WrestleMania XIII is widely believed to be the start of the ‘Attitude Era’ thanks to an unexpectedly bloody match between one of the top guys in the company and a man who would help turn the wrestling world upside down in the span of a year.
The main event featured Undertaker in one of only three title matches he’d have at WrestleMania as part of the Streak due to a series of unfortunate events that went as such: Austin won the Royal Rumble despite already being eliminated by Bret Hart. HBK defeats Sycho Sid at Royal Rumble, becomes WWF Champion, but drops the belt due to a knee injury. Austin’s Royal Rumble win was declared null and void (only time that had happened) and there was a Fatal Four Way to decide the new WWF champion, which Bret won, but then promptly lost to Sid on RAW, thanks to Austin and the Undertaker. Everyone still with me?
Amidst that chaos, the WrestleMania XIII card also saw the WrestleMania debut of a young man that would become very loved by ‘the people’, a Chicago Street Fight, and a Fatal Four Way match for the #1 Contendership for the Tag Titles.
So, is WrestleMania XIII a great start to the Attitude Era? Let’s find out!
We open with a montage of past WrestleMania that compares WWE with Utopia and the fact that the babyfaces were no longer the stand-up men they were in Hogan’s day and promotes the big matches. This is the first time WrestleMania is referred to as ‘The Showcase of the Immortals’.
Fatal Four Way Elimination #1 Contender’s Match for The WWF Tag Team Championship: The Headbangers vs Doug Furnas and Phil La Fon vs The Godwins (with Hillbilly Jim) vs The New Blackjacks
Godwins are out first, but it’s hard to tell if the crowd is cheering for them or just cheering in general. Another first: Jim Ross and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler being at the same announce table for WrestleMania and the only time Vince is with them. Godwins are gladhanding Vince, though I’m not sure why.
Headbangers are out next to an okay pop. And we’re told the rules to this thing: A tag can be made to any man. When a man is defeated, his team is eliminated. The last team remaining wins. Simple enough, I guess.
Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon are out next and mistakenly ID’d as ‘The Headbangers’. They get a minimal pop.
We get a retrospective on the Blackjacks and we get an interview of the New Blackjacks, one of whom is JBL with a handlebar mustache. The New Blackjacks say they’re going to hold up the Blackjack tradition and become WWF tag team champions. JBL’s end of this promo is extremely cringe-worthy.
New Blackjacks get a small chorus of boos and all hell breaks loose. I want to think that there is an equal number of faces and heels, but everyone seems to be against the Blackjacks.
This match has some odd spots, like both Headbangers being tagged in and having to face off against each other. They don’t, and choose to tag in either Furnas or LaFon, then beat him up. This match wasn’t an absolute crap show but it got close sometimes. A melee broke out and somehow the New Blackjacks and Furnas/LaFon were eliminated and we’re down to the Headbangers vs the Godwins.
This match was rough watching. The team styles clashed a lot and no one seemed to know what the rules were.
Winner: Headbangers by pinfall
We get a promo for In Your House (the original B shows)
Back in the ring, Honky Tonk Man is here for some reason and some WWF Hall of Famers are in the audience. Apparently, Honky is joining us on commentary.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Rocky Maivia vs The Sultan (with Iron Sheik and Bob Backlund)
The Sultan and co are out first to a loud round of boos. It’s still weird to see Backlund and Iron Sheik working together. It’s weird to hear King bash Rock, but Rocky Maivia wasn’t exactly Mr. Popularity.
Maivia’s up next and he gets a minimal pop that sounds vaguely positive, like he’d be getting in a few years.
This was a really good match. Even for being his first WrestleMania, you can see the greatness that is in Rocky. The turn to the Rock is starting to show, but he’s not quite there yet.
Winner: Rocky Maivia by pinfall. Rocky goes to leave and JR tries to get an interview, when Rocky is jumped by an irate Sultan. Sultan, Sheik, and Backlund take out their frustrations on poor Rocky, including a splash off the top from Sultan. Iron Sheik puts Rocky in the Camel Clutch when Rocky’s dad, ‘Soul Man’ Rocky Johnson charges the ring and starts swinging. Backlund and the others don’t seem to know what to do, so Rocky Sr, tries to tend to his son, but gets jumped by the heels, including getting beaten with the Iraqi or Sudanese flag. Rocky Jr gets up to defend his dad and punches the Sultan out of the ring. Dad and son take turns slamming the Iron Sheik before giving him stereo punches that get Sheik out of the ring. Then, father and son hug in a heartwarming moment (gag) and have their hands raised in victory.
Highlights: Rocky dancing like a spaz after knocking Sultan down and breaking out some aerial moves. Sultan hitting a splash off the top turnbuckle. Rocky Johnson coming to his son’s aide.
Comments: I really liked this match. Seeing future big stars at the start of their careers is usually fun.
