WrestleMania 13: The One with the Double Turn. An unusually dark opening video package that initially focuses on previous event but pivots into focusing on the anger and hatred on show in some of the matches tonight. We’re back in the Rosemont Horizon for the first time since the middle portion of WrestleMania 2. The commentary is from Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross. We also get a glimpse of the Spanish and French language commentators before we kick off.

    WrestleMania 13: The Godwinns (Henry & Phineas) vs The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher) vs The New Blackjacks (Blackjack Bradshaw & Blackjack Windham) vs Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon – Elimination Number One Contendership match

    What a collision of gimmicks. There’s the cartoony New Generation Era feel of the Godwinns & the New Blackjacks, the future Attitude era mainstays the Headbangers, and the straitlaced Furnas & LaFon.

    The New Blackjacks get the biggest introduction, with a video of the original Blackjacks and some promo time. Interesting rules here, anyone can tag in anyone from any team but if one man is eliminated then the whole team is out. There are so many moving pieces in play that the action is fairly entertaining, it’s a mixture of styles across all 8 men. The Headbangers end up both being the legal men and have to wrestle one another, this leads to a lot of discussion from commentary about the various permutations involved.

    After some good work between The Blackjacks and Furnas & LaFon both teams get disqualified on the outside after a brawl. That leaves us with the Headbangers and the Godwinns. They work quite well together, even as commentary are distracted by talking about the Godwinns love of farm animals. After a decent mini match between the two teams the Headbangers get the win, one that is presented as an upset, and will go on to face the tag team champions the following night on Raw.

    A quick advert for the next ‘In Your House’ event before the Honky Tonk Man appears, he’s joining commentary for the upcoming match. Ross mentions that Lawler and Honky Tonk are cousins.

    WrestleMania 13: Rocky Maivia vs The Sultan
    WWF Intercontinental Championship

    Two men whose careers would become even more closely intertwined in future years when they changed into a more recognisable form. Rocky Maivia is still in his primordial, cheery form, and the Sultan would become Rikishi. The Sultan’s entrance feels big, he has two former world champions in his corner in the Iron Sheik and Bob Backlund.

    The belief that the company already had in the future biggest movie star in the world is clear as Rocky Maivia gets his heritage and status as a third generation talent underlined. An early run from Rocky shows that his crowd control skills are present, even this early in his career. A mistake on the outside lets the Sultan take over, taking the chance to put on the ‘dreaded’ trapezius hold. Thankfully not for very long. It’s still all The Sultan as the Honky Tonk Man and Lawler take great pleasure in mocking Rocky for his rookie status.

    Sultan may not have used the trapezius hold for long but he does sinch in a fairly long hold not long after before Rocky starts to come back. Rocky starts to use some of his father’s signature moves and shows his own signature flamboyance. Maivia dives from the top rope but The Iron Sheik distracts the referee so he can’t capitalise. Sultan hits a thrust kick and a piledriver but Rocky still kicks out, a quick roll up and Rocky wins to retain.

    A post-match ringside interview with Maivia and Jim Ross is broken up by the Sultan who throws Maivia back into the ring. Iron Sheik locks in the Camel Clutch on Maivia before being fought off by the future Rock’s dad Rocky Johnson. Father and son get a sweet moment to celebrate together in the ring.

    We get a backstage chat between Todd Pettengill and Ken Shamrock, who is here as guest referee for the submission match later in the night. Some interesting brief discussions about submissions. We then go to Dok Hendrix, who’s camping it up with Hunter Hearst Helmsley and a mute Chyna.

    WrestleMania 13: Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs Goldust

    Chyna had been feuding with Goldust since the start of the year, aided by the debut of Chyna, who bullied Goldust’s valet Marlena multiple times in the build.

    It’s Goldust on top early on, a strong run for him as he shows that beyond the gimmick he was always a solid talent in the ring. Helmsley takes a hell of a beating and even gets tied up in the ropes, hanging to the outside, a rare spot. Goldust eventually makes a misstep and allows Helmsley to take over for a spell. Helmsley unzipping and pulling down the jumpsuit of Goldust to further the punishment. Lawler on commentary is obsessed with talking about the looks of Chyna, to a periodically distracting extent, switching between mocking her or sounding interested in her.
    It gets a little more even as they continue even as it starts to get a little long in the tooth. Goldust shows a lot of fight to keep coming back but he doesn’t get much offense in for a long stretch, and when he finally does it is snuffed out quickly. There are some glimmers of more interesting work but it’s one of those matches that feels longer than it actually is, a lot of moments where both men are down or just aren’t really doing much that’s really interesting.

    Goldust gets some of his signature offense in as the match finally starts to pick up again. Chyna moves for the first time all match and after a miscommunication between Goldust and Marlena, Chyna ends up with Marlena locked in a bear hug. Helmsley hits the ‘Pedigree’ on Goldust for the win. A good final sequence that lifts a match that sagged a lot in the middle. A prescient nod to future Triple H matches that would last too long perhaps.

