Mike Tyson Grappling With His Demons

Boston Globe – March 30, 1998
By Ron Borges

Mike Tyson was introduced last night as “the baddest man on the planet” when he made his entrance into WrestleMania XIV. That might be true, if you don’t include Atlanta.

Atlanta is where Evander Holyfield calls home. It’s also where he probably was laughing uproariously last night as Tyson entered the ring at the FleetCenter around 9:15 in a moment even more inglorious than the last time Tyson was in a ring … which was the night he bit Holyfield’s ear off to get out of facing the beating he was about to get from Holyfield for the second time in as many outings. When he arrived last night, the boos far outweighed the cheers. Staring him square in the face was a spray-painted sign that read, “Bite Me, Mike.” Tyson didn’t seem to notice. Dressed in combat boots and a sleeveless T-shirt with an expletive on it, Tyson didn’t exactly look the picture of the contrite banned boxer trying to get his life back in order as he made an occasional obscene gesture toward his man’s opponent, a guy he kept calling Cold Stone Steve Austin even though his name is Stone Cold Steve Austin. Whoever he is and whatever this was, it was a sight to behold. A sad sight unless you’re into absurdity, which now that I think of it is what most of Tyson’s life has been about in the first place.

The WrestleMania XIV festivities began long before Tyson arrived, however, but in fitting fashion – with a little street crime.

An enterprising T-shirt salesman was in mid-sale of a bootleg D-Generation X shirt over on Friend Street at “a special WrestleMania discount” when a member of the local T-shirt police showed up. End of sale.

There was no end to the salesmanship going on inside the FleetCenter, however. The place was packed more than an hour before the event began and when it finally got going just after 7 the crowd was ready—lustily booing a rock rendition of “Your National Anthem.”

Not long after that things kicked off with a 30-man in the ring “Battle Royal” that included former Olympic power lifter Mark Henry.

The match was won by the Legion of Doom, which captured the victory with the help of two guys in overalls who hit Doom’s last standing opponents on the head with matching milk pails. That fight bore a strong resemblance to the first Riddick Bowe-Andrew Golota riotfest, the only thing missing being a guy swinging a cellular phone and two pairs of boxing gloves.

As the crowd roared its approval, Marvelous Marvin Hagler watched in wonderment as a guy calling himself Marvelous Marc Mero tried to steal his act without much luck while former two-time world boxing champion Vinny Pazienza sat next to him at ringside studying the wrestler’s costumes for future reference.

Eventually one of those costumes came flying in Pazienza’s direction wrapped around a rather large man who calls himself, for the sake of brevity, HHH. HHH and costume slammed into an iron guard rail in front of Pazienza, leading him to opine laughingly, “That’s the only way you can get hurt in this stuff. It ain’t real … I don’t think.” HHH, by the way, was wrestling for the “European title,” whose competitors shared something with the multi-passported heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis, who claims England, Jamaica, and Canada as his home. Owen Hart, HHH’s challenger, went Lewis one better. He’s from Alberta, but apparently got special dispensation from Carmen San Diego to represent the European continent. About this time Lou Sahadi, who was working for Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation, came by with what he called “Facts not fiction.” The facts, his press release said, was that attendance was 19,028, four thousand more seats than the WWF originally claimed it sold and thus “the highest grossing one-day arena event in Boston’s history” with a paid gate of $1,029,230. Good walk up, obviously. Wherever they came from, the Fleet was packed and rocking by the time they put on something called the Dumpster Title Match. The object was not to pin the opponent but rather to throw him into a large, red dumpster, and lock him in. By this time of the night a few of the more than half-dozen members of the more circumspect British press who had come to see Tyson in a new environment would loved to have joined them.

More than half the crowd would have loved to join Kane, the evil brother of The Undertaker, who body slammed all-time major league hit leader Pete Rose into the canvas minutes after he entered the ring in a tuxedo and said, “The last time I was in Boston, we kicked your ass. I left tickets for Bill Buckner but he couldn’t bend over to pick them up. Oh, Bucky Dent says hellooo, you city of losers!” One has to assume Rose will not include a video of his appearance when he seeks re-instatement by major league baseball, although, with Pete, you never know. At least, he could argue, it was gainful employment. Tyson will face no such problems if the Nevada State Athletic Commission asks him just what he was doing allied with WWF’s outlaw faction, D-Generation X. Originally, you may recall, Tyson had been hired to serve as special enforcer in the main event, a title match between Austin and the champion of D-Generation X, Shawn Michaels. But at some point Tyson switched sides, which he’s been doing a lot of lately, and signed on with the D-Generation X outlaw crowd.

But last night, once Austin the good guy got the upper hand, Tyson sold him out, just like he’s been accusing his managers, John Horne and Rory Holloway, of doing to him. Having apparently learned well from his deposed promoter, Don King, Tyson came in with the old champion and left with the new one.

For one night, at least, Tyson ended up on the side of good over evil when he landed a right “hand” to the face of a defeated Michaels. But not even that shift of allegiance could save Tyson from having to stand outside the ring as the crowd began a familiar chant.

“Holyfield, Holyfield, Holyfield,” it hollered.

Once it would have been yelling “Tyson, Tyson, Tyson.”

But that was a lot of Mania ago.

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