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WWF WrestleMania XII Review

WWF WrestleMania XII

March 31st 1996

Arrowhead Pound, Anaheim, California

Announcers: Vince McMahon/ Jerry Lawler

Attendance: 18,853

Buyrate: 290,000

 

The 12th edition of WrestleMania was all about the main event. Shawn Michaels taking on Bret Hart for the WWF Championship in a 60 minute Iron Man match.

For the first time since WrestleMania 6, two babyfaces would be squaring off in the main event. Bret Hart, who was being billed as a “WWF Legend” at this stage in his career, was a 3 time WWF Champion at this point whiles Shawn Michaels won the Royal Rumble for the second year in a row but this time as a face. There was a lot of hype going into this one as Bret and Shawn were considered to be two of the best in ring performers in the entire industry at this point.

In other news, The Ultimate Warrior was set to make his return to the WWF against a young raising star by the name of Hunter Hearst Helmsley who was making his WrestleMania debut. Stone Cold Steve Austin was also making his debut against Savio Vega.

Pat Patterson, the guy who came up with the Iron Man match, openly admitted that the whole concept was a risk but was confident that Bret and Shawn were able to pull it off. Did they pull it off? Let’s find out.

 

The opening video package highlights the careers of Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. This was the year where they started to do video packages more regularly.

Cue the WrestleMania theme and we cut to the arena. Our announce team is Vince McMahon and Jerry the King Lawler, the same due for the past 2 years. I also want to say that there’s a WrestleMania XII logo in the middle of the ring, the first WrestleMania to have one. After the event, the canvas was cut up in small squares and was tied in to a range of WWE trading cards. These cards were ultra-rare but I’m pleased to say that I’m in possession of one of these cards. Sells for an absolute bomb on e-bay but I would never sell my card. The opening contest is just around the corner.

 

Vader, British Bulldog & Owen Hart /w/ Jim Cornette vs. Yokozuna, Jake “The Snake” Roberts & Ahmed Johnson /w/ Mr Fuji

If the face team is victorious in this opener, Yokozuna gets five minutes with his former manager Jim Cornette. Jake Roberts returned to the WWF at the Royal Rumble, he was clean from drugs and alcohol (didn’t last long) and had accepted Christ into his life. Ahmed Johnson debut in late 1995 and was heavily pushed as the next big star. Anyone who reads my Attitude Era Classics Series would know that Ahmed never reached the pinnacle management hoped for. He was released in early ’98 and completely falls off the radar. We get the Yoko/Vader confrontation right off the bat. Ahmed comes in and sets up a Pearl River Plunge on the Bulldog, but Owen snipers him with a dropkick off the top rope. He eventually tags Jake, but the heels work on him until Yokozuna gets the real hot tag and cleans house. All hell breaks loose and Jake DDT’s Owen. Cornette comes in the ring and Jake grabs him, but Vader nails him from behind and finishes with the Vaderbomb for the victory. Corny survives for another night!

Winners: Vader, British Bulldog & Owen Hart via pinfall

Rating: **

It was an energetic tag match and was helped by such a hot crowd. The Heel team had more star-power (and talent) so it was expected for them to go over. Vader was new in the company and he’d go on to have such a huge push during the summer. It’s sad having to watch Yokozuna struggle during this match. Back in ’93, he was surprisingly agile for a guy of his size, but 3 years later, he’d balloon in size and he’d spend the rest of the match standing in the corner trying to get his breath back. He would fade away in late ’96 and spend the next two years trying to lose weight before being released in ’98.

 

They aired a video package recapping the feud between Goldust and Rowdy Roddy Piper. Piper was installed as acting WWF President after Vader’s attack on Gorilla Monsoon. Goldust began to show affection towards Piper including a mock segment of “Piper’s Pit” where Goldust is playing the bagpipes.

