Saturday, April 01, 2006

Pizza Parlor Retro-Blog: Wrestlemania XIV

The Thursday night before Wrestlemania XIV, I remember meeting a Syracuse Co-Ed (who ironically went to my friend Coach’s fiancée’s high school) at Darwin’s going back to her house and receiving some decent oral pleasure. I remember lying in bed realizing what I had just gotten and that the next day, my buddies and I would be driving to my hometown and then to Boston to see Wrestlemania live and thinking “Life is good!”.

Upon hearing Wrestlemania XIV would be in Boston I applied for the WWF’s ticket lottery, which they were using to select attendants for this huge event in Boston’s smallish Fleet Center. I received word that I would be getting five tickets in January and immediately ran to my friend Josh, Coach, and Scott’s house to tell them we got the tickets. Coach was still sleeping but was awake enough to shout out “WE’RE GOING TO WRESTLEMANIA!”. The four of us and bloggist extraordinaire Paul were indeed going to Wrestlemania.

Everyone but Scott (who may have had an interview for his DJ job at a Syracuse bar) came up Friday. We stopped at McDonald’s in Londonderry ordered hamburgers (which were relayed to the genius McD’s clerk as “cheeseburgers, no cheese” and I don’t think he was making a joke either) then settled in without much energy and nowhere to go out as most of us were not yet 21.

Saturday night we headed into Boston. While it is the largest city near me, at the time I did not know it very well. After showing Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, I managed to get us pretty much lost the entire night. Then we saw two crazed wrestling fans in Stone Cold Steve Austin T-shirts running into the Park Plaza Hotel. What awaited us was a lobby meet and greet with the WWF wrestlers themselves. The late Owen Hart, D-Lo Brown, Terry Funk and others were shaking hands signing autographs, even Steve Austin peeped his head out then ran to allude a mob coming after him. We ended the night with drinks at “Who’s on First” which may have been the only 18+ bar in Boston.

Sunday afternoon after stopping for lunch at Wendy’s and seeing my high school football team picture up, we drove back into Boston for my first visit to the three year old Fleet Center, my first live wrestling even in Boston and our first WRESTLEMANIA!

The WWF product was in upswing, although it had not yet reached the peak it would the following years. College age guys and teenagers were coming back to wrestling thanks to the presence of WWF Raw and WCW Nitro on Monday nights and the interest in the feud of all feuds between the two organizations. It was a couple weeks after this Wrestlemania that Raw would beat Nitro in the ratings after having lost every week for about two years. The WWF used this Wrestlemania as the launch of its new Attitude-era. It had screwed Bret Hart making hated heels out of Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon and it was only a matter of time until McMahon feuded with emerging uber-star Stone Cold Steve Austin which would make the WWF billions. Mike Tyson was brought in on a hot-shot one appearance deal to ensure a solid buyrate for this Wrestlemania. He appeared several times on Raw scuffling with Austin before joining Michaels' “D-Generation X” group (Michaels, HHH, and Chyna a younger counter to the WCW’s rating machine, the nWo).

Wrestlemania XIV was the most anticipated WWF pay-per-view in over ten years and this is what they produced for millions on pay-per-view and the five of us in attendance:

Shortly after this the WWF's 'Sunny' days were over15 Team Tag Team Battle Royal- The WWF gives wrestlers cuts from the Wrestlemania buyrate as part of their downside guarantees in their contract. Therefore to justify this they put on clusterfucks like this to get them on the show and take up time. Other than young Scott’s memory of the 1992 Royal Rumble, you never hear anyone say after a wrestling event “Man that was a great battle royal”. This wasn’t great either but it did provide the first “surprise” of the night the return of the Legion of Doom with Sunny as their manager. Sunny gets lost in wrestling babe lore because they didn’t really slut up the product until after she left. Addictions to coke and painkillers did in her career as well. Her husband Chris Candido died two years ago, so she couldn’t even “leak” out an enjoyable sex tape to boost her career. Anyway Legion of Doom wins the battle royal and it starts to kick in that WE’RE AT WRESTLEMANIA! (star rating: I don’t do star ratings, don’t play Dungeons and Dragons either, if I had to watch a wrestling match wondering if it was a *** or **** match I would have killed myself by now and died a virgin)

Aguila vs. Taka Michinoku- The WWF put on a Light Heavyweight Division of at max 4 guys to counter WCW’s much more talented and better booked Cruiserweight Division. My guess is with two guys that couldn’t speak English and did a bunch of high spots that could get them injured that this is when Vince McMahon went to the concession stands. He must have hated having to do this. A lot of “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” that kept the crowd’s attention. Michinoku wins and it should be pointed out that I have typed Michinoku three times now and it hasn’t come up in my spell check. Crazy.

The Rock does an interview with Gennifer Flowers (to emphasize the point that this was a new “Atttitude” era in the WWF, they went out of their way to use celebrities with checkered pasts to appear at this Wrestlemania as opposed to Muhammad Ali and Bob Uecker). Rock goes on hilarious rants about homelessness and the judicial system and how they would effect The Rock as President. It was at this point people in the WWF knew they had a star on their roster.

