Instead, Tyson decided on the "special enforcer" role in the bout between "Stone Cold" Steve and WWF champion Shawn Michaels, who favors glitter and pink tights.
Tyson was by no means the only big name in the house. Gennifer Flowers, the famed Little Rock songbird, was on hand in the role of ringside reporter and expert political analyst. Flowers's interview with The Rock would have made Barbara Walters envious: America's homeless, the champion told her, are welcome to sleep in any kind of cardboard boxes they choose, as long as they don't do it on the front lawn of his mansion in Miami Beach.
While Gennifer did journalism, ex-baseball star Pete Rose contributed his best efforts in the name of the national pastime. Assigned to introduce Wrestlemania XIV's semi-main event, pitting The Undertaker against his very own brother, Kane, baseball's all-time hits leader sprung into the ring wearing a tuxedo. Bathed in a sea of boos, Rose sought to turn the hometown crowd his way by recalling some of Boston's glorious baseball history. After pointing out how a miracle home run by Bucky Dent of the Yankees had kept the Red Sox out of the World Series one year, he announced that he'd left Wrestlemania tickets at the box office for ex-Bosox first baseman Bill Buckner but doubted "he'd be able to bend over far enough to pick them up." Then Pete reminded the fans that Babe Ruth had been traded to New York in the prime of his career.
All this earned Rose a special WWF honor. After entering the ring through an archway of flaming torches, Kane stared at the eminent ballplayer, hoisted the much smaller man over his head, and slammed him onto the canvas. Out cold--or something like that--Rose was removed from the arena on the same gurney used earlier to evacuate The Rock. "We'll give you a report on Pete Rose's condition as soon as we know it," the announcer gravely told the crowd. The report never came. Presumably, the ambulance just kept hastening toward Cooperstown, New York.
Only after Kane vanquished The Undertaker (or was it the other way around?) did Mike Tyson make his appearance.
"The Baddest Man on the Planet!" the speakers boomed. "The latest member of Degeneration X!" And suddenly there he was: Mike Tyson, wearing a skintight black muscle shirt, swinging his arms across each other in an "X' shape (for "Degeneration X") and looking astonishingly puny next to the behemoths of the WWF.
To his credit, Tyson also looked vaguely embarrassed Sunday night. As required, he flashed the double middle-finger salute a couple of times and tried to look tough. As the script demanded, he snarled at "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and stalked around the ring apron like a tiger. But a little grin kept stealing onto Tyson's face that said: What the hell am I doing here when I should be home rewriting chapter six of my autobiography?
Do you want to know the end? Want to know how Sunday Night at Wrestlemania XIV came out? Really? Do you want to know what the Baddest Man on the Planet had to do?
Okay, then. But it's not pretty. Not even by the prevailing, uh, standards.
Pete Rose got himself knocked out. Gennifer Flowers sashayed through the teeming, grabby, beery crowd in a red dress three sizes too small. But Mike Tyson was cast by the master dramatists of the World Wrestling Federation as a turncoat. A traitor. Long before the "World Championship" match between Austin and Michaels, Tyson had been assigned to the Michaels camp. At press conferences, he shoved and taunted Austin and praised Shawn, and he supposedly spent Sunday night in Michaels's dressing room. But at last, the gospel according to the WWF called for Tyson to fill in as referee, count Michaels out in the ring and hold "Stone Cold" Steve's fist aloft.
It then called for Tyson to knock his old pal Shawn Michaels cold with a right hook--or something like that. So he did it. Tyson did it. It was a rather inartistic fake, the punch, but Michaels went down in a heap of pink tights, and when the embarrassed little grin crept again onto the former champ's face, you almost felt sorry for him. The life of a writer is never easy. But here was a chapter that would be especially hard to face whilst writing one's memoirs.