 

The camera cuts to an obvious pre-recorded shot of the back of the arena where Piper is waiting for Goldust with a baseball bat. Goldust drives up in a gold Cadillac. The comedy huh?  Piper immediately goes to work on him. Hot Rod kicks his ass for the better part of four minutes including a punch so stiff you could hear it cracking off Goldust’s head!  Goldust scores with a low blow, climbs into the car, runs over Piper, and escapes out of there. Piper hops into a white Bronco and gives chase.

 

Up next is the match between Savio Vega and Stone Cold Steve Austin. As Austin is making his way to the ring, Doc Hendrix is interviewing Savio Vega. They showed clips of a tag match where Austin & Savio were forced to team up but Austin wasn’t a loyal partner.

 

Stone Cold Steve Austin /w/ Ted Dibiase vs. Savio Vega

Austin is still under the tutelage of Ted Dibiase here, and is carrying around the Million Dollar Title as a result. Like Dibiase, Austin very rarely defended the title. Vince and Lawler get a call from Piper via cell phone as Austin works on Savio’s arm. Austin kicks his ass then Savio comes back and they do a wild series of pinning combinations. Footage of OJ Simpson fleeing from Los Angeles cops in his white Ford Bronco is shown. It’s supposedly Piper giving chase to Goldust. Vince sure loves his camp comedy, right? Austin heads up top but eats Savio’s boot on the way down. An errant Vega heel kick hits the ref and Dibiase takes the opportunity to slide the Million Dollar Belt into the ring. Austin nails Savio with it, then drapes his throat on the edge of the ring and delivers another belt shot off the apron. Steve gets back in and chokes him out while Dibiase revives referee Tim White with a soda. Vega’s arm drops three times, and White awards the match to Austin.

Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin via pinfall

Rating: * 1/2

It was a good showcase for Austin. You could tell he was distant for bigger things but no one could imagine he’d reach the heights in which he’d had achieved. The King of the Ring victory and his feud with Bret Hart would give him that shot in the arm which he so desperately needed.

 

Post match, more shots of the Bronco chase. Vince remarks that is looks “awfully familiar”.

 

Backstage, Mr Perfect is interviewing Diesel. He says that he’ll sort out the Undertaker. I always preferred Nash as a heel, it suits him well and I dare say that Nash would agree too.

 

Hunter Hearst Helmsley /w/ Sable vs. The Ultimate Warrior

Hunter’s music draws a loud pop from the crowd because they know that Warrior’s return is coming up. Jerry Lawler stirs up rumours that Warrior is close to four hundred pounds and is completely bald.  Warrior returns to a huge reaction and of course he’s in great shape and still has a full head of hair. Hunter attacked him early, getting a boot to the gut and hitting a Pedigree. The Warrior popped straight back up again. Warrior regained his crazy powers and decked Hunter with a punch followed by three clotheslines in a row. Flying shoulder tackle by Warrior. Gorilla Press slam by Warrior. Big splash to the back. Cover. That’s it.

Winner: The Ultimate Warrior via pinfall

Rating: DUD

Complete squash. Warrior’s return was a complete failure. It only lasted a few months and we saw him feud with guys like Goldust and Jerry Lawler. I guess in the long run it was a good thing that Warrior’s return didn’t work out as it allowed more focus to be put on the younger guys. It’s funny to think that in 4 years time, Triple H would walk out of WrestleMania, which was also held at the Arrowhead pond, as the WWF Champion.

 

Backstage, Todd Pettengill is interviewing a newcomer in the WWF, “Wildman” Marc Mero. Hunter, who is angry about the loss against Warrior, picks a fight with Mero and they begin to brawl.

