WHAT IS THIS I DON'T EVEN
(THE ONE WHERE NOBODY WANTED TO BE WWF CHAMPION)
Gather round, children, and I'll tell ye a tale.
The year was 1997. It was the year nobody wanted to be the champion of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
Shawn Michaels had been the titleholder, having won the WWF championship at WrestleMania 12. He beat Bret Hart in a grueling hour-long Iron Man match that at one point had reached approximately TWO gears. Time passed, Shawn got a splinter in his knee and he decided he didn't want the title anymore. He left to find his smile at the commentary table. Poor guy didn't realize Vince McMahon's screaming voice was often on the other end of that headset. There's no smiles to be had here, kid.
Who would carry the torch? Hart was certainly the reliable hand in such troubled times. It was long thought that a WrestleMania 12 rematch was in the cards but with Shawn out of the picture, Bret's role in the title likewise went away. He ended up wrestling Steve Austin...again.
Austin, of course, should have main evented, all things being equal. He won the Royal Rumble, after all. That's...kind of the way things go, you know. But no, he would instead get his title match IN YOUR HOUSE.
Who would carry the company's banner as they struggled to keep pace with WCW? Undertaker would be the (dead) man selected to keep the Federation's ship afloat. He had proven himself a loyal worker with a solid gimmick who had main event experience. Was he a main event draw? "Shut up, I'm Vince McMahon!" Undertaker would challenge for the belt, but who would be his opponent?
Spoiler Alert: It will be the artist formally known as Sid Justice, later to be dubbed Sid Vicious (he of the injury that would make Joe Theismann vomit) but not until after Hart won the title at In Your House: Final Four. Hart dropped the title the next night on Raw. Because Vince figured: "We've already turned this title chase into a fiasco, why stop now?"
Now don't get me wrong, Hart vs. Austin is in the top 3 greatest WrestleMania matches ever, I'm not knocking it. I'm saying there's a lot of fans who have thought that it should have main-evented and should have been for the champioship. The logic is, Hart vs. Austin was going to happen regardless, so if you're going to repeat it, why not have it be for all the marbles?
So let's consider that for a moment. Hart wins the belt at In Your House (substitute Sid for Austin in the Final Four...you know, since he was actually in the promotional poster), Austin gets his title shot by virtue of winning the Rumble and Austin takes on Bret for the belt in an I Quit match featuring Ken Shamrock as special guest ref.
You do the exact same match, right down to the ending and the double-turn and Austin walks out of WrestleMania a superstar babyface, Hart walks out the champ and a heel. The two feud through SummerSlam where Austin wins the title. Hart leaves quietly for WCW without all the screwjob business, Michaels returns from his hiatus and becomes Austin's WrestleMania 14 challenger, never injures his back against Undertaker, never takes time off, the evil Mr. McMahon character is never born since there was no screwjob, and...holy crap the WWF folds to WCW because without that feud they fail to dominate the ratings.
So on second thought, let's be thankful this WrestleMania main event sucked so hard. Things pretty much turned out all right in the end.
As for the match, Sid vs. Undertaker was exactly the kind of slow, plodding big-man match that only Vince could love. This was not the era of Undertaker stealing the show at WrestleMania. And there has never been such an era for Sid. Having to follow an instant 5-star classic like the I-Quit match didn't help, either.
This main event is best left forgotten. Is it the worst? No. It at least features two wrestlers. There's no Hogan in sight either. It wasn't offensive, just criminally inoffensive; it didn't make anyone CARE. There was no big payoff to a storyline, no mega heel or super hot babyface. It wasn't a match fans were dying to see. There was nothing that you need to have a good main event, much less a WrestleMania main event. If you're watching it on the WWE Network, just stop the video after Austin walks out.
The show's over at that point.
Sound off, Cagesiders: Like the match or loathe it? Does it deserve its place near the bottom of the pile?
Tomorrow's entry certainly does; they keep telling me I can hate it now, and that's good because I keep finding new reasons to...
- Ranking Mania main events #27: Hogan vs. Slaughter
- Ranking Mania main events #28: Hart vs. Yokozuna
- Ranking Mania main events #29: LT vs. Bam Bam