Welcome to KB’s Old School (and New School) Reviews. I’ve been reviewing wrestling shows for over twelve years now and have reviewed over 6,000 shows. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’ll be posting a new review here on Wrestlingrumors.net. It could be anything from modern WWE to old school to indies to anything in between. Note that I rate using letters instead of stars and I don’t rate matches under three minutes as really, how good or bad can something that short be?
Date: March 29, 1998
Location: FleetCenter, Boston, Massachusetts
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler
You might notice that things have picked up a lot since last year. This can mainly be attributed to the influence of Vince Russo, who isn’t remembered all that fondly. While his later efforts didn’t exactly work out very well (that’s putting it mildly), his early work with this kind of talent around him was a major part of the turnaround in the Monday Night Wars, which will finally see Raw win a battle just two weeks after this show. Let’s get to it.
Chris Warren and the DX Band perform a hard rock version of America the Beautiful and the Star Spangled Banner. This is booed out of the building and was very poorly received both live and later, as it has been edited out of most versions of the show. That’s probably best all around.
The opening video focuses on the lack of tradition in Wrestlemania these days, but the tradition is all about the gold and that’s why everyone is here tonight.
Tag Team Battle Royal
Los Boricuas (Vega/Perez), Los Boricuas (Estrada/Castillo), Truth Commission (Recon/Sniper), Bradshaw/Chainz, Nation of Domination (Brown/Henry), Nation of Domination (Faarooq/Mustafa), Legion of Doom 2000, Quebecers, Rock N Roll Express, Headbangers, Too Much, Disciples of Apocalypse, Steve Blackman/Flash Funk, Godwinns, New Midnight Express
Los Boricuas are Savio Vega’s Puerto Rican street gang split into two teams here, the Truth Commission is a military group from South Africa, Chainz is a biker, the Nation now has Faarooq/Kama Mustafa/Mark Henry/D’Lo Brown, the LOD 2000 are the same guys and a surprise team, the Rock N Roll Express are a famous team from the south, Too Much is better known as Too Cool, the Disciples of Apocalypse are the Harris Twins (formerly known as the Blu Brothers) as bikers, Blackman is a karate expert and the New Midnight Express are Bombastic Bob Holly and Bodacious Bart Gunn in one of the worst ideas of this era.
Only a few teams get an entrance with the LOD coming out last (with Animal in shorts for the first time ever) as a surprise team with Sunny as their new manager. The winners get a Tag Team Title shot at next month’s In Your House XXI and if one member is eliminated his partner is eliminated as well. It’s a huge brawl to start and the fans are entirely behind the LOD. Vega and Perez are eliminated early with Perez having to be helped to the back.
Former Truth Commission member Kurrgan comes out to eliminate the Truth Commission and here’s Bradshaw’s former partner Barry Windham to eliminate Chainz and therefore Bradshaw. Brown/Henry and the Quebecers are eliminated. The other Nation team and the Rock N Roll Express are gone as well with the other Boricuas quickly following. Henry is still in there despite Brown being eliminated but who’s going to stop him?
The Headbangers are eliminated and Henry Godwinn dumps Henry. We’re down to the LOD, the Midnight Express, the Godwinns, Too Much and the DOA as they’re flying through the eliminations so far. There goes Too Much and things finally slow down a bit with eight total men to go. Hawk runs Henry over but Phineas eliminates Skull (partner of 8-Ball) to get rid of DOA. The bikers come back in anyway and throw out the Godwinns to get us down to the LOD and the Midnight Express.
Ever the poor sports, the Godwinns come back in with their metal buckets to knock the LOD silly and give the Express a chance. Animal rolls under the ropes to the floor, leaving Hawk to beat up both goons on his own. Animal comes back in to clean house and the Express is clotheslined out to give LOD the win at 8:13.
Rating: D+. Above all else, they kept this short. There was no standing around waiting to get rid of most of the teams and it makes for a much faster battle royal. Having the LOD return was a great way to wake up the crowd to start and has set a much better pace than the preview few years worth of opening matches. That’s already a good sign so maybe this one will work better. The new LOD wouldn’t work all that well but at least this was fun and quick.
Kevin Kelly and Honky Tonk Man tell us to CALL THE HOTLINE!
Clips of various media appearances that took place in Boston over the recent days. This would become a Wrestlemania tradition and always made the show feel more important.
Light Heavyweight Title: Taka Michinoku vs. Aguila
Michinoku is defending and won the inaugural title late last year. Aguila is better known as Essa Rios and slaps hands with the champion to start. A quick spinwheel kick sends Taka out to the floor and Aguila follows him out with a moonsault to the outside. Taka kicks him outside as well and nails his signature running springboard dive to take over again.
