Thursday, 21 December 2017

PPV REVIEW: WWF - Wrestlemania 13

March 23, 1997, 
Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, Illinois.

To some, Wrestlemania 13 was truly the start of a whole new modern era in the World Wrestling Federation, one that was more violent, more chaotic, and more grown-up than the family-friendly cartoonery of the ill-received New Generation days. 


So, it's either completely fitting or completely ironic that I sit down to review this dawning of a new, modern era on a medium that is anything but modern.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, it's one of those rare occasions when I actually own a show on official VHS and can review it as such. Stills are from the WWE Network because, let's face it, VHS picture quality is piss poor.

Anyway, let's head down to the Illinois for Wrestlemania 13.

The Showcase of the Immortals Just Got Darker 

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - Jim ross, Vince McMahon, Jerry 'The King'  Lawler
And so the 13th Wrestlemania got underway with a typically awesome WWF video package which reminded us how this was The Big One, The Showcase of The Immortals and, sharing a tag line with Starrcade, The Grandaddy of them all.

This year however, our video told us that instead of pageantry and glamour, a dark cloud hung over Wrestlemania because The Undertaker was in the main event, and also because there would be lots of violence and possibly bloodshed.

This was the kind of compelling stuff that had me absolutely hooked as a child, and I still find these videos enthralling to this day.

This took us to our hosts for the evening who, as usual during this period, were Vince McMahon, Jerry 'The King' Lawler, and Jim Ross.

As the Wrestlemania/Linda McMahon theme played, the three bigged up tonight's show before we went straight to our opening contest.


The New Blackjacks Are Ready 

With their opponents in the ring, the recently-put-together team of Barry Windham and Justin 'Hawk' Bradshaw (now rechristened Blackjack Windham and Blackjack Bradshaw promised a win tonight because, in their words, that was The Blackjack tradition.

Number One Contenders 4-Way Tag Team Match
The Godwins (Henry O. Godwin & Phineas Godwin, w/ Hillbilly Jim) vs. Doug Furnas & Philip Lafon vs. The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher) vs. The New Blackjacks (Blackjack Bradshaw & Blackjack Windham) 

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - Todd Pettengill interviews The New Blackjacks
As per the stipulation, the winner of this one would get a shot at the titles the following night on Raw.

So there was a lot to play for as every team except The Godwins made their Wrestlemania debut and Mosh & Thrasher appeared in their first WWF pay per view ever.

The resulting match was average at best, and that's probably being kinder than most would.

Early on, The New Blackjacks got into a brawl on the outside with Doug Furnas and Philip Lafon, causing both teams to be counted out.

That left The Godwins and The Headbangers to put on a passable show together before the latter picked up the win.
Your Winners and New Number One Contenders to the WWF Tag Team Titles: The Headbangers 

No between-bout fluff on this tape, so it was straight on to our next match.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship
WWF Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia vs. The Sultan (w/ Bob Backlund  and The Iron Sheik) 

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - The Iron Sheik led The Sultan into a match with Rocky Maivia
Another Wrestlemania debut next, this time for superstar-in-the-making Rocky Maivia, who put the Intercontinental Championship on the line against his cousin, Fatu, who was in his short lived gimmick as Arabian Overlord The Sultan.

The resulting match wasn't bad, but then it wasn't very good either.

Mediocre action interspersed with random flashes of excitement was the order of the day here, all delivered whilst guest announcer The Honky Tonk Man told us how he would beat Rocky and Vince McMahon spent the entire bout telling us repeatedly that Rocky Johnson was the Intercontintal Champion's father.

Somewhat predictably, Rocky retained the title and lived to fight another day.
Your Winner and Still Intercontinental Champion: Rocky Maivia 

Afterwards, The Sultan, the Iron Sheik, and Bob Backlund all attacked Maivia, only for his Dad Rocky Johnson to come out to the rescue.

As Johnson was ganged up on by the dastardly trio, Vince McMahon tried to sell us on the idea that Rocky Maivia had no idea that Rocky Johnson was in the building.


   

Even taking kayfabe into consideration, that was clearly bullshit.

Rocky The Younger got up, and he and his Dad cleaned house to give us a happy moment.

Ken Shamrock Isn't Scared 

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - Ken Shamrock interviewed by Todd Pettengill
Backstage, our buddy Todd Pettengill who asked The World's Most Dangerous Man Ken Shamrock about his upcoming guest referee in tonight's submission match between Bret Hart and Steve Austin.

Shamrock fumbled his way through a nondescript promo in which he vowed that neither man would intimidate him, and that he would call the match right down the middle.

From there, we went to Doc Hendrix, who asked Hunter Hearst Helmsley about the nature of his relationship with Chyna.

Hunter refused to be drawn into that right now, instead focussing on his upcoming match with Goldust.

With his voice starting to sound more like the Triple H we now know and less like the Greenwich Blueblood he debuted as, Helmsley cut a compelling promo as he promised to beat The Golden One tonight.

