It was an unseasonably warm day in the early evening of March 27th 1997 in Chicago, IL. Usually this time of the year, Chicago is prone to seeing winter extending later into the beginning weeks of what is traditionally known as “spring”. But with the weather being a little different from the norm, wrestling fans funneled into the Rosemont Horizon without minding the difference in weather.
Besides, if Chicago can adapt to this sort of a change, then Chicago will have no qualms at all to demand change. WrestleMania 13 would not just be another marquee pay per view, but it would be the night when Chicago fans said enough was enough.
This would be the first time that WrestleMania would be in Chicago since 1986, and with a somewhat moderate card, fans still showed appreciation for the solid wrestling that was being put on. It has been said that the WWF Tag Team Championship match between championship team of Owen Hart and British Bulldog vs. Vader and Mankind is what revved the engine up of the live crowd.
Having four heels in the ring simultaneously fighting over championship gold can and will surface a level of aggression from the combatants. The hard hitting action in the ring was instantly mirrored by the response of the crowd. Leaving a certain degree of aggression to let the audience stew in may have been dangerous, because it was the next match that would be the match to ignite the dynamite–a no holds barred submission grudge match between Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Austin would be the first to enter the ring in front of the rabid Chicago audience. With Austin’s in your face, demonstrative, rattlesnake like attitude along with his intense theme music, the Chicago audience turned from normal fans to asylum inmates. It was no wonder and no question when Bret Hart came through the curtains, the roaring jeers poured from the mouths of all 18,000 fans in attendance.
The caliber of wrestling fans was changing and so was the climate of pro wrestling itself. Baby-faced goody too-shoe wrestlers were no longer the need and desire. The crowd demanded elements that they could relate to: violence, aggression, anti-establishment and rebellion. No one could fit that criteria perfect better than Austin.
The World Wrestling Federation had no other choice but to listen to the Chicago fans as this was the direction that wrestling was going. WCW had already implemented that unpredictable adult level of entertainment into their programming. ECW had an established mature brand that was far beyond the taste of children and made it known that their product was exclusively for the 18 and over audience. It was now the turn of the WWF to make their move into the next era of wrestling, and we have Chicago to thank.
Maurice D. Proffit is a Writer for Rant Sports