    WrestleMania 13: Owen Hart & The British Bulldog vs Mankind & Vader
    WWF Tag Team Championship

    Paul Bearer’s pair of scary men get a shot at the tag team champions. Vader was fairly well established in the company by this time and this was the first Mania for Mankind, who went on to be one of the top stars of the coming boom period. There’s seemingly some tension between Hart and Bulldog over which one is the team leader and who is smarter.

    Vader starts off the match by bullying Owen Hart physically until Bulldog eventually comes in and we get some work between all four men in the ring at the same time. Good work between the various combinations involved. The site of Bulldog giving a suplex to the massive Vader will always look incredible. They brawl on to the outside where both Vader and Mankind use Paul Bearer’s urn as a weapon on Bulldog, but they can’t put him away just yet.

    There’s a lot of discussion on commentary about how proud the UK fans must be of the British Bulldog. That a lot of this happens as he is getting battered by Mankind & Vader makes an unintentionally funny combination. Owen Hart manages to come and hits a couple of top rope moves to force a brief opening. A referee distraction allows Mankind &Vader to start picking on Hart instead. Lawler for the first time realises that Hart’s parents are in the front row, giving him a chance to get his usual jokes in at their expense.

    The match definitely continues for a while longer than it feels like it naturally should, both Bulldog and Hart get isolated for long periods and it takes a while before they get their comebacks. Those comebacks though are interesting. Mankind gets the ‘mandible claw’ locked in on Bulldog but due to a Vader miscommunication, the two men fall to the outside. Mankind and Bulldog are counted out and the match ends in a draw. It’s a bit of a shame that the match finished in such a way but Mankind clinging on to the hold for a long time after the decision at least sold his viciousness. A decent enough match that could have done with a bit of editing… if it was taped…

    WrestleMania 13: Bret Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin
    No Disqualification Submission Match

    It’s that match. The one that a lot of people mark as the single specific moment that the Attitude Era began. Hart has been increasingly showing a darker edge, Austin getting more popular with the crowd with his antihero ways. A very hyped up hype package leads into a series of entrances. First Ken Shamrock as the referee, then Austin walking through the shattering glass, then a pissed off looking Hart. It’s the build to this match that led to the first time a wrestler got physical with Vince McMahon, it being Hart rather than the more famous proponent of that beatdown in later years.

    No slow start, straight at one another with big strikes and brawling. It doesn’t scan as a classic technical submission contest, more as if it’s an ‘I Quit’ contest, the two men just trying to beat the other into submission. The fight into the crowd feels like a precursor to the many more main event brawls we’d see in the recent future. The camera angles aren’t particularly clear but that kind of adds an edge to proceedings. It’s compelling stuff, a long run with no real slow down even as they get back to the ring.

    Once they leave the crowd, Hart manages to take over a little bit with his technical limb focused work, aiming primarily for the knee of Austin. We get the brilliant visual of Hart locking in the ‘figure four’ leglock around the ring post. This still isn’t enough to put Austin away and Hart goes for a chair. He wraps it around the ankle of Austin but takes too long and Austin knocks Hart from the top rope. It’s Harts turn to take a battering as his daughter at ringside covers her eyes. Austin shows he has some technical chops of his own with a series of submission holds. Even though this is billed as a no disqualification match, a rope break is still enough to end a submission, an interesting wrinkle in the rules.

    Austin goes for Hart’s ‘sharpshooter’ on Hart himself, but takes a bit too long and can’t lock it in. The two men fight over the commentary team area and the timekeepers table as Austin starts to bleed buckets. It’s all about Hart showing off his viciousness after this, more chair shots and targeting of the knee. Austin hits a low blow to turn things around, the ring mat already covered in bloodstains. Austin manages to have enough energy to hit a superplex from the top rope before heading to the outside to retrieve a power cable, using it to choke Hart out.

    Hart fights out by using the ring bell as a weapon. Finally, after a few attempts through the match, Hart locks in the ‘sharpshooter’. We get the iconic visual of Austin screaming with blood pouring from his face as he starts to fade. A brief fight back from Austin but he can’t answer referee Shamrock and passes out. Shamrock calls the match for Hart.

    A deserved all time classic. Hart solidifies what has become an iconic double turn by furthering his assault on Austin before being fought off by Shamrock. Hart only had another 6 months left in the WWF but in that time he would form the new Hart Foundation, become a hero in Canada and a villain in the USA and regain the World Title. A fittingly brilliant match from two icons of the decade.

    WrestleMania 13: Ahmed Johnson & The Legion of Doom (Animal & Hawk) vs The Nation of Domination (Faarooq, Crush & Savio Vega) – Chicago Street Fight

    A match that had been coming since the previous July, Faarooq having been a thorn in the side of Ahmed Johnson that whole time. He had formed the initial version of the Nation of Domination and is joined by early members Crush and Savio Vega here.