The real loser though, according to Hunter, was Marlena, who he vowed would regret not taking him up on his offer for her to join him.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna) vs. Goldust (w/ Marlena) 

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - Doc Hendrix interviews Triple H (w/ Chyna)
A few months prior to tonight's show, Hunter Hearst Helmsley had been trying to convince Marlena to join him as his escort.

Naturally, she refused, choosing instead to stay loyal to her man, Goldust.

This kicked off a feud between Hunter and Goldie, which resulted in the latter getting involved in the finish of the former's Intercontinental Championship match against Rocky Maivia at he previous month's In Your House: Final 4.

That night, a mysterious, musclebound woman had reached over the guardrail from the crowd and attacked Marlena. The following night, she revealed herself to be HHH's new bodyguard, Chyna.

That took this feud to another level, resulting in tonight's contest.

With such a solid backstory behind it, and given the fact that both men were decent wrestlers at this stage of their career, I admit I was hoping for something special here.

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - Goldust attempts to rescue Marlena from Chyna
Instead, we got a mediocre match with a few exciting spots interspersed here and there, all played out before a mostly silent crowd.

After a match that went at least twice as long as it needed to, Chyna went to attack Marlena on the outside.

Goldust saw this, abandoned the Curtain Call attempt he was about to hit on Hunter and instead went to lift his real-life wife out of harms way.

Hunter then ran into Goldie, who accidentally knocked Marlena into the waiting arms of Chyna. The Ninth Wonder of The World then proceeded to toss the poor little woman around like a rag doll, whilst in the ring, Helmsley hit the pedigree and this one was over.
Your Winner: Hunter Hearst Helmsley 

Afterwards, Goldust cradled Marlena in his arms before taking her backstage. Clearly, this feud was far from over.

World Wrestling Federation World Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions Owen Hart & WWF European Champion The British Bulldog vs. Mankind & Vader (w/ Paul Bearer) 

Despite losing to his brother-in-law and tag team partner The British Bulldog in the final of the European Championship tournament, Owen Hart had recently declared himself the leader of their team. This was a move designed to further the tensions between the two that had been brewing for the past several months.

As the Champions began making their way to the ring, Jim Ross stopped them to ask Bulldog if he was offended by such comments.

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - Owen Hart & British Bulldog faced Vader & Mankind
Naturally, Owen butted in, insisting that the only thing that mattered was that he had two Slammy awards and Davey Boy Smith had two titles.

The Bulldog agreed, and headed to the ring to put the titles on the line against Mankind, and Mankind's former arch-rival, Vader.

Though it ran a little long for this writer's taste, the match turned out to be pretty good.

With the Champions taking on the babyface role in his rare heel vs. heel contest, everyone got equal time to shine before Mankind locked the Mandible Claw on Davey Boy and continued to hold it on, even when the two took a tumble to the outside.

A ten count later, and this one reached the best possible outcome that it could have done given the circumstances.

Keeping the titles on Owen/Bulldog seemed like the smart move given the break-up storyline they were teasing at the time, whilst going to a double count out with Mankind and Vader kicking ass all over the place also helped Paul Bearer's men to look invincible despite not winning the titles.
Double Countout 

Prior to our next match, we got an awesome video package recounting the recent history between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret 'The Hitman' Hart.

Submission Match (Special Guest Referee: Ken Shamrock)
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret 'The Hitman' Hart 

This is it. This is *the* Hart/Austin match that everybody still talks about 20 years later.

Yes, their first encounter back at Survivor Series 1996 was great, but even that was nothing compared to the all-out-war that this one turned out to be.



The video reminded us that fans had recently been turning against Hart and favouring Austin. So, when people call this next one a 'double turn' I'm not entirely sure that's exactly accurate - people were already hating on The Hitman before he did what he did next.

Completely different from anything seen on World Wrestling Federation TV before, the two engaged in a wild, out of control brawl that went up into the crowd, around ringside and everywhere in between.

It was violent, it was bloody, and it was brutal, a see-saw battle that will forever live on in immortality as one of pro wrestling's greatest works of art.

After plenty of back-and-forth action, Hart locked in the Sharpshooter and refused to let go until Austin passed out, thus winning one of the greatest matches of all time.
Your Winner: Bret Hart

WWE / WWF - Wrestlemania 13 - Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin
Not content to leave it there, Bret returned to the ring after his victory and continued to stomp on Austin, fully cementing his heel turn at long last.

Eventually, Ken Shamrock decided that he had seen enough and threw Hart across the ring like he was nothing.

A referee came out to help Austin but got a stunner for his trouble. Stone Cold then staggered backstage whilst the crowd chanted 'Austin! Austin!'

That whole thing was incredible.

Farooq is Bringing The Kitchen Sink 

Out in the back, Todd Pettengill was standing by with Farooq and The Nation of Domination. Pentengill noted the amount of plunder the Nation had in readiness for their upcoming Chicago Street Fight against Ahmed Johnson and The Legion of Doom.

'There's 2x4s, there's trash cans, there's everything but the kitchen sink!' Yelled Pettengill, starting a joke that the WWF would milk for all that it was worth.

The Toddster asked Farooq about the Chicago Street Fight, to which Farooq mumbled something or other before telling us not to be so sure that he didn't actually have the kitchen sink.