 

Diesel vs. The Undertaker /w/ Paul Bearer

“I’m da shit I’m tellin’ ya!” proclaims Diesel as he makes his way to the ring. He clearly didn’t give a shit and had his mind elsewhere. Undertaker was rocking the purple and black look. They trade blows in the center with Diesel getting the better of it to start. Irish whip sends Taker to the corner, and its followed in with a clothesline and an elbow. Diesel whips Taker to the other side, and charges meeting a boot from Taker. Taker hits a clothesline and goes for an elbow drop, which misses. Diesel delivers a clothesline that sends Taker over the top to the floor, but he lands on his feet. Taker pulls Diesel out to the floor and they brawl outside. Taker blocks an attempt to send him into the steps, and fires Diesel into them instead. Back inside and Diesel delivers a kick to the rips. Taker hits the ropes and delivers an open handed upper cut. Taker goes for a tombstone, but Diesel is able to slide out of it. Taker hits the ropes and delivers a flying crossbody for two. Taker goes for old school, which connects, and a second crossbody attempt from Taker misses when Diesel dives out of the way. Diesel grabs Taker who is on the apron, but Taker drops down clotheslining him on the top rope. Punches from Taker send Diesel over the top to the floor, and Taker follows. Taker rams Diesel into the ringpost, and grabs a chair. He swings at him, but Diesel moves out of the way. Diesel whips Taker into the guardrail, and then rolls in the ring to break the count. He goes back outside and again drives Taker back first into the ring post. Diesel again picks up Taker and rams him into the post. He heads back inside, and Taker soon follows to the apron, but gets kicked off back to the floor. Back inside and Diesel sends Taker into the ropes and delivers a big boot. Sidewalk slam from Diesel gets a two count. Diesel picks up Taker and delivers a snake eyes as Taker drops down on the second rope. Diesel hits the ropes and comes down on Taker straddling his neck on the rope. In the corner Diesel delivers a series of knee lifts and right hands. An Irish whip sends Taker into the opposite corner, but her fires back with an elbow. They charge at each other and both deliver big boots putting them both down. Both guys get to their feet, and Diesel beats Taker to the punch with a double axe handle to the back. Irish whip sends Taker to the corner, and he comes out into a bearhug from Diesel. Taker comes free with a bell ringer, and Diesel grabs a side headlock. Taker counters out of that with a back suplex, and drops an elbow. Taker goes to the top rope, and delivers a flying clothesline for a two count. Knee lift to the gut connects for Taker and he sends Diesel into the ropes for a backdrop. Diesel stops short and delivers a forearm to the back of the neck and then hits the jackknife out of nowhere. Diesel doesn’t cover instead choosing to taunt Taker. Taker sits up so Diesel sets him up and delivers another jackknife. Diesel taunts for a while before finally going to make the cover. Taker reaches up and grabs a choke, but Diesel punches out of it. He goes for the cover again, and is met with a choke that Diesel hammers out of. A third try and Taker grabs the choke and stands up with it, but Diesel is able to suplex out of the choke. Diesel again calls to the crowd, and Taker sits up. Taker hits the ropes and delivers a flying clothesline. Chokeslam connects for Taker, and that is followed by a tombstone for the victory.

Winner: The Undertaker via pinfall

Rating: ***

It was a lot better than expected. Undertaker didn’t have many great match up until this point whiles Nash had great matches with Bret (Survivor Series ’95/ King of the Ring ’94) and Shawn (WrestleMania XI). The Undertaker is now 5-0 at WrestleMania.

 

Backstage, Todd Pettengill was awaiting the arrival of Goldust and Roddy Piper. Goldust arrived first. Marlena (later known as Terri Runnels) was there to greet him. We saw Diesel walking backstage as Goldust ran by. They made their way into the arena. Both of them are in the ring so I’ll rate the “match” from here.