A forearm to the mask (JR’s term, which is one of the only times I’ve heard that called accurately) staggers Aguila but he armdrags Taka off the top. The champ heads outside again and Aguila is right there with a corkscrew plancha for a big gasp from the crowd. Back in and Taka’s middle rope splash (quite the step down after the start to this match) hits knees but he comes back with a running kick in the corner. The Michinoku Driver is escapes but Aguila’s hurricanrana is countered into a powerbomb. Taka dropkicks him out of the air and now the Driver connects to retain Taka’s title at 5:55.
Rating: B-. This was another good choice to keep the show going as they didn’t even try to do anything aside from fly around the ring and pop the crowd. The light heavyweight division didn’t work very well but this was one of the best pairings they had. Simple idea here and they played it well without staying too long. Good stuff.
Gennifer Flowers (a player in a Bill Clinton scandal) interviewed the Rock earlier today. Yes it’s the Rock now, following one of the best character turnarounds in history. It was clear that Rocky wasn’t going anywhere so he was turned into the ultimate cocky jock who spewed one liners and had more charisma than he knew what to do with.
Flowers asks about Rock being the leader of the government but leader doesn’t suit him. Instead it should be ruler, and as ruler he feels that the homeless should stay away from his freshly mowed grass at his palatial estate in Miami. As for the judicial system, all Rock’s fans need to know is that Rock is judge and jury. Make that a hung jury of course, if you smell what he’s cooking. Some Monica Lewinsky jokes take us out. You might as well have just started printing the money with Rock’s face on it based on this segment.
European Title: HHH vs. Owen Hart
HHH is defending in this battle of the huge noses and he’s another guy who has been completely changed. He still has Chyna but now has joined D-Generation X and become a far more dangerous man. HHH and Owen have been feuding for months as fallout from Survivor Series 1997 (I’m going to assume you know that one and why Bret isn’t around anymore) and Chyna is going to be handcuffed to Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter to make sure this is one on one. Owen has a bad leg coming in.
Hart starts fast and scores with some early clotheslines and right hands in the corner followed by a standing hurricanrana for two. So much for the leg being badly damaged but he does seem a bit ginger. HHH sends him to the floor but Slaughter stops Chyna from interfering. Back in and a poke to the eye breaks up the Sharpshooter to give HHH control.
This works a bit better than last time as HHH’s offense has gotten a lot better in the last year. The jumping knee to the face gets two (JR describes it as negotiating a two count, which opens up a host of questions. Did he negotiate it with the referee? Owen? The guy in section 14 selling popcorn? And what did he have to give up for it?) and HHH finally starts going after the leg.
We hit a leg lock and Owen’s nose is bleeding. Owen fights back and crotches the champion against the post, followed by a missile dropkick for two. There’s a spinwheel kick for the same and Lawler is panicking. Owen tries an enziguri but messes up his ankle again to put both guys down. The Sharpshooter is kicked away but Owen falls face first into a low blow.
Lawler goes nuts wanting a DQ as he can just never bring himself to like a Hart. Now the Sharpshooter goes on but Chyna is able to pull HHH to the ropes. Nice job Slaughter. Chyna doesn’t think he did that well either and throws powder into his eyes. The blinded Slaughter (or the referee for that matter) doesn’t see her hit Owen low, setting up the Pedigree to retain the title at 13:27.
Rating: B. What a difference a year makes with HHH as he went from a slow, boring match with Goldust to a really good, fast paced match here with Owen. I never quite got why Hart kept losing and losing to HHH as you would think they might want to go somewhere with him as the last remaining Hart. At least he was a good opponent for HHH and we got a good match here.
Chyna beats up Slaughter to some nice applause post match. Slaughter was one of the worst authority figures in company history and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone who actually enjoyed him in the role.
Buy the new Austin shirt! I think they’ve got that one covered.
We recap Goldust/Luna vs. Marc Mero/Sable. This was an interesting feud as Mero is terribly jealous of Sable’s popularity but now he’s coming to her defense because Luna and Goldust have gone too far attacking her. Goldust is in a very strange place at this point as he’s starved for attention and is wearing mostly women’s clothing or various sexual attire. The video makes no secret of the fact that this is all about Sable.
Marc Mero/Sable vs. Luna/The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust
That’s Luna Vachon of course and the genders have to match here. The guys get things started and a headscissors sends Goldust crawling over to the corner. Luna wants Mero but gets Sable instead and immediately bails to the floor for a chase. It’s back to Goldust vs. Mero but Sable comes in for a superkick, much to Mero’s annoyance. Luna insists Goldust stay in, much to his annoyance.