That was terrible.

Chicago Street Fight
The Nation of Domination (Farooq, Crush, and Savio Vega w/ Clarence Mason, D-Lo Brown, and PG13) vs. Ahmed Johnson and The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) 

As it turned out, it was Hawk who brought out the kitchen sink, providing the punchline to a joke that the commentary Team would milk throughout the match, the rest of the show, the following night on Raw, and even in WWF magazine.

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - LOD & Ahmed Johnson faced The Nation of Domination
Said kitchen sink was used in what turned out to be a very enjoyable brawl.

Offering a welcome antidote to the drama and intensity of our previous match, this was just good fun from start to finish.

After a good bit of back and forth, Hawk and Animal hit the Doomsday Device on Crush to pick up the win.
Your Winners: Ahmed Johnson and The Legion of Doom

Post match, Animal and Ahmed Johnson lifted JC Ice and Wolfie D onto their shoulders so that Hawk could hit a Double Doomsday Device.

Shawn Michaels Is Your Guest Commentator 

Prior to our main event, The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels made his way to the ring to reprise his role from December 1996's In Your House: It's Time and do guest colour commentary for the main event.

Sycho Sid is Ready 

WWF / WWE - Todd Pettengill interviews WWF Champion Sid
From there, we went to a backstage promo in which Todd Pettengill Interviewed the reigning and defending WWF Champion, Sycho Sid.

Sid reminded Todd that this was Wrestlemania 13, the biggest event in the world, which meant he was more than ready for The Undertaker.

Tonight, said Sid, he would not be afraid of The Dead Man, but would instead go out and beat him in tonight's main event.



World Wrestling Federation World Heavyweight Championship
WWF World Heavyweight Champion Sycho Sid vs. The Undertaker

To mark this important occasion, challenger The Undertaker wore the same gray-boots/gray-gloves attire that he wore when he beat Hulk Hogan for his first WWF Championship back at Survivor Series 1991, which was also the same attire he wore in his first Wrestlemania victory against Superfly Jimmy Snuka at Wrestlemania 7.

Long before The Streak became a thing, Jim Ross reminded us that since that win over The Superfly, Undertaker had remained undefeated at Wrestlemania.

WWE / WWF - Wrestlemania 13 - Bret Hart confronts Sid and Undertaker
Meanwhile, Sid was wrestling in his first Wrestlemania match since facing Hulk Hogan the following year at Wrestlemania 8.

Yet before both men could go forth and headline tonight's show, they first had to contend with a very angry Bret Hart.

The Hitman returned to a ring dirty with the blood he drew from Steve Austin earlier in the show and bitched out both Sid and Austin, as well as Shawn Michaels.

Taking his heel turn to another level, Hart told HBK to go home and find his smile, then told The Undertaker that the two of them were no longer friends.

As for Sid, the moment Hart pointed to the Champion, Sid began laughing his head off, which was just hilarious.

Hart basically told Sid he was crap and got a powerbomb for his troubles, much to the delight of the Chicago crowd.

As Hart was being carted off, Sid promised to kick Bret's ass after he got done with The Undertaker, but turning his back on The Dead Man proved to be a mistake. The Undertaker attacked and, finally, this one was on.

Funnily enough, the match actually turned out to be better than I remembered.

WWE / WWF - Wrestlemania 13 - The Undertaker bt. Sid for the WWF title
OK, so it wasn't great by any stretch, and there were periods when nothing happened. I mean literally nothing.

Whether it was Sid holding Undertaker in a bear hug, or 'Taker taking a nap with Sid in a poor excuse for a nerve hold, some parts of this match were dull as hell.

But other parts were actually pretty good, especially when things spilled to the outside and Vince McMahon decided to tell us that this was a no holds barred match.

Towards the end, Bret Hart ran out and battered Sid with a chair, but even that wasn't enough to stop The Master and The Ruler of The World.

Sid recovered and looked to have this one won before Hart once again returned to the ring, distracting Sid so that the challenger could hit the Tombstone Piledriver and win his second WWF Championship.
Your Winner and New WWF Champion: The Undertaker

Post match, Undertaker walked around the ring holding the title, pointing to the crowd and saying 'this is for you.'

   


When we think of Wrestlemania, we typically think of the grand spectacle that is today, with every wrestler on the card going all out to try and deliver the proverbial Match of the Night, but in 1997, that wasn't the case. Most of the card was bland and uninspired, with only the Bret vs. Austin match making for essential viewing. 

Fortunately, the two put on an absolute classic that more than made up for everything else on the show. That said, the Chicago Street Fight was actually pretty fun, so if you have the WWE Network, you might just want to catch those two matches then skip on to something else.


Speaking of skipping onto something else, in our next review, we'll be looking at WCW Spring Stampede 1997, afterwards we'll go to The Undertaker's first title defence at In Your House: Revenge of the Taker. 

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1997 events reviewed so far:

  1. WWF - Royal Rumble 1997
  2. WCW - Souled Out 1997
  3. WWF - In Your House 13: Final Four 
  4. WCW - Superbrawl VII 
  5. WCW - Uncensored 1997 

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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.