The backstory is pretty simple. Stone Cold Steve Austin won his second straight Royal Rumble two months previously to earn a WWF Championship title shot at Wrestlemania against Shawn Michaels. At the same event, Shawn Michaels, the reigning champion, was badly injured in a casket match against the Undertaker. Doctors told him he had one match left in him before he would be forced to retire because of his back. Everyone knew it was going to be a passing of the torch, but it was going to be entertaining nonetheless.
So, without further ado...
We're in Boston, Massachusetts on March 29, 1998 (but we're not going to Hahvahd Yahd and having beah in the bahr), and your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.
Match 1: Tag Team Battle Royale, winner gets a shot at the WWF Tag Team Championship. The "new and improved" Legion of Doom, with "new and improved (really)" Sunny, are team #15 in their surprise return. This really wasn't that enthralling, but at least it was short. And Sunny's boobs rock. Midnights get dumped ----> LOD wins and earns their title shot.
I don't rate battle royales because they always suck.
Match 2: TAKA Michinoku vs. Aguila (known today as Essa Rios) for the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship. This is a total, total spotfest... but a pretty good one. I don't think there was any buildup to this at all. The crowd actually wakes up out of their crusierweight-induced trance and applaud for a few of the more memorable spots. TAKA hits the Michinoku Driver ----> pin, he retains the Light Heavyweight belt. Aguila and TAKA do the babyface embrace after the match.
Match 3: Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/Chyna v. Owen Hart for the WWF European Championship. Welcome to bizarro world. Owen Hart was a face, and HHH was a heel. Owen would soon turn heel, and HHH would turn face the next day on RAW as he formed the new DX with X-Pac and the NAO. The live DX band is here, pissing me off. I never liked the way it sounded live. This is the match where Chyna is handcuffed to Sgt. Slaughter to prevent interference. HHH works like a madman on Owen's 'injured' ankle, and Owen sells like a champ. After a while, Chyna goes "to hell with playing fair," tosses powder in Slaughter's face, and gives Owen a wicked
ballshot. Pedigree ----> pin to allow HHH to retain the WWF European title.
Match 4: Marc Mero & Sable v. TAFKA Goldust & Luna in a Mixed Tag Team match. I hate Mixed Tag Team matches. Crowd is eating up Sable. Grrrrrowl! Mero is a face again for
tonight just cuz he's with Sable. Sable actually pulls out a powerbomb on Luna... or a "Sablebomb," according to the announcing team. Goldust is basically here to sell every move done by Mero and Sable like he just got a 5000-volt electric shock. Sable gets a TKO on Luna (really!) ----> pin to allow Sable to go backstage and find crap in her duffel bag. Oh wait, that's next year. Mero and Sable sort of nod to each other after the match. It wouldn't last.
Match 5: The Rock v. Ken Shamrock for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. The IC belt going up so low on the card almost guarantees either a heel win or a Dusty Finish. My boy Rocky is still in the Nation of Domination at this point, and Shammie somewhere near the tail end of his initial face run. The actual match is only a few minutes, but surprisingly good while it lasts—probably custom made to prevent Rocky from exposing himself and Shamrock from being the stiff motherfucker he still was. Rock bleeds hardway from the mouth. Shamrock is possessed. He slaps on the ankle-lock ----> submission, but then he goes off the deep end and refuses to relinquish the hold.
A veritable bevy of WWF officials come down to ringside to restrain him, and he greets them all (along with the NOD) with belly-to-belly suplexes (such a wimpy move for such a badass, isn't it?). He finally gives up the hold as Rock is stretchered out, and then the announcement comes that the decision is reversed because Shamrock practically killed everyone presently under contract to the WWF. Shamrock, of course, snaps again, running after The Rock, knocking him off the stretcher, and beating the
living daylights out of him again. So, after all that, The Rock retains the WWF IC belt.
Match 6: The New Age Outlaws v. The Hardcore Legends in a Dumpster Match for the WWF Tag Team Championship. Kind of amusing... The Hardcore Legends are Cactus Jack, who's really Mankind, who's really Mick Foley, and Chainsaw Charlie, who's really Terry Funk, who's really old. Foley bumps like a fucking king. The fighting eventually goes backstage after a few near closes, where the teams find a second dumpster (behind a grassy knoll?). RD and Gunn end up laid out on a forklift(???), Funk lifts them into the dumpster while laughing maniacally, and Jack ----> closes the lid, making the Hardcore Legends the new WWF Tag Team Champions.
Match 7: Undertaker v. Kane in a "Who's the slower guy?" match. Pete Rose comes out, makes fun of the Boston crowd, and promptly gets tombstoned by Kane. Would have made much more sense to have UT do it (you know... the BABYFACE), but then we would have been cheated out of one of his 20 minute long entrances. AND WE CAN'T HAVE THAT! His entrance happens to be really, really good—the full treatment, with druids and torches and scary music and everything, but it eats up time like a mofo. Quite a few restholds, but the rest of the match is surprisingly good. UT pulls out his suicide dive, and he even MISSES and flies into the Spanish Announcer's Table™. Taker kicks out of a Kane tombstone, and then he gets THREE of his own to finally keep Kane down (barely) ----> pin.
Match 8: Shawn Michaels vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin with Mike Tyson as the Special Enforcer for the WWF Championship. Austin gets the biggest entrance pop I've heard since Wrestlemania III. We get brawling to start because both men are near crippled at this point. On top of that, Michaels hurts his back early on. He's visibly wincing for the rest of the match. Endgame: Ref gets bumped, Austin is down. Michaels revs up the Sweet Chin Music, but Austin ducks. Austin tries the Stunner, Michaels ducks out. A few moves later, Austin gets the Stunner and Tyson slides in and counts ----> pin. Stone Cold Steve Austin is the new WWF Champion. Austin gives Tyson an "Austin 3:16" shirt. Michaels revives, confronts Tyson, and punches him. Tyson retaliates with a WICKED right, and Michaels drops like a ton of bricks. Tyson drapes the Austin shirt over Shawn to end the Shawn Michaels era and usher in the Stone Cold era.
Nothing sucked. Not a single thing. Everything was entertaining, served its purpose, and everyone got over. Factor in that it's one of the most historically significant shows ever, and it's pretty much a must-see. One of the best Wrestlemanias ever.