Both guys try cross bodies and it’s Mero falling on top for two. The announcers keep talking about how amazing and tough Sable is for taking this match and it’s already annoying. We finally get the tag to Sable for the catfight with Luna but thankfully Sable starts kicking in the corner, including a big shot to Goldust. It’s back to the men with Mero’s slingshot splash hitting knees. That’s fine with Mero who hits Goldust low but can’t get the TKO (fireman’s carry into a cutter).
Mark flips out of a Curtain Call instead and hits (well mostly at least) a springboard moonsault press for two. Some heel miscommunication gives Marc another near fall and now the TKO connects but Luna breaks up the cover. Luna splashes Goldust by mistake and Sable powerbombs her for a very close two. Instead it’s the TKO for the pin on Luna at 9:11. They probably should have just ended it at the powerbomb.
Rating: C. The match was watchable enough albeit a bit messy, but they weren’t even trying to hide the fact that this was all about Sable. To be fair though, the crowd was going NUTS for her and she made the company a fortune going forward so this push was justified. Not a good match or anything but Sable was clearly a big star.
Mero celebrates like he got the pin in a perfect character move.
JR gets the schedule wrong and says we’re coming up on the Tag Team Title match but instead it’s Tennessee Lee (formerly known as Colonel Robert Parker, a pretty bad manager) in the ring. In a pretty worthless cameo, Lee introduces Jeff Jarrett who escorts Flowers to be guest ring announcer.
Intercontinental Title: Ken Shamrock vs. The Rock
Rock is defending and the leader of the Nation of Domination. He actually gave Shamrock a title shot back at the Rumble where Shamrock got disqualified and the feud has continued from there. This included Rock BLASTING Shamrock in the face with a chair a few weeks back on Raw in a shot that would probably get him fired today. Rock has the Nation in his corner, minus Faarooq who Rock took the leadership from. If Rock gets disqualified here, he loses the title.
Shamrock starts fast with a pair of clotheslines to send Rock out to the floor. Back in and a kick puts Rock down, followed by a string of right hands to the face. Rock sends him into the steps to take over and the yet to be named People’s Elbow gets two. Ken comes right back and grabs a chair but shoves the referee down, allowing Rock to hit Shamrock in the face with the chair for two. That’s it for Rock’s control though as Shamrock pops up and scores with a powerslam, followed by the ankle lock for the submission at 4:48.
Rating: D+. The match didn’t work very well as it felt like an extended Raw match (yeah five minutes would be long on Raw at this point, especially for the midcard) instead of a big showdown. I know the popular idea would be to change the title here but they knew they had something special with Rock here and didn’t want to screw with it.
Then Shamrock beats up the Nation and puts the hold back on, meaning it’s a reversed decision to give the title back to the Rock. The champ, bleeding from the mouth, is stretchered out but makes sure to hold up the title because it’s still his. Shamrock is livid and beats Rock up even more on the bandstand.
We get the awesome Attitude promo that made the company feel much more real than it was before. A lot of the roster talks about their past accomplishments (Mero being a Golden Gloves champion, the Rock playing for the Miami Hurricanes, Faarooq’s success at Florida State etc.) with the final line of “This isn’t real? Try lacing my boots.”
Tag Team Titles: Cactus Jack/Chainsaw Charlie vs. New Age Outlaws
The Outlaws are defending and this is a dumpster match (a casket match but with a dumpster) due to them putting Jack (formerly Mankind) and Charlie (Terry Funk) inside a dumpster and shoving them off the stage in February. The Outlaws (You better know them. They were Tag Team Champions in 2014) are growing in popularity every day, even though they’re pretty awful in the ring and completely anti-authority.
It’s a brawl to start and for once that’s the right move. The champs take over and send Funk (the announcers call him Funk more often than they call him Charlie so it’s good enough for me) into the dumpster but you have to get both guys inside and close the lid to win. Cactus tries his flip dive off the apron but only hits the dumpster. Terry gets out so the Outlaws take turns slamming the dumpster down on the challengers’ heads.
Cactus gets the Claw on Road Dogg (sporting a “Look Ma! No curse!” shirt, referencing the Armstrong family curse in a very nice touch) and Funk blasts Gunn in the head with a trashcan lid. Gunn gets crushed by a cookie sheet and now let’s bring in a ladder. Sure why not. Cactus and Gunn climb up and Dogg hits Funk into the ladder, knocking both of them into the dumpster in a huge crash and a big spot for this time period.