 

Hollywood Backlot Brawl

Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Goldust /w/ Marlena

Goldust attacked him with punches to the face and then he attacked Piper’s knee. Low blow by Goldust, which is legal because there’s no ref. Crowd was chanting for Piper. Roddy came back, but Goldust hit him with another low blow and then some punches to the face. Goldust used Piper’s shirt to choke him with it. Goldust mounted him, felt himself up as he liked to do it and threatened to kiss Piper. Roddy freaked out, but Goldust continued to dominate him. Goldust went to the top rope and Roddy shook the top ropes to trip him up. Goldust was crotched. Lots of ball shots in this fight. Goldust gave him a headbutt and then kissed Piper on the lips. That seemed to wake up Piper, who was furious. Piper grabbed Goldust in the balls. Not a nut shot, but he grabbed the Golden Globes. Knee to the balls. Then Piper ripped off Goldust’s suit to reveal that Goldust was wearing women’s lingerie under his outfit. Vince: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.” I hope that’s true Vince! Piper split his legs apart and gave him a knee to the balls one more time. The crowd popped huge for it. I guess Piper is the winner because Goldust is running away. Piper brings his son into the ring to celebrate, just because watching Daddy grope, kiss, and strip a 6’6 man in women’s underwear and yellow face paint was such a family moment.

Winner (I guess): Rowdy Roddy Piper via stripping Goldust?

Rating: N.R

It’s hard to rate this match because it wasn’t really a match, but it was just a bit of fun really. Piper was always good in a brawl and Goldust’s “bizarre one” gimmick was drawing a lot of attention.

 

Howard Finkel introduces President Gorilla Monsoon, making his return following Vader’s vicious attack against him in January. Shawn Michaels’ music starts up and his mentor, Jose Lothario, walks down the aisle and into the ring alone. I remember wondering where Shawn was. He points to the upper corner of the arena and Shawn makes his iconic entrance, swinging down to ringside from the top of the Arrowhead Pond. It’s a moment which always gets played round WrestleMania time. Bret Hart enters in a more traditional fashion and gives his sunglasses to his six year old son, Blade, seated in the front row. Earl Hebner goes over the rules for the match in detail, Bret kisses the Title before handing it over to him as he always does, and the match is ready to get underway. The man who scores the most decisions via pinfall, submission, countout, or disqualification in an hour will be declared the winner and WWF Heavyweight Champion. It certainly had that big match feel!

 

WWF Championship

Iron Man Match

Shawn Michaels /w/ Jose Lothario vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart ©
They lockup but neither can gain a decisive advantage and they break. Bret goes to a go behind takedown, Shawn reverses, and they break. Bret goes to a side headlock takedown and Shawn fights out with an arm ringer but Bret reverses back into the side headlock. Shawn goes for the counter again but this time Bret holds on. Beautiful exchange that was really set up and led nicely by Bret. Hart gets a pair of two counts off the side headlock and Shawn rolls him over for two. Shawn gets to his feet and sends him off the ropes for a hiptoss, but Bret kicks up and takes him down with the side headlock. Michaels immediately counters with a headscissors but Bret fights out into the headlock again. Shawn tries for the headscissors again, but Bret won’t let him counter the same move the same way twice. Yeah, Bret! Big pop for that. Michaels rolls him over for two again so Bret gets to his feet, at which point Shawn counters the headlock into a wristlock. That sends Hart to the mat, but he counters with a front facelock to maintain control and segue back into the side headlock. Shawn sends him off the ropes and hits two quick armdrags, then holds Bret in an armbar. He drops a leg on the arm a la Bret. Bret tries countering but can’t, as Stu Hart and Freddie Blassie look on from the front row. Bret sends Michaels off the ropes and Bret drop toeholds him and quickly moves into a headlock. Shawn rolls out of that right back into a hammerlcok. Bret backs him into the corner, refuses a clean break, and punches Shawn. Shawn fights right back, whips him into the corner, and headscissors him to the floor at the ten minute mark.