    Todd Pettengill gets a brief word with the Nation before the match, were Faarooq refers to the Legion of Doom as the Road Warriors. The Nation come to ringside with a sizeable entourage, who feature the only man other than Faarooq to stick around into their more famous incarnation, D’Lo Brown.
    It’s a big daft brawl. the mat is still stained with Steve Austin’s blood as the weapons start to fly very early. There are lots of your typical ‘hardcore’ weapons, as well as some that are a bit rarer. Somewhere there is a literal kitchen sink. At no point is it smooth, in facts its pretty sloppy for the most part, but it’s silly fun in general. A fire extinguisher gets fired and someone gets thrown into a road sign. With all the Nation of Domination members at ringside this is less a 3-on-3 match than a 7-on-3 handicap.

    Johnson and Faarooq knock the French announce table over, and the fire extinguisher gets used right as some unfortunate stagehands are trying to reassemble it. Ahmed Johnson has a noose put around his neck in a particularly nasty visual, D’Lo Brown pulling on the rope. The big daft brawl keeps going, like a lot of hardcore brawls there are moments of unintentional comedy with some of the more ridiculous weapons. This is always undercut here by the particular viciousness of the use of the noose.
    The Legion of Doom, in amongst the chaos, hit their Doomsday Device to win the match before the brawl keeps going anyway. Two of the Nation’s stooges (JC Ice & Wolfie D) take a double ‘Doomsday Device to cap the segment off. It’s a big dumb street fight, but honestly, it’s pretty entertaining

    WrestleMania 13: The Undertaker vs Sycho Sid
    No Disqualification for the WWF Championship

    The man called Sid of many names only appeared at two WrestleManias. Both times he was in the main event. Essentially this match came out of Shawn Michaels ‘losing his smile’ and stepping away from a rematch with Bret Hart from the previous years show. This meant that the title bounced from Hart onto Sid in the build to this match. Michaels joins the commentary team, getting a full entrance, getting in the ring, and getting some pyro. Lawler is pretty funny in his incredulity at the pomp being afforded Michaels.

    Sid gets a pre match promo. Typically for him, it’s louder than it needs to be and features him tripping over his words on occasion. It’s still unusual at this point to see the Undertaker coming out without Paul Bearer, this being the first they worked separately. Knowing where they story will go over the rest of their careers, it’s an interesting insight to hear Michaels talk about the Undertaker on commentary.
    The first few moments of the match see a cool visual with the two giant men starting each other down. The bell has rung by this point but Bret Hart comes down to the ring to cut a promo on both men, and Shawn Michaels. Sid hits him with a powerbomb to send him packing but gets cocky on the microphone and Undertaker attacks. The bell rings again. There’s some standard big man wrestling before Sid goes for the dullest move around, the bear hug, probably ten years past the point that hold was remotely interesting. It’s a long cuddle. Undertaker livens things up by wiping out the French announce team and getting thrown into the crowd barricade twice in quick succession. It’s only at this point that the No Disqualification stipulation actually gets mentioned.

    Sid dominates for the most part and it doesn’t get especially interesting. It’s very slow and one sided.  They finally mix things up a little with the Undertaker taking over for a quick spell but it’s back to Sid. Layout wise this feels very similar to the early Mania main events with Hulk Hogan taking a protracted beating at the hands of his opponent and only briefly responding. The curse of the dull holds has clearly caught the Undertaker, as he goes for a trapezius hold. It’s all just dull stuff.
    Every time it looks like the Undertaker might be coming back he gets snuffed out, for the buik of the match it’s all Sid. Even when Undertaker manages to go for the ‘Tombstone Piledriver’, Sid reverses it and hits one of his own. The match goes to the floor and Bret Hart runs back down to change the momentum by hitting Sid with a chair. It doesn’t take Sid down for long as he goes to hit a powerbomb on the Undertaker. Hart comes down for a third time and distracts Sid. This allows Undertaker to finally hit the piledriver and pin to win the match. The Undertaker is World Champion again.

    A very dull match that went on far too long and was too one sided to be interesting. There is at very least a decent spectacle as Undertaker celebrates with the title, bathed in purple light.

    Overall – WrestleMania 13:

    A show that is mostly remembered for the submission match double turn and the birth of Steve Austin as a superstar. That match is a certified classic and far an away the best match of the night. In general though the undercard is pretty solid, the main event is the worst match on the night. A couple of matches (Helmsley vs Goldust in particular) do go a little bit long but there aren’t any that are completely pointless.

    Commentary is elevated by having Jim Ross as part of the team but Vince McMahon is still a distraction with his breathless style, the following year would see the Ross/Lawler pairing get a full airing.

    This show doesn’t come up very high on a lot of lists of Mania’s but it’s a solid show. It does feel a bit more like a B-Show rather than the real biggest show of the year. The WWF were still clearing working out their new direction at this point as the style moved in an edgier direction. They were also struggling at this point with being the second biggest company in North America behind WCW but this event points the direction to a way back to the top.