Funk gets powerbombed into the dumpster (JR freaks out over this happening to Funk at 53, but he’ll still be around EIGHTEEN YEARS LATER. That’s just not normal.) but Cactus and Gunn get out and take it to the back. They head into the kitchen with Dogg joining in on the beating. Funk gets to the back as well and steals a forklift, lifting the Outlaws into the air and dropping them into another dumpster for the win and the titles at 10:00.
Rating: B. I liked this way more than I should have as it’s a wild brawl but that’s a lot smarter than having these teams try to do a regular match. Cactus and Funk winning the titles together is a cool moment due to their past together and this worked really well. The Outlaws would join DX the next night as they regained the titles, but this was a solid brawl and the title change felt like it meant something.
In Your House XXI ad.
We recap Undertaker vs. Kane and this is going to get a bit complicated. Paul Bearer had promised to destroy Undertaker and revealed that Undertaker had a brother named Kane, who had been horribly burned in a fire as a child, a fire that Bearer claimed Undertaker set. During the first Hell in a Cell match, Kane actually debuted and laid out Undertaker, seemingly setting up their first match. However, Undertaker vowed to his parents that he would never fight his brother.
Kane didn’t take this well and, after seemingly forming a bond with his brother, put Undertaker in a casket which he lit on fire at the 1998 Royal Rumble. That was enough for Undertaker, who returned a few weeks later, promising to face his brother at Wrestlemania XIV. This was one heck of a build and the perfect blend of drama and over the top insanity that made the era work. Now if only the match can live up to it.
Before we get to the match though, here’s baseball legend Pete Rose as guest ring announcer for one of the most infamous moments in Wrestlemania history. Rose goes full on heel, ripping on the Boston Red Sox for not being able to win the World Series. “I left tickets for Bill Buckner but he couldn’t bend over and pick them up. HOW BOUT IT?” The fans are ready to kill him but here’s Kane to do it for them. Kane tombstones Rose and is instantly the biggest hero in the building…..for about ninety seconds. Major credit to Rose here, who clearly got the idea of being a heel instantly and had a blast with this. He’ll be back.
Undertaker vs. Kane
The first of many. Undertaker begins his tradition of incredible Wrestlemania entrances, walking through a tunnel of torches held by cloaked druids. JR knows it’s going to be big and sums it up perfectly: “This ovation will be not of this world.” That’s nowhere near strong enough as the place comes unglued and with good reason. What an entrance, easily one of the best of all time.
They stare each other down and Undertaker hammers away to almost no effect. A big toss by the throat sends Undertaker into the corner but Kane charges into a boot to the face. Undertaker charges into a Tombstone attempt but gets dropped on his head in the corner. Kane knees Undertaker down in the corner before draping him ribs first across the top rope.
Undertaker gets back up and tries a big boot but winds up on Kane’s shoulders. The electric chair drop doesn’t work very well as Undertaker lands on his arms but it was a cool spot until then. Kane takes him to the floor and drops the steps on Undertaker’s back a few times. A suplex brings Undertaker back in and the backstory starts to fall apart. Kane was supposed to be in an asylum for most of his life but he knows how to suplex people? It doesn’t add up, which says a lot given how much else I’m supposed to buy about this story. The chokeslam plants Undertaker but Kane pulls him up at two.
We hit the chinlock on Undertaker, stop for a clothesline break, and put it back on. After the better part of three minutes in the hold, Undertaker fights up and drops Kane over the top. The Taker Dive makes its Wrestlemania debut but Kane steps to the side, sending Undertaker crashing through the Spanish announcers’ table. Back in and Kane scores with the top rope clothesline for two.
They slug it out again and Kane grabs a Tombstone for two. Undertaker comes back with a good chokeslam and a Tombstone of his own…..for two. That might be the first time ever and the shock from the crowd implies that it is. A second tombstone gets two more and there’s a top rope clothesline. Kane sits up again so Undertaker gives him a third Tombstone and a regular cover for the pin at 16:58. Kane would have been up at 16:59.
Rating: D+. This is a tricky one to grade but the atmosphere and build carries this as far as it can go. The problem here is that chinlock. It just kills everything the match had going for it and looks so completely out of place. This would have been better as an all out war which they tried at times but it wound up being more of a wrestling match, which isn’t the right idea. The ending sequence helped and the power brawling was good, but this needed to be a war with weapons and violence all over the place, which it only was at times.
Now for the big question: did the right person win? The more I think about it, the more I think Undertaker should have lost here. It’s very rare to see a real argument for the Streak ending, but at this point it still wasn’t really a thing. The story makes more sense if Kane destroys Undertaker here and wins, but you could argue that Kane already destroyed Undertaker when he lit him on fire. If you can’t stop a man by lighting him on fire, pinning him for three seconds really doesn’t prove much. Still though, they both wound up fine with Kane being WWF World Champion in June.