Owen Hart vs. Triple H (European Title Match)- Its almost passé to make the joke about no one competing for the European Title being from Europe. The best thing they ever did with this belt was put it on D-Lo Brown as a joke. The catch here is Sgt. Slaughter, the current Commissioner of the WWF and Chyna were handcuffed together to insure an absence of interference. Of course it did not work. Chyna threw powder in Slaughter’s eyes and gave Hart the nut shot to end the match. Chyna was jacked in 1998 and this was around the time her and HHH were dating. That guy really has a thing for muscles.

The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust and Luna vs. Marc Mero and Sable- Goldust turned from his traditional all gold character to some Sn’M freak that I guess worked. Sable was clearly the star here although this was a good year away from her Playboy shoot. My friend Paul actually bought a Sable T-shirt that I am willing to guess he even may have worn in the last month. The payoff is Sable giving Luna a powerbomb and a TKO. Which was Marc Mero’s finishing move. All of us look at each other and say “Holy Shit!” They were doing a jealousy angle that was probably closer to real life than anything going on in wrestling at that point.

The Rock vs. Ken Shamrock (Intercontinental Title Match)- Contrary to some people’s recollections this was not a “Charisma on a Pole Match” that Rock won convincingly. After the coup of bringing Ken Shamrock to do professional wrestling, the WWF really had no idea what to do with him. It was the next year they started giving wrestlers sexual gimmicks (e.g. “Sexual Chocolate” Mark Henry). My idea was to make Shamrock a chronic masturbator. How funny would that be that Shamrock would have a guy pinned, see some girl in a tight shirt in the crowd then ignore his opponent and start rubbing one out? Then have the opponent roll him up with his pants down for the win. Trust me it’s a better idea than anything they did with Ken Shamrock while he was under contract. Anyway The Rock wins by planting brass knuckles on Shamrock proving to all that pro wrestlers are smarter than Ultimate Fighters.

New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie (Tag Team Title/Dumpster Match)- Chainsaw Charlie was Terry Funk with a chainsaw serial killer gimmick. This is the kind of thing the WWF could get away with in 1998 that would never fly now. The Outlaws were cult popular at this point for their pre-match “You’re ass better CALLLLL somebody” shtick. Fun match with a lot of sick bumps that were enough to send a crowd home happy on its own. It’s easy to forget that Funk was in his late 50’s at this point falling off ladders onto tables and shit. Ridiculous! Not enough to beat The Outlaws though.

Pete Rose comes out and delivers some anti-Boston lines. I was so happy they were acknowledging the home city at Wrestlemania during my first live event there that I didn’t notice just how badly he was delivering the lines. Anyway he was interrupted by Kane and given the Tombstone in what is the most remembered moment of this Wrestlemania and the first of three straight confrontations between these two that became a quite enjoyable “feud”.

Undertaker vs. Kane- Okay, this is the first of about 800 Undertaker-Kane matches so it’s easy to forget what the actual feud was about. Paul Bearer turned on The Undertaker and told a story about The Undertaker setting his family’s house on fire. His brother was burned beyond recognition during the fire and had returned to seek revenge. So Kane came out during Undertaker’s Hell in a Cell Match with Shawn Michaels and vowed to destroy the Undertaker. The Undertaker refused to face “his brother” as a promise to his dead parents. It wasn’t until Kane lit The Undertaker’s casket on fire after causing him to lose a casket match to Michaels that The Undertaker accepted Kane’s challenge. Again, in 1998 and so many characters becoming less gimmicky and more extensions of themselves, the public accepted this tale. The match itself was only saved by a table spot from the top rope by Undertaker. It was pretty bad and both guys probably should have retired at this point. Any wrestling fan knows The Undertaker is undefeated at Wrestlemania so of course he didn’t lose here.

Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels (WWF Championship Match) with Mike Tyson as the Special Enforcer- If you know enough about wrestling you know that referee’s control the timing of a match and with this being the last match on a stacked card and only three hours of pay-per-view time. It was too much of a risk to make someone with the mental capacity of Mike Tyson in charge as a Special Referee. Of course Tyson was the major selling part of the pay-per-view as he was guaranteed PPV gold and serving his suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for biting Evander Holyfield’s ear. The Massachusetts State Athletic Commission came out against this but of course pro wrestling wasn’t in their jurisdiction. Jaded by internet wrestling media, we knew that Michaels was on three shots of cortisone on his back and wasn’t winning this match and taking what turned out to be almost five years off. Still to see Stone Cold win the WWF title was something we felt privileged to be in attendance for. He won with Tyson turning on Michaels and D-Generation X, knocking out Michaels setting him up for the Stone Cold Stunner. Confetti flies and me, my friends, and the WWF have its first memorable Wrestlemania in a long time!

A win for 'Cold Stone'

Epilogue: I will mention because I’ll get pasted if I don’t that on the ride back to Syracuse I got pulled over and taken into police custody as my license I was driving with was suspended at the time. I was wearing my Wrestlemania t-shirt at the time and I was just glad that driving with a suspended license wasn’t considered news media worthy. I remember sitting in the station handcuffed thinking “Life is still good, I went to Wrestlemania!!”


At 2:02 PM , Anonymous Dwayne Johnson said...

I don't care if the homeless live Fridgidaire boxes or Washing machine boxes, along as they stay away from the Rock's palatial mansion. The Rock is the judge and jury...and 9 times out of 10 the Rock will be a hung jury.


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