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.
Just blame it on Lex Luger. Blame it on the fact that he was such an uncharismatic person that he was on the yellow brick road to the WWF championship and still didn’t win it. When Hulk Hogan left the WWF after losing the belt to Yokozuna, Vince McMahon had his replacement. He was tall like Hogan. He was blond like Hogan (well maybe a young Hogan with more hair). And he was more muscular than Hogan. Vinnie Mac’s kind of guy right? He was going to be the one to take the torch that Hogan left and he was going to run with it. There were some problems though. He couldn’t connect with the fans. He couldn’t wrestle an entertaining match. And after McMahon pushed him as hard as he could, he pulled the plug. It was the SummerSlam of 1993 where the Lex Express was going to ride into town and snatch that championship belt from the dreaded Yokozuna. When Lex didn’t win the belt that night, I knew McMahon didn’t think he was going to be the guy. They put all that marketing effort into a guy who WCW wouldn’t even put their money behind. It was a mistake for McMahon, but hey, he gave it his best to try to replace Hogan.
If not for Lex being terrible, history could’ve changed, and not for the better.
The guy who was supposed to be passed the torch from Hogan before Hogan decided he would only lose to someone bigger than him (Yokozuna) was Bret Hart. He was already given a small reign as champion when it was time to take the title off Ric Flair. But he lost it in that horrible match on a horrible PPV (Wrestlemania IX unless you’re Alan) with a horrible ending in which Yoko won the title, only to lose it to Hogan in an impromptu match. Let’s just say that Bret was the back-up plan. It didn’t need to be like this had Hogan only lost the belt to Bret at SummerSlam in 1993 before he balked at doing a job to someone as small as Hart. It probably didn’t even cross his mind that Bret would’ve probably carried him to the best match of his career, thus making him look strong in losing.
The WWF was struggling at the time to try and connect again with the fans. They started Monday Night Raw the year before and were drawing nice ratings even if house shows were struggling. But this was Wrestlemania, and for one night, all was forgotten. And where better to have it than Madison Square Garden in New York where the original Wrestlemania was held.