 

Bret is frustrated, but remains composed. He climbs back in and locks up but Shawn does a fireman’s carry back into the armbar. We’re witnessing some excellent basic mat wrestling along with some beautiful counter wrestling. Everything is crisp and has a purpose, as Shawn is trying to wear down Bret’s arm for the latter stages of the match and Bret is trying to fatigue Shawn with all the headlocks. Every time either man fights out of the other’s hold, they grab the advantage and then go right back to the basics. Lawler provides some excellent analysis on color commentary to boot, explaining the psychology behind both men’s attacks and the preparation that goes in to such a long match. Bret fights out of the armbar and sends Michaels off the ropes. Bret sidesteps him and tosses him over the top rope, but Shawn skins the cat back in and rushes back to apply the armbar to Bret. That spot was a little anti-climactic, as the crowd went nuts when they saw him flip back in the ring with Bret unaware of it. He could’ve rolled him up for two and then gone back to the armbar, but this worked well too because it shows that Shawn is doing everything he can to wear Bret down. The announcers point out that Shawn’s ground attack is the opposite of what Bret probably expected from him. Hart stands up out of the armbar, sends him off the ropes and scores with a knee to the gut. Bret legdrops him and goes to a reverse chinlock. Shawn counters with a jawbreaker, then leg drops him in Bret fashion and goes back to the arm bar. Bret kips up and hooks the side headlock again. Michaels sends him into the ropes and leapfrogs him, but when he tries it again, Bret catches him and spinebusters him. He holds the legs in place for a Sharpshooter, but Shawn squirms to the ropes. Michaels makes it to his feet and Hart clotheslines him over the top to the floor. Bret follows but Shawn sends him into the steel post. Bret lands in the timekeeper’s lap and Shawn decides to go for the superkick right then and there, but Bret moves and the poor timekeeper ends up eating Michaels’ foot. Ouch. Bret slugs away at Shawn and tosses him back in the ring. He applies a chinlock while officials come down and wheel the timekeeper away. Shawn battles out with an armdrag and follows it up with a clothesline but Bret responds in kind and goes back to the chinlock. Shawn fights out and Bret goes for a bodyslam, but Shawn floats over and waistlocks him for a rollup attempt. Bret shrugs him off and walks right into a Michaels dropkick. He armdrags him into the armbar again and proceeds to get about five one-counts with Bret’s shoulders down on the canvas.

 

We’re now twenty minutes in. Bret rolls out into the side headlock but Michaels wiggles into the hammerlock. Bret elbows out and hits a few european uppercuts. Shawn reverses a Hitman whip into a vicious short knee, then drives Bret’s left shoulder into the post. Ouch, that was brutal. Shawn takes Bret’s left arm into the ringpost and yells at the camera man to, “get the fuck out of the way” in the process. Shawn destroys the arm (which had already been softened up with all the armbars) and rattles off a shoulderbreaker, an axehandle off the second rope right into the shoulder, and a hammerlock slam all in rapid succession. He then takes Bret’s shoulder into the turnbuckle twice. Bret slugs back and hits a single arm DDT, but Shawn goes back to the arm with a cross armbreaker. Bret fights up and stomps him in the face to break. Shawn charges him in the corner, takes him over with a snap mare, and goes back to it, but Bret punches his way out and hotshots him onto the second rope. Bret slingshots him to the post and gets a two count off it. Shawn takes Bret to the buckle hard, then dives for him in the corner and misses. Bret hits an inverted atomic drop and clotheslines him for two. Bret bulldogs him and heads up top, which seems suspiciously like Bret trying to set Shawn up for a different move. Sure enough, Shawn pops up and Bret nails him, then bulldogs him off the top rope. Hebner takes a minor bump in the process but gets right back up again as we hit the thirty minute mark.