Bearer comes in for some cheap shots, allowing Kane to lay Undertaker out with a chair and another Tombstone. Kane and Bearer leave but Undertaker sits up again.
Another Attitude spot, but this time with some legends talking about how amazing their days were. In their time, there were no flashing lights or moonsaults, no walking the top rope or pyrotechnics. Today though, the legends are the ones cheering. Another outstanding ad here as you can see that everything is changing.
We recap Austin vs. Michaels, which translates to a video on Mike Tyson, who is the real star of this show and the reason it was such a big deal. This is one of the best celebrity investments in company history and made the match.
WWF World Title: Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels
Tyson, a member of D-Generation X, is guest enforcer referee, meaning he’s on the floor for most of the match. Michaels is defending after Austin won the Royal Rumble earlier in the year. We get the always cool tracking shots from the back to the entrances to make this feel even more special. Austin gets an incredible reaction as there’s just no way to hide the fact that he’s winning tonight. The D-X Band plays Shawn to the ring for a cool entrance. Remember that Shawn’s back and Austin’s neck are barely held together here.
They circle each other to start and Shawn gets in a left jab. The chase is on and Shawn loses most of his tights for an unwanted view. A backdrop puts Shawn over the top and down onto HHH, who whips Austin into the barricade in retaliation. That’s enough for a double ejection and it’s one on one.
They fight to the bandstand and Shawn hits him in the face with a cymbal. The fans get behind Austin again and the guys head back inside with Austin working on the back. An atomic drop (makes sense) gets two and it’s back to the floor with Shawn being knocked off the apron and face first into the announcers’ table. Austin jacks him in the jaw again but gets backdropped over the top and into the crowd. The bell knocks Austin silly again and Tyson has no problem with it of course. You can see the agony on Shawn’s face and he can barely move.
The fans chant HOLYFIELD in an annoying moment and Shawn keeps punching away. Austin tackles him though and throws Michaels over the top as I can’t believe Shawn can still get up. The champ sweeps the leg and wraps it around the post to give him a target. Back in and Shawn stays on the knee before sending him to the floor for a baseball slide. There’s a Figure Four on Austin but he turns it over pretty quickly. It’s comeback time until Shawn grabs a sleeper.
Austin drives Shawn back into the referee though and Michaels is whipped into various corners. You can see that he can barely take the bumps and it’s tough to sit through. Shawn comes back with the forearm and somehow nips up (the camera misses it AGAIN). The top rope elbow looks to set up the Sweet Chin Music but Austin is ready for it. The Stunner is countered as well and I’ll let JR take it from here until the pin at 20:01. “Michaels going for another kick. Austin…..HE GOT IT! THE STUNNER! MIKE TYSON IN! AUSTIN IS THE CHAMPION! STONE COLD! STONE COLD! STONE COLD!”
Rating: A-. And that’s how the WWF won the war. When you factor in the injuries, this is one of the most impressive and gutsy performances you’ll ever see. Austin was in terrible shape and he’s still miles ahead of Shawn. It’s hard to watch Shawn going through a match like this and the things he was doing out there are absolutely amazing when you consider he had a broken back. Let me repeat that: he had a BROKEN BACK and wrestled a great twenty minute match where he was being thrown all over the place. Great match and exactly the way Austin needed to ascend to the top of the wrestling world.
One last thing: Austin hit one Stunner and only one Stunner. They didn’t trade finishers all over the place and kick out at 2 and 7/8. The finishing move finished the match and won the title, just like it’s supposed to do. It really makes the moment feel more important and definitive as Austin won a close match but he won it with no doubts.
JR gets the famous line with “The Austin Era has begun!” Michaels is ticked off at Tyson and takes a swing, earning him a right hand to the jaw to knock Shawn out cold. Confetti falls and the highlight package takes us out.
Overall Rating: B. It’s not a great show, but it nailed the ending and lived up to enough of the hype to do what it was supposed to do. The WWF was white hot at this point and there was nothing WCW could do to touch them now that Austin is the champion. As mentioned earlier, it would be two weeks before they won a night in the Monday Night Wars but the battle was over the second this show went off the air.
There are better Wrestlemanias out there but this one was the right show at the right time with the right ending. The memorable moments here are memorable for a reason and the show holds up today for all the right reasons. This show launched the WWF into its second great era and they never looked back. Well not for a few years at least.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 60,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 6,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books
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