On the premiere episode of WWE Network's Something Else To Wrestle With Bruce Prichard, the veteran pro wrestling producer and podcast co-host Conrad Thompson got in-depth on the subject of WrestleMania 14. Notably, Prichard talked about boxing icon Mike Tyson, plans of Tyson working with WWE prior to WrestleMania 14, concerns over Tyson being utilized as a babyface and the company being associated with him, problems between Tyson and boxing promoter Don King, and whether there was ever talk of Tyson wrestling for WWE.
According to Prichard, WWE had plans to work with 'Iron' Mike Tyson prior to WrestleMania 14, but he lost the undisputed heavyweight championship to James 'Buster' Douglas in a stunning upset. Consequently, WWE worked with Douglas instead.
"Well, Mike Tyson was scheduled, and he actually had been advertised and we were ready to go in February of 1989 with a match with Hulk Hogan and 'Macho Man' Randy Savage and he said [imitating Savage], 'mm-hmm, freak out, freak out!'" Prichard continued, "and Mike Tyson had a match in Tokyo, Japan against one Buster Douglas and the outcome of that didn't go according to plan, per se, because Tyson got his ass knocked out and was unable to appear. And it wasn't that he was unable to appear, he just didn't for awhile for us. So we then circled the wagons and got Buster Douglas to come in and save the day for us. So yeah, [WrestleMania 14] was not our first encounter with Mr. Tyson."
When asked whether there was concern about getting Tyson, a convicted rapist, over as a babyface in his WrestleMania 14 role, Prichard indicated that there was; however, knowing the trajectory of the story made it a nonissue.
"I think there was a bit of a concern and I think that there were some people who thought, 'man, are [people], especially the females, are the females going to get behind this guy, Mike Tyson?'" Prichard added, "there was a little bit of concern, but I think that we knew what we wanted to do, and, at the end, Mike Tyson would be heralded as a babyface and get to know him, and after that, actually like him."
While Prichard claimed there were no serious reservations about the company associating with Tyson, he also noted that he pitched the idea of WWE working with OJ Simpson, which Conrad
"No, not really." Prichard recalled, "I think that there were the normal people that would bring up concerns, like some people in promotions and marketing that might say, 'do we really want to associate ourselves with someone that is a convicted felon and put them in our showcase event?' There's always going to be that, but this is coming from someone that suggested, at the time, doing something with OJ Simpson, so you can always ask the question, 'what if?' And if you stick, 'what if' in there, it's all fair game!"
On the subject of Tyson and King's rocky business relationship, Prichard remembered that there problems between the two at the time of the WrestleMania 14 deal.
"I don't remember the dollar amount, but I do remember the rumblings and I definitely do remember that there was talk that Don King may not have been entirely forthright in dealing with Mike Tyson and telling him everything that was going on in the negotiations with WWE, so that created even more of a rift because Mike was already looking at Don and looking at his dealings over the years and figuring out that maybe he didn't get everything that he had coming to him at the time, so it was one more pancake on the stack."
Interestingly, Prichard stated that media outlets predicting that WrestleMania would feature 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin versus Mike Tyson were premature, though there was internal talk of having Tyson wrestle.
"The media sources definitely jumped to conclusions on their own there; however, internally, yeah, it was discussed." Prichard admitted, "there were a lot of 'what if' scenarios. If you were to have Mike Tyson in a wrestler versus boxer match, man, that's gold. s--t, that's platinum. And that's something. That's everyone's dream! One on one, who's going to win, the wrestler or the boxer? And to be able to pull that off with someone the likes of Mike Tyson would have been incredible! Believe me. But at this time, Mike wasn't interested in that. Mike still wanted to pursue a boxing career and Mike was looking to get his name out there, get a good payday, participate, and have his name in a positive light."
COLD STONE! COLD STONE! COLD STONE! If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit Something Else To Wrestle With Bruce Prichard with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.