 

Shawn catches Bret with a big powerslam for another two count, but Bret battles back with a piledriver for a two of his own. The crowd boos the fact that it didn’t get the three. Lawler: “How’d he kick out of the piledriver?!” Bret heads up top and Shawn slams him off. That was very uncharacteristic of Bret. Shawn hits a huricanranna and sends Bret off the ropes, but Bret holds on to take a breather. Shawn stays on him, however, scoring a backbreaker for two. Shawn hits an elbow and sets up for the Superkick, but Bret bails to the outside and walks around the corner of the ring as Shawn goes to the top rope. Shawn delivers a monster bodypress about three quarters of the way across the ring from the top rope all the way to the floor. Bret, in a dazed state, walked right into that one. Shawn rolls Bret back into the ring and scores with a crossbody from the top rope, but Bret rolls through the cover for two. Michaels goes for a hiptoss but Bret counters into a backslide attempt. Shawn flips out of it and small packages him for two. Bret is just feeding Shawn his own moves here. Shawn connects with a Perfect-Plex for two, then goes to a sleeper. Bret drives him back into the corner, but a persistent Shawn goes right back to it. Hebner checks his arm, but after it drops twice, Bret fights up and tries to back suplex his way out of it. Shawn flips out and elbows him then uses the corner to prop himself up and boot him in the face. Shawn whips Hart into the corner, but when he charges Bret backdrops him all the way out to the floor. Bret breaks the count and takes Shawn back-first into the steel post on the outside to further soften him up for the Sharpshooter. Bret brings him back in and whips him hard into the corner. Shawn’s selling reminds me of how Bret would sell it. Bret measures Shawn with an elbow and hits a backbreaker.

 

Forty minutes in without a decision, Bret continues to work on Shawn’s back. Shawn Flair Flips off a corner whip and remains in the corner, leaving himself wide open to a quick back suplex off the top by Bret. Bret goes to the rear chinlock but Shawn fights out and gets a sunset flip for two. Shawn avoids a superplex and tries coming off the second rope, but is met with a fist to the gut by Bret. Bret’s side russian leg sweep follows, as Bret picks up another two count. Shawn takes his corner bump to the floor off a Bret irish whip and ends up nailing his own cornerman, Jose Lothario, with his foot on the way down by accident. That gets a big pop. Bret follows him to the floor and whips Shawn into the steps and Lothario at the same time. Vladimir, seated front row, applauds, as Bret yells at Jose. Lawler seems surprised at Bret’s agressive demeanor and likes it. Bret shoves Michaels in the ring and belly to bellies him for two. Shawn shows signs of life with several fists but Bret wins a slugfest and lays in some vicious european uppercuts. Shawn floats over on a spulex attempt and rolls Bret up for two out of nowhere. Bret kicks out, sending Shawn to the floor again. Bret follows with a pescado to put Shawn down once again. Shawn beats the count in and Bret tries to suplex him into the ring from the apron, undoubtedly setting up the next sequence of moves in his head. He knows Shawn will try to floatover again, as Shawn does, but this time Bret is expecting it and he reverses Shawn’s waistlock into a german suplex to grab a close near fall. Shawn fights back with fists again but Bret wins another slugfest and just pounds on him. He headbutts him and settles into a rear chinlock in a final effort to wear Shawn down now that there are just ten minutes remaining and it’s becoming increasinly apparent that the first fall is going to be the one to win this thing.

 

Shawn struggles to his feet and breaks the hold. They go off the ropes and a double clothesline puts both men down. Shawn scores with some weak punches but Bret shrugs them off and puts Michaels on top for a superplex. That puts both men down again. There are only six minutes left so Bret goes for the Sharpshooter but Shawn kicks him in the face to avoid it. Bret tries setting up a Figure Four but Shawn wiggles away and ends up on his back, so Bret settles for a Half Crab instead. Shawn grabs the ropes to break it, but Bret keeps up the offensive attack, burying a backbreaker. He heads to the second rope to drop the elbow, but Shawn instinctively gets his foot up and Bret eats boot. Now there are only five minutes left. Shawn dropkicks him, causing Hart to collapse in the corner. Shawn stays on him like a madman and lunges for him to maintian his assault. He whips Bret hard into the corner so Bret can take his sternum first bump, then scores with a flying forearm. Shawn kips up and hits a reverse elbow. He throws everything he can possibly think of towards Bret in an effort to beat him, as he slams him and goes to the top rope for a reverse double axehandle. He covers, but gets only two. Shawn suplexes him and hits his (lefty) elbow drop off the top rope. That gets a two count as well. He plants Bret with a gutwrench powerbomb and delivers a perfect moonsault off the top. He comes off the second rope with a huricanranna, but that too only gets a two count. Shawn bodyslams Bret with one minute remaining and climbs to the top rope. The crowd is going insane as the clock is rapidly running down. Shawn jumps off the top with a dropkick attempt, but Bret catches him on the way down and hooks the Sharpshooter with only thirty-four seconds left a la their Survivor Series ’92 finish. The crowd is having a collective heart attack. Earl Hebner gets down there to check for a submission from Shawn, but Michaels shakes his head no as the crowd counts down the remaining seconds on the clock. 5-4-3-2-1… 0. The bell rings after sixty minutes of war and both athletes collapse as Bret relinquishes the hold. The score after sixty minutes is 0-0, which one would assume would mean the match is a draw and Bret retains his Championship.

