20 Years Ago Today: Mike Tyson & The Pin That Launched The Attitude Era

It was 20 years ago today that “The Baddest Man on the Planet”, Mike Tyson, made the 1-2-3 count and raised “Stone Cold” Steve Austin‘s hand in victory over WWF World Heavyweight Champion Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIV in Boston, giving Austin his first World title in what many describe as the moment that WWF’s Attitude Era was born. On March 29, 1998, Tyson shocked the world by turning on his allies in D-Generation X and helped the Texas Rattlesnake claim the most prestigious title in the WWF.


Photo: WWE Network

The story began earlier that year, when Mike Tyson was invited to be Vince McMahon‘s special guest at the Royal Rumble, where he watched from the owner’s box. From the comfort of the box, Tyson watched the event like a true wrestling fan. He watched “Stone Cold” Steve Austin win the Royal Rumble, last eliminating The Rock, and WWF Champion Shawn Michaels defend his title against The Undertaker in a Casket Match.

The next night on Monday Night Raw, it was announced that Mike Tyson would be the Special Referee for the WWF World title match at the upcoming WrestleMania XIV between Austin and champion Michaels, as only someone of Tyson’s abilities could contain the fiery hatred between the two competitors. In an epic moment, Austin gave Tyson the double bird salute at the news, prompting McMahon to make Tyson Special Enforcer instead.


Photo: WWE

In March, Mike Tyson returned to Raw to build up for WrestleMania 14, only to have WWF World Heavyweight Champion Shawn Michaels challenge him to a match that night. As the two prepared to battle in the ring, Michaels ripped Tyson’s shirt, revealing a D-X shirt under his clothes. The two embraced, laughing at the world (and Austin) that D-X had scored the coup and inducted Mike Tyson into D-X.


Photo: WWE

D-X continued to rub it in Austin’s face that the Special Enforcer was now a part of the D-X Camp. Shawn Michaels entered the ring with a swagger beyond his usual bravado, confident that the multi-time boxing champion was on his side. But following a Stone Cold Stunner late in the match, Tyson did a fast count on the pin, with Austin emerging victorious in the match. Michaels, betrayed, berated Tyson, talking a knockout punch in the process. Tyson raised Austin’s hand in victory and it was revealed the two had been in cahoots against Michaels and D-X the whole time.


Photo: WWE

It’s ironic that many naysayers to former UFC Champion Ronda Rousey being damaged goods coming into her WWE career after losing her last two fights often forget that Tyson was in a very similar situation. Tyson entered the WWE landscape at the 1998 Royal Rumble with a damaged mystique of his own. He, too, had lost his past two fights, both against Evander Holyfield, including the June 28, 1997 rematch that saw Tyson get disqualified for biting. For all intents and purposes, while still a huge mainstream star (like Rousey), Tyson had now lost his shine as a boxer. Before those two losses, Tyson was 45-1. Instead of going to the WWF full time, he returned to the ring in January of 1999, but for the rest of his career (which ended in 2005), he went 5-3, with wins over lesser boxers, but losing against Lennox Lewis in 2002 in under three minutes.

Mike Tyson would make sporadic returns to the WWE Universe after that, including a guest host gig with Monday Night Raw in 2010, where he teamed with Chris Jericho to face his old nemesis’ D-X, featuring a reunited Triple H and Shawn Michaels. He was inducted into the Celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012. That same year, Tyson would be a playable character in the WWE video game, WWE ’13.