On March 23, 1997 the company now known as WWE held their annual WrestleMania event. WrestleMania 13 was a monumental night highlighted by The Undertaker vs Psyco Sid and Bret Hart vs Steve Austin. But a little talked about match on the card has stood out for this writer upon recent viewing.
Rocky Maivia vs The Sulton still retains its excellence through all these years and only grows in significance as the sands of time fall through the hourglass. Both of these competitors would later be known by other names and become even more famous in their new personas. The Rock and Rikishi not only found outstanding popularity but have also laid down amazing legacies.
The Rock is now a global superstar not only for the WWE Universe but also Hollywood and beyond. He’s taking over the world. Forget Bray Wyatt, because The Rock actually has the whole world in his hands. And, it all started with The Sultan, because it was his first WrestleMania.
It was also the last WrestleMania for another unforgettable character: kayfabe Vince McMahon. Until Survivor Series 1997 when Bret screwed Bret, Vince McMahon was just a commentator and play-by-play announcer. Few actually knew he owned the damn company. But in reality, the man behind the curtain calling the shots was right in front of us the entire time. Vince McMahon was known for saying things like “maneuver” when he didn’t know what a move was called and he got very excited and liked to shout. WrestleMania 13 was his final Mania because that character would morph into Mr. McMahon in November that year.
Rocky Maivia was the first third generation wrestler getting a huge push from the company at the time. He was Intercontinental Champion, and he successfully defended his title at Mania 13. He won the match with a roll-up pin. It wasn’t a Rock Bottom or a People’s Elbow. He won with a roll-up pin because his most famous moves hadn’t been created yet. He was a babyface getting pushed to the moon, and the fans rejected him.
Rocky was jumped from behind by The Sultan after the match to get some sympathy on him. Even after he successfully retaliated and ran off the heels with help from his famous father Rocky Johnson, the fans only half-cared. But, when Rocky Maivia became The Rock and went heel the fans loved him.
By WrestleMania 14, he was a member of the Nation Of Domination and well on his way to becoming The Rock we know him as today. Now we know him as Duwayne Johnson and he’s a household name throughout the world. The Sultan didn’t become Rikishi until 1999, but he wasn’t featured on WrestleMania 14’s card either. However once he became a member of Too Cool, he had plenty of WrestleMania moments.
Both competitors are also from the same family, even though one was being portrayed to be Middle Eastern. These two representatives from the Anoa’i Family brought it to WrestleMania 13. It was a family reunion of sorts, and we were lucky to have it. Rikishi’s twin sons, The Usos are also still representing their family’s legacy as the current Tag Team Champions on SmackDown.
It’s great to have the WWE Network so fans have the ability to revisit this kind of history with the click of a button and a monthly subscription. As time moves on, but great moments only become more important. Distance helps us gain perspective and analyze things in a different light.
This was The Rock and Mr. McMahon’s final WrestleMania in their previous incarnations and both became amazing heels. When you’re able to freely revisit the WWE library, these hidden gems can be directly compared to events going on in today’s day and age with another member of the Anoa’i Family, Roman Reigns. It could be possible that one day if given the same treatment, Roman Reigns might be simply known as Joe Anoa’i just like The Rock is just called Duwayne Johnson today.