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Wrestlemania was Vince McMahon’s baby. Technically Stephanie and Shane were his kids, but one could imagine that Vince took just as much care in his raising and handling of Wrestlemania as he did with his own children. And shame on those of you who just said that he might’ve shown more love and care for Wrestlemania. Wrestlemania was live in Madison Square Garden in 1985, and Wrestlemania 10 was also at the Garden in 1995. It didn’t take a genius to figure that Wrestlemania XX would call the Garden home. The line-up was stacked for Mania XX and Vince started promoting the event at Mania XIX. It had an entire year of promotion and it delivered.
There were a couple big ifs about this PPV. Or maybe a couple of big woulds. Would Vince McMahon give Chris Benoit the World Championship? Would Vince McMahon give Eddie Guerrero more than a one month reign as WWE Champion? Would Mick Foley be the Mick Foley of old? And would Hulk Hogan make a triumphant return at Wrestlemania XX?
Well, the answer to the first three questions was yes, but sadly, at least from this old Hulkamaniac’s point of view, the fourth was a big fat no. The PPV was set up with making Chris Benoit the superstar wrestling fans have always wanted him to be as well as establishing Eddy Guerrero as a fighting champion. And it did those things very well in my opinion.
The problem with having a PPV of this magnitude is that if it is a solid event, but doesn’t quite match the hype, it almost feels like a failure. And while that wasn’t the case here, if it wasn’t for the two championship bouts, it might’ve been looked at as a failure. The reason for that is because there were two huge matches that were advertised just as hard and maybe even harder than the two championship matches, and those failed miserably.
In the early 1990’s when Ric Flair came to the WWF after a long career wrestling for the NWA, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was his financial adviser at the time. However, Heenan was also the color commentator alongside Gorilla Monsoon. Heenan had a great way in getting Flair over. He would say that since Flair was an outsider to WWF, people were trying to hold him down. Hence the phrase, “Be fair to Flair”. What does Ric Flair and Bobby Heenan circa 1992 have to do with Wrestlemania XV? Well, there’s a man named Mick Foley who had a dream of main eventing Wrestlemania and that man named Mick had a great 4 months in late 1998 and early 1999. He helped The Rock get over big time as a heel and also won the WWF Championship belt for the first time. He and the Rock had some very good matches, but for some reason (probably because they saw Rock vs. Austin as a better money making match), Mick Foley was left out in the cold come Wrestlemania time. Soon before Mania, Foley dropped the belt back to The Rock and was then put in a feud with the Big Show. At the time, the Big Show was actually looked upon as a main eventer, so it wasn’t that large of a step down. However, after working with the Rock and Austin for much of 1998, match-wise it was a major step down. Their Wrestlemania match was awful, (maybe one of the worst matches of Foley’s career) and the feud didn’t really do anything for either guy. Why the long segue from Ric Flair to Mick Foley? Because at the time, I was reminded of Heenan’s phrase while Foley was getting passed over. So I simply added Foley’s name and created my own. Be Fair to Foley. For some reason, the WWF didn’t listen to me.
Wrestlemania was a large disappointment in my eyes mostly because of the short term booking. The top guys were stretched way too thin and the matches seemed to be put together at the last minute. (Hey, sounds familiar to this year’s booking.) The two saving graces were the match pitting Shane McMahon and X-Pac, and the main event between The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
If you remember one thing about Wrestlemania XIV, it will be that it started what was known as the Stone Cold era in the WWF. Steve Austin was arguably the most popular wrestler for his time as well as the biggest money maker in the business during his stretch of being on top. Austin’s ascent to the top helped make Vince McMahon a billionaire and the WWF a household name.
If you remember a second thing about Wrestlemania XIV, it would be that Mike Tyson was involved. Tyson was coming off some horrendous publicity and wasn’t actually sanctioned to box. It was a bad move for him to in the eyes of boxing people to associate himself with the WWF, but he made a ton of money and also help put the sporting public eyes, which didn’t usually follow professional wrestling, on wrestling. You’d never see wrestling on Sports Center. But with Mike Tyson involved, it was all possible. They don’t call Vince McMahon a promoting genius for nothing.
And if you were to have a really good memory and remember three things that happened at this Wrestlemania, you’d remember Shawn Michaels’ all guts performance in the main event. He worked through an injury that basically ended his career while he was still in his prime. The injury stemmed from a bump he took during his title defense at Royal Rumble against the Undertaker when he went over the top rope and while on his way down, bumped his back on a casket. He didn’t work from them until Mania and he was in obvious pain, grimacing through nearly every step of the match. Rumors have it that before the match actually happened, he was bothered with the finish and had to basically be told by the Undertaker that he should do the finish as planned and put over Steve Austin or else.