Wrestlemania Challenge: Wrestlemania XIV

Hitting the easy button here as I’ve done both of these Austin-Michaels’ matches before.

Pretty sure this is the last of Austin in this project for me. Those three Wrestlemanias were a great way to show the ascension of the character and how his working abilities changed due to injury.

Debating between HHH-Kane and Shane McMahon-X Pac for Wrestlemania XV. And then I’m going to do a special three-way dance for Wrestlemania 2000 and Wrestlemania X-7

Wrestlemania Challenge: Wrestlemania XIV: DX Rated (or DX Raided?)
From the FleetCenter in Boston, Massachusetts on March 29, 1998
Hosted by Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler

WWF Championship: Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels

This is the coronation of a year-long slow build that Steve Austin had to be credited for just surviving to get here with bad knees and a neck that was almost broken at Summerslam (in a match that shouldn’t have happened!). Shawn Michaels had been inactive since the Royal Rumble with an awful back injury that was thought to be career-ending. Mike Tyson is your special enforcer.

Austin gets the mega-pop, for about 18 months there was nothing like hearing the sound of glass breaking, it was electric. The DX band gives Shawn a live entrance – something that would become the norm for anything Triple H was involved in.

Shawn tries to taunt Austin and Stone Cold replies with the twin bird salute. Shawn pays a little “hit or miss” game with Austin so Austin chases him outside and back in the ring and absolutely rocks him with a double axe. Austin sends HBK to both corners and the obligatory ass shot makes its appearance early in the match. Austin back drops HBK over the top and onto Triple H so Michaels didn’t have to take the bump without protection. HHH gets a cheap shot and sends Austin to the ring barricade earning himself and Chyna an early exit. So it’s 1-on-1 again. Michaels jumps from the ring to the floor with a double axe and sends him up the ramp. Austin stumbles into HHH and beats him up so Michaels catches him turning around with a clothesline. Back in the band area and Shawn cues up a cymbal and uses it as a weapon. We head back to the ring and Austin catches Michaels coming off the top. Austin whips Michaels up and over the corner. That’s a crazy bump. Inverted atomic drop by Austin and he goes to the armbar. HBK goes to the eyes but Austin with a stun gun for two. Austin almost gets the Stunner but HBK doesn’t avoid a shot that sends him into the announce table. Outside the ring Austin sends Michaels to the steps. A couple of elbows and we’re back in the ring. F-U elbow drop gets two. A second pin gets the same and its time to rest and check on Shawn’s condition. He appears to be ok, so we get back to a vertical base. Facebuster by HBK turns the tide and Shawn decides to attack the leg. He goes for a wraparound but Austin is too strong and sends Michaels into the post instead.

Austin sends Michaels into the railing again but HBK ducks a charge and sends Austin over the railing. Michaels takes the opportunity to ring Austin’s bell and we get back in the ring. Double axe and HBK does some ground and pound. Now he’s moving very gingerly, stretching his back after every move. Super stomp and Michaels sends Austin into the buckle. Snapmare but Michaels and some more ground and pound. An abdominal stomp and Michaels tells the fans they are number one. Austin comes back with a spear, some ground and pound and he sends Michaels over the top. HBK grabs Austin’s leg, however, and now he gets the wraparound the post, twice, make that three times. Back in the ring Shawn slams the knee to the canvas. Shawn lays in some badmouth on Jim Ross and goes back to the knee. Michaels goes for the figure four but Austin kicks him into the post and gets a rollup for two. HBK goes right back to the leg, doing all the Flair favorites, including the springboard sit down splash on the leg. Austin tries to take a powder but Michaels gives Austin a baseball slide into the announce table. Tyson helps Austin in the ring, Austin takes exception to that and while he does Shawn clips him. Now its time for the figure four and Michaels uses the ropes for leverage. After a couple minutes of cheating Austin turns the hold over and both guys are worse for wear right now. Austin back up with punches and he slingshots HBK into the post and a rollup for two. Michaels comes back with the sleeper. Austin backs Michaels into the corner to break the hold and takes the referee for the ride.

Michaels is sent into the buckle and the corner twice. Austin stomps a mudhole in HBK and walks it dry. Big back body drop is sure to put Michaels out for a couple years but HBK rallies back with the flying forearm. Michaels with the kip up? Are you kidding me man? He goes to the top and hits the big elbow. He cues up the band but sweet chin music hits air, a second attempt is blocked and Austin hits the Stunner. Mike Tyson counts three and we’ve got a brand new champion, a new era and I predict that this will help the WWF win the wrestling war!

(Austin def. Michaels, pinfall, ****1/4, to hell with their injuries and limitations, this is an AWESOME match. I mean it would be sad if Shawn didn’t make the comeback, but as it is, it’s just a very good effort by all involved under ridiculous circumstances.)

The Challenger

King of the Ring 1997
From the Providence Civic Center in Providence, Rhode Island
Hosted by Vince McMahon and Jim Ross

Shawn Michaels vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

Michaels and Austin were those “wacky tag champions that didn’t get along” and both had issues with the Hart Foundation.