 

Gorilla Monsoon, who was seated ringside for the entire match, confers with Earl Hebner and Howard Finkel as Bret takes his WWF Championship and retreats down the aisle, slapping the hands of his fans. He’s more than half way to the back when Finkel announces that Gorilla has ordered the match to continue under sudden death rules and there must be a winner. Bret clearly mouths, “Why?”, much as I was doing at the same time. Bret walks back to the ring about two minutes after the match had ended and asks Gorilla about his decision. The bell rings to restart the match and Bret drives his knees into Shawn’s back. Shawn is still in bad shape from the Sharpshooter, so Bret handles him pretty easily and hits a big backdrop. Bret hits another backbreaker and tries to whip Shawn into the corner, but Michaels grabs the corner and hops over and behind a charging Bret. Bret turns around and Shawn nails him with the Superkick out of nowhere. He didn’t catch all of it, however, and is still fatigued himself, so they both kind of lay there for awhile before slowly getting up. Bret actually beats Shawn to his feet but staggers around as Shawn winds up and plants another Superkick right into his jaw. Shawn collapses onto Bret, hooks both legs and Hebner counts three to crown a new World Wrestling Federation Champion in Shawn Michaels.

Winner & NEW WWF Champion: Shawn Michaels (1-0 in overtime)

Rating: *****

What an amazing match. People may criticise me for giving it a 5 star rating but I don’t care. They kept the crowd involved for an entire hour during a time where 1 hour matches were uncommon. I mention before that Bret & Shawn were considered to be the greatest workers of the 90’s, if not, ever and I completely agree. Watching them have one of their best matches ever for over an hour with the WWF Title on the line in the main event of WrestleMania on the biggest stage of all is mind-boggling. And talk about going over in a big way; Shawn Michaels went sixty-two minutes without losing a decision and beat a three-time WWF Champion (who everyone considered to be the best pure wrestler of all-time and in his prime) at the biggest show of the year to finally become Champion himself. He couldn’t have written a better script for himself, and I’m sure he tried. On a personal note, Shawn Michaels is my second favourite Wrestler ever so seeing him win the title was such an awesome moment for me. Every wrestling fan should watch and appreciate this match for what it was.  Outstanding match by two of the greatest talents ever!

 

Bret watches Hebner present Shawn with the WWF Title before leaving. Hebner helps Shawn strap the Title around his waist. The belt conveniently matches his white and gold tights. Bret sulks down the aisle to the dressing room as Michaels celebrates his first WWF Championship while the crowd goes nuts whiles Vince puts over that the “boyhood dream has come true”. Shawn goes to the floor and shakes hands with several ringsiders including Bret’s father, Stu, and oldest son, Dallas, as the show goes off the air.