Todd Pettengill is interviewing Ken Shamrock, who will be the special guest ref for the Submission Match later in the evening. We get a look at Billy Gunn having more guts than brains and challenging Shamrock, and getting his butt kicked. Pettengill asks about the comments of Austin and Hart, that they will not hesitate to get physical with Shamrock. Shamrock says he was hired for this match because he knows submissions and he’s not intimidated by Austin or Hart.
Dok Hendrix is interviewing Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Chyna. Dok asks about Helmsley’s relationship with Chyna, including wondering if she’s Helmsley’s boss. Helmsley says that this is WrestleMania and they’re in Chicago, but that no one needs to know what the deal is with Chyna.
Dok asks about Goldust and Marlena. Helmsley says he can take Goldust any way he wants, but Marlena’s going to be the real loser because she had the chance to be with Helmsley, but turned it down. (Commenter: Ew, seriously?)
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (with Chyna) vs Goldust (with Marlena)
Helmsley and Chyna are out first to little reaction, though there are plenty of signs in the audience. This Connecticut Blue Blood/Triple H hybrid that’s going on is weird and doesn’t quite jive. Goldust and Marlena are out next to a pretty good pop. Marlena looks nervous.
The match starts with a good, old-fashioned, fistfight, with Goldust coming out on top. Goldust pretty much dominates the match at the start and the crowd seems into it, until Helmsley manages to turn things around a little, but Goldust battles back. This was a pretty good match, Goldust and Helmsley worked really well together, there was a lot of back and forth and we got to see a different side to the Goldust character.
Winner: Helmsley by pinfall after Goldust is distracted by Chyna intimidating Marlena.
Highlights: Goldust refusing to be beaten and trying to protect Marlena from Chyna.
Comments: I hated this storyline between Helmsley and Goldust. Chyna being used to punish Marlena for wanting to be faithful to her husband was awful.
We go backstage to the area where the Superstars can interact with fans via chatrooms and see HBK trying to figure out how to type, much to the amusement of the commentators.
WWF Tag Team Championship Match: Owen Hart and British Bulldog vs Mankind and Vader (with Paul Bearer)
Mankind and Vader are out first and judging by the crowd reaction, I’m guessing they’re the heels. Owen and Davey Boy are out next to a pretty good pop. It’s weird thinking of Owen Hart as a babyface, but I guess he’s one right now.
JR goes to talk to the champs and stirs the pot a little by relaying some things Owen had said about Davey Boy. Owen tells JR to shut up and that he’s a cowboy wannabe. JR points out that Owen said these things on TV, but the champs aren’t listening. Davey Boy says that they’re going to stay the champions and tells JR to stop stirring things up. When JR asks who the leader of the team is, Owen says it’s him.
This match wasn’t pretty, the styles seemed to mesh okay, but this wasn’t a pretty match to watch. This was a good match though, just not the smoothest.
Winner: Both teams are counted out. Davey Boy’s been knocked out by Mankind’s Mandible Claw. Mankind and Vader celebrate, but Owen and Davey Boy retain the title.s
Highlights: JR stirring the pot with Owen and Davey Boy. Vader’s athleticism
Comments: I liked this match okay. It wasn’t the best match in the world, but it was okay.
We get a recap of just why Bret and Austin are feuding and how Bret went from a beloved babyface to a whiny heel. (Commenter: He was always whiny, in my opinion).
Submission Match: Bret Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin Special Guest Ref: Ken Shamrock
Ken Shamrock is already in the ring to a HUGE pop. Austin is out next to a pretty good pop. Still not what he’d get in another year, but good nonetheless. Despite being the heel in this, Bret still gets a pretty good pop. Unsurprisingly, this match starts with a fistfight and quickly spills out of the ring and into the crowd
This match is highly praised, and I can see why. These guys beat the tar out of each other and worked really well together. Shamrock did a good job of managing this circus.
This is also the match that is cited as the match that made Austin a star. I’m afraid I don’t quite agree with that assessment. The Austin 3:16 signs were everywhere in that arena, but Bret still got a slightly better pop and got quite a pop when he was declared the winner, though that didn’t last long. I do think that Austin already had starpower and people were beginning to see that, but since Austin 3:16-mania did NOT get him the title shot and since he wouldn’t win the title for another year, I can’t say that this one match MADE Austin. It helped, but it wasn’t the determining factor that made him the mega-star he became in 1998.
Winner: Bret Hart, technically, after Austin passes out from blood loss. After Bret celebrated, he attacked Austin again, to the outrage of the crowd. Bret tries to put the Sharpshooter on Austin again and kept from doing so by Shamrock. Bret gets in Shamrock’s face, but Shamrock doesn’t back down. The crowd loves it and wants a throwdown, but Bret walks away and the crowd shows its displeasure.