We start with a lockup and Austin rocks HBK with a shoulderblock and a double bird. Now, here’s where communication breaks down. Shawn leaves the ring as one of the Special Olympians got a little overzealous and crossed the guard rail. Austin, I’m assuming didn’t know this, and pounds on Michaels while he’s helping the kid. So they quickly get back in the ring where Michaels gets an armdrag and tells Austin he’s number one before going back outside the ring and helping the kid. Strange sequence. So basically we’re at a restart.

Austin with an armbar and Michaels with a reversal and a headlock takedown. We do a rope sequence and Austin catches Shawn with an elbow and does the Shawn pose. Four more elbow drops from Austin but Michaels rolls over a chinlock and gets his own, interesting reversal there. Another rope sequence and Austin counters a Thesz press with an inverted atomic drop and clothesline Michaels over the top. Austin follows Shawn to the floor and rams his head in the ring mat. Austin tries to suplex Michaels back in the ring but Michaels flips over and gets a rollup for two. Back to their feet and a drop toe hold allows Michaels to get an armlock until Austin reaches the ropes and escapes. Austin back in the ring and he wants a test of strength. Michaels relents Austin calls him a chicken, Michaels gives in and Austin naturally kicks him the minute they lock up (serves him right). Michaels fights back to his feet and quickens the pace. Back body drop gets two, Shawn misses an elbow, Austin misses an elbow and we’re back to square one with the armbar. These guys have no real idea where this match is headed yet. Austin fights back to his feet and another rope sequence leads to Austin’s Thesz press and he pounds on Michaels, they then do a multi-reversal pinning sequence with each guy getting multiple two counts. Eventually Austin uses leverage to send Michaels over the top. The story of the match is both guys are trying to keep it scientific to protect their team, but they are prone to letting their competitive nature get the best of them.

Austin catches Michaels coming up with a hangman and sends him back out into the railing. Austin removes the protective matting. He slams Michaels into the guard railing again. Austin sends Michaels into the stairs and gives him a face buster on the exposed concrete to go full heel. Back in the ring and Michaels misses a high cross body and goes back to the floor again. Austin sends him in the ring and Michaels gets the small package for two. Austin back with a clothesline and a near fall. Snapmare and a middle rope elbow hits for Austin and gets him another two count. Chinlock time and Austin inches his way to the ropes for…some more dirty heel tactics (he’s so desperately trying to get the crowd to boo him and it ain’t happening). Finally the ref catches him and it gives Shawn enough time to recover and we have a slugfest. Shoulder by Shawn and this time he uses leverage to send Austin over the top rope. Baseball slide by HBK sends Austin to the railing to a truly mixed response. Back in the ring and Shawn hits the flying forearm. Back body drop and an inverted atomic drop by HBK. Michaels misses the blind charge, however, and goes shoulder first into the post. Austin stomps a mudhole in Shawn but fails to walk it dry. High cross body by Shawn gets rolled over by Austin for two. Big clothesline by Austin gets two. Michaels reverses an irish whip and sends Austin into the official. Michaels goes for sweet chin music and it gets blocked. Stone Cold stunner by Austin but there’s no official. Austin revives the official and stuns him as well. Michaels hits sweet chin music this time. New official and he opts to help the first official rather than make a count. So Michaels gives THAT ref sweet chin music and pushes him out the ring to let the original ref make the count. He gets two. Finally Earl Hebner comes in the ring and disqualifies both men. Austin tries for a cheap shot but Michaels catches him and both men need to be separated.

(Shawn Michaels & Steve Austin, no contest, ***1/2, you knew both men were being protected so heavily they might as well have been in the U.S. Federal WITSEC program but it got real good for a minute. This card was not very from a wrestling standpoint outside of this match. But it did start the seeds of DX as Triple H won the KotR and it did kick start Mick Foley’s run so it was very historic in its importance.)

The Decision

Match: Oddly enough the Wrestlemania match is better despite both men being fairly healthy for the King of the Ring match. Not something you’d expect. EDGE: Wrestlemania.

Storylines: The Wrestlemania storyline began when Austin won the 1998 Royal Rumble. Unfortunately for Austin, Michaels wasn’t active for three months due to injury, leaving HHH and Chyna to do much of the physical stuff. Adding Mike Tyson proved to be a smart move and when Tyson joined DX it gave a pretty rudimentary program a little spark even though there was very little doubt in the outcome. The KotR match was sort of put together out of both guys dislike for the Hart Foundation and their egos in deciding who was the leader of their short lived tag team. It made sense at the time, I promise you. Neither was very long, drawn out deals. Edge: Wrestlemania

Intangibles: The Wrestlemania match was the culmination of an 18-month climb to the top for Austin. He was now the man, officially. Michaels and Hart got into more shenanigans shortly after the KotR match and he dipped out again until around Summerslam. Huge Edge: Wrestlemania.

Verdict: Wrestlemania takes this one by a clean sweep.