1996 was one heck of a year for the benevolent blue blood.
He gave up his body at WrestleMania 12 to help make The Ultimate Warrior look strong in Warrior’s triumphant return to the World Wrestling Federation.
He gave up his spot so he could give one last goodbye to his best friends who were off to a brave new world (order).
He gave up the King of the Ring because he knew the Texas Rattlesnake winning would be best for business.
In October 1996, things finally started turning around for Paul. All the giving in the world finally paid off as he defeated Marc Mero and became the Intercontinental Champion. What a time of celebration that was for all of his fans. Even as a 11 year old little lad, it was a very emotional time for me. It gave me hope. It reminded me that if I worked really, really hard one day all my dreams could come true.
But then the next month Rocky Maivia debuted at the Survivor Series, and Vince Jr had a new little play thing. And in February 1997, DWAYNE defeated Paul via fluke for the Intercontinental Title. And that, my friends, is a reminder that there’s always going to be somewhere to take your spot no matter how hard you work to keep it. The joke’s on Dwayne and his little Rock fans though: Paul would beat him at WrestleMania one day. Oh yes he would. And what a grand night that would be. But that’s another story for another time.
WrestleMania 13 is often remembered for being the night Bret Hart and Steve Austin had their famous “I Quit” match. Some call it the greatest match in WrestleMania history. I look back fondly on WrestleMania 13 though as the night the future King of Kings would gain his first victory on the show of shows. It was the culmination of a near four month feud with Goldust that started all the way back in December. Remember the days when the mid-card feuds for WrestleMania started months in advance?
It was also around this time that Chyna made her WWF debut and began accompanying Triple H to the ring for his matches. But let’s not talk much about her. If we do, you might feel the need to type her name into Google, and then you’ll be having to answer some really awkward questions from your IT department and later your manager before you’re asked to leave the premises.
Instead, let’s talk about Paul and his first WrestleMania victory. Let’s talk about the near god like pop that echoed through the Rosemont Horizon as he walked to the ring. Let’s talk his flowing blonde locks that were unrivaled in his time. Let’s talk about the stars that were obviously thrown at that match on that night.
It was, indeed, a glorious night for The Mighty Paul. I can only imagine what it was like to be in that crowd that night. Those lucky enough to have been there in that building probably still have goosebumps to this very day when they think about it.
He’d go back to that building for another WrestleMania a few years down the road. He’d return as a King, the King of Kings. He’d return as a conquering hero who would attempt to vanquish another blond haired young man who dare stand in his way.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
In the triumph song of life.