Shamrock turns his attention to Austin, who is coming around and tries to help him up, but Austin isn’t having it and stuns Shamrock, walking away under his own, slightly sputtering, steam and the crowd reaction goes from mixed to leaning towards Austin.
Highlights: Austin refusing to submit and walking away under his own power. Bret losing his cool and just beating the tar out of Austin.
Comments: I really enjoyed this match. Seeing Bret losing his temper was really amusing.
We go to Todd Pettengill with the Nation of Domination, who are ready for a war. Farooq says that crooks and thugs come out at night and they are tonight. He also says Ahmed Johnson and the Road Warriors (not the Legion of Doom) will get what’s coming to them.
Chicago Street Fight: Legion of Doom and Ahmed Johnson vs The Nation of Domination
Nation of Domination is out first to little reaction, and they truly brought everything but the kitchen sink. Legion of Doom, of course, get a HUGE pop, not just because it’s the Legion of Doom, but because they’re billed as being from Chicago. Unlike NoD, Legion of Doom/Johnson DID bring the kitchen sink, so we’re all set.
I’m not going to try and make sense of this gang fight. Needless to say, it was chaos, but a lot of fun. It’s a good palate cleanser between the Submission Match and the WWF Championship match.
Winner: Legion of Doom and Ahmed Johnson. The rappers attack but get Pearl River Plunged and a double Doomsday Device for their troubles.
Highlights: Legion of Doom remembering the kitchen sink. Farooq calling the Legion of Doom ‘The Road Warriors’.
Lowlight: Savio Vega putting a noose on Ahmed Johnson and trying to hang him. Someone putting the noose on Farooq.
Comments: I liked this match overall.
We get another promo for the next In Your House.
The Streak: No Disqualification WWF Championship Match – Sycho Sid vs The Undertaker
HBK is joining us on commentary and gets a great pop. Lawler isn’t happy about this and calls HBK a ‘troublemaker’. Ross tells him to leave then, and Lawler refuses. HBK keeps them waiting so he can greet all the fans wanting high-fives and hugs. HBK does his traditional pose in the ring, testing his knee and applauds the fans.
Todd Pettengill is trying to interview Sid, and as usual, Sid only makes sense if you are on a mind-altering substance. Sid does say that he’s not scared of the dark or the Undertaker.
The bell tolls and the lights go out, The Deadman Cometh. It’s still weird to see him without Paul Bearer. Taker, graciously, brings the lights back up and he is ready to go. JR notes that Taker has never lost at WrestleMania but does not elaborate further. HBK admits to having goosebumps and says that he thinks tonight is Taker’s night. Sid’s music hits and he comes out to a round of boos, but doesn’t seem to really notice or care.
Taker and Sid face off, but Bret comes out and gets in the ring. Apparently, Bret didn’t get the memo that this match is between Sid and Undertaker ONLY. The crowd is livid at the interruption. Bret trashes and threatens HBK, who ignores him. Bret turns his attention to Taker who is not happy and says Taker slammed the door on their friendship when he cost him the WWF Title. Sid just laughs as Bret whines and complains, and then he looks annoyed. Seriously, Bret, shut up. Sid’s had enough and powerbombs Bret, much to everyone’s approval. Sid then gets on the mic and tells Bret to take his whiny ass out. Sid then says that when he’s done with Taker, he’s going to bring Bret back out.
What Sid planned on doing to Bret is left unsaid because Taker jumps him from behind.
This match isn’t quite as good as Undertaker vs Diesel, but it wasn’t bad. It was extremely physical, and a little sloppy in spots, but it wasn’t so bad as to ruin everything.
Bret attacks Sid for powerbombing him (I think we all agree that Bret deserved it). Taker starts to go after Bret, but decides to let the officials take care of it. HBK corrects JR’s assertion that Bret’s snapped by saying “He’s bitter because the spotlight isn’t on him.” Lawler replies that it’s the pot calling the kettle black.
Bret STILL won’t give up and comes back for more. Sid beats him up a little, which gives Taker time to recover and hit the tombstone.
Winner: Undertaker by pinfall. Streak is 6-0 and we have a new WWF Champion. Taker celebrates with the crowd and signals that this victory was for them.
Highlights: Taker hitting the Stinger Splash. Bret not knowing when to give up, or shut up, and getting his butt kicked for it.
Comments: I liked this match, it was very physical, but very good. The inclusion of Bret was a good way to build on his heel turn.
So, was WrestleMania XIII a good start for the Attitude Era? Overall, I’d say yes. The Attitude Era was just beginning in 1997 and would grow a great deal by WrestleMania XIV, but this was a good start.
Stinkers: Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs Goldust for the simple fact that I hated the storyline and how Chyna and Marlena were used, especially Marlena. Fatal Four Way Tag Match because no one seemed to know what they were doing.
Match of the Night: Submission match.
Final Thoughts: Overall, I liked this WrestleMania. It had some rough spots, but it was fun overall.