wrestling / Columns

Csonka Reviews The Mania Main Events (13-16)

March 28, 2016 | Posted by Larry Csonka
Steve Austin WrestleMania 14 MIke Tyson

WELCOME: Welcome back to day three of my countdown to WrestleMania series. You can read the first THREE parts here (part one), here (part two) and here (part three). The times were changing again, as Hogan is long gone and the New Generation was in control. But that was also changing as the Attitude Era was about to begin, and things were about to get Stone Cold crazy. The product was evolving; Bret Hart was about to be screwed out of his title, head to WCW and overall we’d have the landscape change with Mr. McMahon in a major role on TV. The deal here is simple, I will be looking at every WrestleMania main event. I will look at them in small batches, discuss some history, how my opinions may have changed over the years, rate them, and at the end of each column update the overall rankings of Mania main event matches. For the purposes of this column, the main event is the LAST MATCH on the show. I will not get caught up in what some perceive as the main event, or co-main event bullshit; the last match on the show is the focus. I plan to make it a bit more conversational, maybe even for it to have a storyteller’s tone to it. We’ve seen these matches, we’re read blow by blow recaps and other forms of analysis; I hope to do a little something different. Sound good to you? Cool, let’s get to work.

WRESTLEMANIA 13-16

WrestleMania 13 – Champion Psycho Sid vs. The Undertaker [½*]: Shawn Michaels takes the title at Mania 12, the boyhood dream came true and it appeared that a new face of the WWF was crowned. We then get a lot of action around the title, Shawn loses it to Sid at Survivor Series and then wins it back at the Royal Rumble; unfortunately he loses his smile and has to vacate the belt. This leads to a four-way between Bret, Austin, Sid and Taker where Bret wins the title, but then loses it the next night to Sid. We’re in 1997 now, the Monday Night War is a very real thing and the industry is changing; the TV product is evolving into war, more title changes are happening (as you can see above), with both companies trying to throw a knockout punch to the competition. Nitro was in control of the ratings, the WWF would draw a crowd of over 18,000 to this event, but do an extremely poor buyrate. WrestleMania 13 saw one of the greatest WrestleMania matches of all time take place, unfortunately we’re here to talk about Undertaker vs. Sid. This… this was not good in any way. I like Undertaker, hell I really like Undertaker vs. Diesel; but this was not that match in any way, shape or form. It’s long, way too long as it goes close to 22-minutes. The match is filled with Shawn Michaels entertaining himself on commentary, and long rest holds that are only there to kill time. The match has no flow, they wander around aimlessly, they do rest holds and they don’t do anything resembling an entertaining wrestling match, and it sure the hell wasn’t a match worthy of a Mania main event. Bret gets involved multiple times, Taker hits the tombstone and finally ends my pain. And there’s the urban tale that Sid shit himself during the match to top it all off, even he knew it was the shits so he took one. This is one of the worst Mania main event of all time. My interest in the WWE product wasn’t very high at all at this time, outside of Bret and Austin, a lot of the product didn’t appeal to me and this main event added to my overall displeasure of the company…

WrestleMania 14 – Champion Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin [***½]: As we go back through the Mania main events, we see a lot of changes, big moments. Obviously the first one for what it was, Hogan vs. Andre was insanely huge, Hogan vs. Warrior was supposed to create the next big star, Bret being crowned the guy and then HBK vs. Bret solidifying the change from the company’s Hogan era. But this was another one, not just because of the beginning of the Austin era, but due to the road to get here. The path to Mania 14 initially focused on Taker, HBK and Bret coming out of Mania 13; Taker loses at Summerslam when Special Referee HBK takes him out when trying to take out Hart. This leads to HIAC between HBK and Taker, the debut of Kane, and then Bret losing the title to HBK at Survivor Series in a totally fair and balanced, normal and not at all historical match. It was perfectly average, nothing to talk about or to keep reliving. It happened and everyone but WWE has forgotten about it; this is obvious because they have redone the finish way too many times since then. But seriously, the screw job was some major league shit. The roommate and I got all of the PPVs in college, but a lot of people opted out of the live Survivor Series 1997 viewing. Everyone wanted to see that show once they heard what happened, and we cashed in and held an extra viewing party. So we’re heading towards the Austin era, but Shawn Michaels gets hurt in casket match with Taker. This would be the back injury that would cause him to take his hiatus from wrestling, a break most thought was his retirement. Austin will tell you that the build to the match was a difficult one, as Shawn was not in a good place either mentally or physically. He had an attitude about having to drop the title, despite the injury; it was an odd situation. They had to do a lot of creative build since Shawn couldn’t get very physical; so we had the DX beat downs, the Mike Tyson angle with him joining up with DX and so on. They got a ton of heat on them, which all ended up as a very good build to set up the title change. So we come to the match, which is one that can divide wrestling fans. Many feel it is completely average, Austin himself thought the match was “the drizzling shits” according to the man himself on his podcast. I actually think that against all odds (the HBK injury & his shit attitude) that they actually pull out a good match; not a classic, far from either man’s best effort, but overall I feel that the drama is there, the match feels big time and HBK’s back injury actually works into the story of the match as he struggles through the match. Seeing Austin, a guy that I started watching when he was starting in World Class, win the WWF Title was an extremely gratifying experience for me as a wrestling fan. I remember thinking that this was not only cool, but also really special in some way; but I just didn’t understand how big a thing the Austin Era would become…

