One of the weirder WrestleMania shows of all time is No. 13 from March 29, 1997 at the Rosemont Horizon in Suburban Chicago. The show is weird in the fact that it arguably features the greatest match in not only WrestleMania history, but in the history of the company, and is surrounded by a mostly dud of a card. Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin in the Submission Match was not only a great match, but it would go on to kickstart the Attitude Era and serve as the launching pad for the company’s biggest and most important star in Stone Cold Steve Austin.
It's a shame this was the least bought WrestleMania of all time, but seriously, I get it.
Undertaker’s first main event at a WrestleMania is a lackluster no disqualification match with Sycho Sid for the WWF Championship. Obviously, he won the championship but it came in odd fashion in a dud of a match with another big man in Sid. Outside of that, the only other true highlights come in the form of the Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross and Vince McMahon commentary team and some of the zaniness of the Goldust/HHH and Nation of Domination vs. LOD w/ Ahmed Chicago Street Fight. This show is truly the last in a string of WrestleManias that I wasn’t so pumped to watch from start to finish, but, it does deserve credit for how it shaped the industry and kickstarted the Attitude Era. In the aftermath, Vince McMahon would move away from the announce booth, perform the Montreal Screwjob, start a feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin and transform into the Mr. McMahon on-screen presence.
Favorite moments and matches
Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Submission Match (with Ken Shamrock tearing through a skin-tight referee shirt), is an absolute masterpiece with the orgasmic combination of violent action, technical wrestling, more brawling, perfect psychology, masterful selling and the gripping story being told. It’s a story of the former world champion being pushed to the side and forgotten by the fans going up against the crap talking, badass new guy who is so organically over with the fans. Not to mention the fact that Austin had feuded with Bret’s younger brother Owen before, and that his parents, Stu and Helen Hart and family, were sitting in the first row for the violent WrestleMania 13 match.
Violent, that’s exactly what this match was and that’s not exactly what we were used to associating with Bret Hart at the time in 1997. Hart and Austin start the match fighting through the crowd with Stone Cold throwing pop all over Hart while hitting him with anything he could grab. From there it shifts to the ring where the two go it before venturing to the outside and featuring some of the more innovative offense seen at that time. From Stone Cold’s disgusting pools of blood from blading after a spot where he flew into the announce tables and guardrails to Bret’s ingenious ringpost Figure 4 Leglock to the perfectly placed bell shot to Austin’s head to set up the critical Sharpshooter.
The match ends when Ken Shamrock calls for the bell after Stone Cold failed to respond while creating a deep pool of blood on the mat. He refused to give up and Bret refused to stop, and that’s why this feud was so great. I just can’t’ believe how perfect this feud and match truly were, a job well done that deserves infinite pats on the back.
If you have not seen this match, you need to go out of your way to see this match. This is the match that wrestling freaks like myself require themselves to watch once each year. It launched the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin, it created a new hated version of Bret that set up the In Your House Canadian Stampede and Montreal Screwjob growth and it was one of the rare Dave Meltzer awarded 5-star matches for the WWF/WWE.
Outside of the submission match, The Rock’s WrestleMania debut is cool for a moment, JR/Vince and King announce team has a fun passing of the torch feel to it, Shawn Michaels being an asshole on the phones backstage is so Shawn Michaels 1997 and I guess the main event also set up the SummerSlam Undertaker/Bret Hart classic which then set up the Undertaker/Shawn Michaels Hell in a Cell match which then helped introduce Kane which then … do you get my point? This show absolutely sucked, but it was so damn important in transitioning into the best years in company history.
Outside of that HHH/Goldust was fun and featured Chyna wrecking Marlena like a rag doll setting up the HHH win. Undertaker and Sid wasn’t god awful, it just wasn’t very fun.
Least favorite moments and matches
Some of the endings of these matches just absolutely sucked, and some of the dumb decisions like tying two black men to nooses in the middle of the ring also absolutely sucked. I can't believe we did multiple spots with nooses and black men in the middle of the ring just 20 years and some change ago. Insane. Disgusting.
What the hell were they thinking? It was 1997. This atrocious moment was made a reality when the Nation of Domination took on the Legion of Doom w/ Ahmed Johnson in the Chicago Street Fight. The Nation first tied a noose around the neck of Ahmed Johnson (a black man), and then when that failed or whatever, LOD and Ahmed put a noose around a member of the Nation’s throat. Unbelievable. It was a terrible match that was nothing but punches and throwing and the worst piledriver in the history of piledrivers when Animal went to spike Farooq through the announce table.
The opening match was a confusing dud, Rocky Maivia and The Sultan was a terrible matchup that produced zero memorable moments, Owen and Bulldog vs Vader and Mankind was ruined by a countout that was never fully counted, and racist shit and bad piledrivers highlighted the LOD/Nation match.
Does it hold up?
Watch this show for the Submission Match between Bret Hart and Stone Cold. That’s it. Rock’s debut is a bore, the show is an important transitional show but that’s only fun for wrestling nerds like me that lived it. Tying a noose around a black man’s neck in the middle of the ring automatically disqualifies this show’s “Does it hold up?” ability.
See below for a roundup of those already up: