Before the news of Jeff Hardy's drug suspension broke today, I had intended to begin posting a list of the top 20 WrestleMania moments. As I said in an earlier post today, WrestleMania will go on without Hardy, so I see no reason not to do it. Beginning today and running every day through March 30, I will count down the top 20 WrestleMania moments. It is not intended to be a definitive list, but rather a compilation of the WrestleMania moments that made the biggest impressions on me.
No. 20: Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XIV, 1998)
There were several interesting story lines revolving around this match for Michaels’ WWE title. Foremost among them was the WWE’s decision to pay Mike Tyson a reported $3.5 million to be the enforcer referee for the match. That investment – which wrestling pundits predicted would not pay off – turned out to be one of the wisest decisions WWE chairman Vince McMahon ever made. Tyson’s presence spiked the pay-per-view buy rate and played a key role in WWE surging past WCW in the Monday Night War. This match – which Austin won and Tyson counted the pin – was the official coronation of “Stone Cold” as the top star in the business.
It also marked the last time that Michaels would wrestle for four years. While most people figured out that Austin was scripted to win, there was a lot of intrigue surrounding Michaels. Because of Michaels’ injured back – which would require surgery and seemingly end his career – there was some question as to whether he was physically able to work the match. There also was speculation that Michaels – who had gained a reputation for weaseling his way out of dropping titles – would refuse to do business. Michaels, however, put on a gutsy performance and put over Austin clean in the middle of the ring.