WrestleMania 15 – Champion The Rock vs. Steve Austin [****]: Steve Austin walks out of WrestleMania 14 as the world champion, and not only is the Austin Era fully underway, but the Austin vs. McMahon rivalry is in full swing. Austin would lose the title at the KOTR to Kane, but regain it the next night. McMahon, who has had enough of this bullshit, finally books Kane and Taker vs. Austin. Kane and The Undertaker simultaneously pinned Austin and the title was vacated. This would lead to the Survivor Series tournament, where the Rock goes corporate and wins the title. Rock and Mankind feud over the title as the Austin vs. McMahon feud continues. During this time I am in college, and Steve Austin is the coolest motherfucker on the planet. The buzz around the guy was insane, and the shirts and hats on campus for Austin were everywhere. This was back when we always had PPV parties, and for Mania we must have had 30 people at the house. It’s almost crazy to think about as compared to how things are today, but this was a big event. This is Rock vs. Austin I at Mania, and while it’s not the best, it set the stage for what would become a Mania trilogy. Mankind wins a match to become the special referee, but is taken out and we of course have the whole feeling that Austin is about to get fucked. After a ton of brawling Rock hit a Rock Bottom out of nowhere that totally works as people thought Austin was pinned, which goes to show how over he and the move were then. Rock goes crazy and takes out Tim White and we get everyone’s favorite referee Earl Hebner. Austin gets a great near fall off of the Stunner, but only gets two by the time Earl got there. And then, just as you thought Austin was about to be screwed due to Vince taking out Earl and helping Rock beat him down, Mankind returned and gets rid of McMahon and takes his rightful place as the referee. Austin is then able to score the win and the title at WrestleMania for the second straight year. It’s a great main event in a sea of shit that was WrestleMania 15. I despise overbooking, run ins and all of that stuff but I also do admit that there are times where it does work and does come off as a great part of the story. This is one of those matches, because what could have simply been overbooking added to the presentation and made this a pretty epic match. This is one of, and yes I am giving the credit here, one of the times where Vince Russo’s story was actually wrapped up neatly with all of the stuff that happened here. This is what everything else on the card tried to be and failed at, which was also a weakness of the Russo booking. Watching a room full of people go absolutely ape shit when Austin won the match was a really cool thing to see and be a part of.

WrestleMania 16 – Champion Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. Big Show [***]: The Austin Era was still running wild, but maybe a bit too much for one man to take. Austin was still on top, with Triple H and Mankind added to the top mix, but the effects of the Owen Hart piledriver from 1997 were still lingering, and Austin would need surgery and significant time off. This is when they did the big car angle (he did it for the Rock) and we got the Big Show winning the title at Survivor Series. After a short run, Triple H took back the title and hit the road to WrestleMania. For the first time ever, we’d get a four-way elimination match between the H’s, Rock, Show and the returning Mick Foley. I remember at the time feeling under whelmed with the match, as I really wanted Triple H vs. Rock as the main event for this show. It felt cluttered in the build and cluttered as far as the match went as well. For the most part, I feel that WrestleMania is sold on two main things, the name WrestleMania (BRANDING) and the “Main Event” match. In theory the main event was set up well with HHH having to defeat the odds of the Rock, the Big Show and Foley. You had the possibility of the “fairy tale” that could have been if Foley won, which to many was a good hook. But Foley JUST had retired. It looked bad as he said he wouldn’t come back, and like a month later he’s back. Even worse is that he was out of shape and almost killed himself with the table spot. Foley himself even said he regrets coming back for this in many ways. Another thing that really bothered me at the time and now was that the focus wasn’t even really on the match. No, it was more on the McMahons, which is why everyone calls the match some variation of “the Four Corners of McMahons” match. Add Vince’s turn and things just make your head hurt. As I said, this match had a chance to be good, but when you take all of that into account, and this comes off as a lackluster WrestleMania main event. The match itself is largely fine, and even good. Once it gets down to Triple H and Rock you really expect things to pick up, but they never really do. They are essentially doing stuff to fill the time (which makes the match start to feel really long) to set up the swerve ending. The only real thing that most take away from this was the fact that a heel (that went in a heel) walked out the champion, which was something many thought was never happening.

Conclusion: And that ends out look at WrestleMania 13 through 16. The change happened, as after a rough time with the next Generation we entered the Austin Era. But there was the unexpected detour with the Austin injury, and at the time I remember so many people thinking he was done. Interest was starting to fall in terms of the people that frequented the PPV parties. The good news here was that outside of 13, the Mania main events were good and one was very good. Tomorrow we look at WrestleManias 17 through 20, and we have to deal with the fact that Stone Cold leaves as an in ring competitor all too soon…

The Rankings So Far

* WrestleMania 9: Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna [The Dirt Fucking Worst]

* WrestleMania 13: Psycho Sid vs. The Undertaker [½*]

* WrestleMania 8: Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice [*]
* WrestleMania 3: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant [*]

* WrestleMania 10: Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna []

* WrestleMania 2: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy [**]

* WrestleMania 7: Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter [**½]
* WrestleMania 4: Ted Dibiase vs. Randy Savage [**½]

* WrestleMania: Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff [**¾]
* WrestleMania 11: Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow [**¾]

* WrestleMania 16: Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. Big Show [***]

* WrestleMania 14: Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin [***½]

* WrestleMania 15: The Rock vs. Steve Austin [****]

* WrestleMania 12: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels [****¼]
* WrestleMania 6: Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior [****¼]

* WrestleMania 5: Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage [****½]