outside where Tyson grabs him and throws him back into the ring. Austin gets distracted and HBK clips his knee and puts him in the figure four. Austin reverses but Shawn immediately gets the ropes. A sleeper hold somehow manages to score a ref bump. HBK tries for a superkick, but Austin reverses for a Stunner, but HBK blocks it, only for Austin to counter one more time and hits the Stunner. Tyson enters the ring and counts to three, giving Austin the win and the title. A pretty OK main event, but it’s clear Shawn was limited in what he could do, but still managed to do it pretty great. ***
Austin and Tyson celebrate, with Austin giving Tyson a shirt. Shawn, mad, comes to and starts arguing with Tyson. This results in Tyson punching his lights out and confetti starts to fall as he and Austin make it to the back as the show closes.
FINAL THOUGHT: Eh. Match quality wise there was nothing here worth talking about. The main event was pretty good, though, and that’s the match everyone came to see, so at least it succeeded in that regard. What was important here is that WWE got new eyes on the product, and they had an extremely successful 1998 thanks to this show. The Attitude Era was continuing to show positive results for the WWE and, as a result, a lot of new people became powerful players in the company. One of these people, you’ll see in our next installment, was soon given more and more power as the WWE reaped their rewards. And it would lead to one of the lamest WrestleMania shows of all time.