Random Thoughts

  • The Iron Man truly delivered. Think about the shape these two had to be in both mentally and physically to develop that match and then carry it out without flaw. The match was beautifully crafted and contained just about every imaginable element a wrestling match could have. From the opening strategic games between the two, to the fast-paced middle portion, to the extremely hot ending, the match was as close to perfect as a one hour match could possibly be. This should be required viewing for all up and coming wrestlers. The fact that it’s such an epic match as it is with the Iron Man gimmick and the fact that it’s the main event of WrestleMania is the culmination of all the spectacular matches Bret and Shawn produced in the early 90’s and their fight to prove that small guys can be on top too. Many consider them to be bar none the two greatest workers of the 90’s, if not ever, and I completely agree. Watching them have one of their best matches ever for over an hour with the WWF Title on the line in the main event of WrestleMania on the biggest stage of all is mind-boggling. And talk about going over in a big way; Shawn Michaels went sixty-two minutes without losing a decision and beat a three-time WWF Champion (who everyone considered to be the best pure wrestler of all-time and in his prime) at the biggest show of the year to finally become Champion himself. He couldn’t have written a better script for himself, and I’m sure he tried. Can you name one other first time Champion that’s gone over to win the Title in a more dramatic and epic fashion? Of course you can’t, because there are none. Certainly not Bret or Hulk Hogan, who won their first Titles suddenly and in an obscure manner. Not Savage, not the Warrior. Not even Ric Flair, who was already a proven draw and World Champion from the NWA, and lasted an hour to capture his first WWF Title (but didn’t do so in a one-on-one match with the spotlight on him the whole time). No, Shawn’s accomplishment outshines them all and in many ways this one match and victory alone cemented his legendary status once and for all.
  • It’s funny re-visiting Triple H under his “Blue Blood” gimmick. He’s come a long way.
  • I recommend watching Undertaker v Diesel. It was rare to see people kick out of finishers during that era but Undertaker managed to kick out of two powerbombs and coming back for the victory. After ‘Mania, Undertaker enter a feud with a newcomer by the name of “Mankind”.
  • The return of the Ultimate Warrior was a huge flop. It was rumoured that he would face Shawn Michaels for the title later down the line but nothing came of it. As I mention, Warrior leaving paved the way for the WWF to focus on younger stars like Stone Cold, Triple H, Rocky Maivia and Mankind, four names who would carry the company in the late 90’s.
  • I wish Vader, Owen and Bulldog had higher profile matches, but with the main event being an hour long, it’s impossible to give everyone a high profile match. At least they won their tag match though.

 

Best Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart – Easy decision.

Worst Match: Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Ultimate Warrior – Total squash. Hunter would come back stronger after this one.

WrestleMania Moment: “The Boyhood Dream has come true for Shawn Michaels” – My second favourite wrestler ever winning the title.

 

Top 5 Superstars

1. Shawn Michaels: Obvious choice,

2. Bret Hart: Another Obvious choice.

3. Undertaker: After a run of poor matches at WrestleMania, this was a great match. His best ‘Mania matches are yet to come!

4. Diesel: Worked hard against Undertaker.

5. Stone Cold: A nice debut for the Texas Rattlesnake. His career would be given a massive boost at King of the Ring.

 

Updated rankings chart:

Macho Man Randy Savage – 29pts

Hulk Hogan – 25pts

Bret Hart – 21pts

Shawn Michaels – 19pts

Ricky Steamboat – 10pts

Ultimate Warrior/ Roddy Piper – 7pts

Dynamite Kid/Rick Rude/ Ted Dibiase – 5pts

Terry Funk/ Bam Bam Bigelow/Owen Hart/ Diesel- 4pts

Tito Santana/Andre the Giant/ Ric Flair/ Mr Perfect/ Lawrence Taylor/ Undertaker- 3pts

Greg Valentine/ Scott Steiner/ Razor Ramon-2pts

Sgt Slaughter/ Gorilla Monsoon/ Bobby Heenan/ Stone Cold – 1pt

 

Overall Show Rating (Out of 10): 5.5

It was a slightly above average show but better then WrestleMania 11. It was a good idea making the main event an Iron Man Match because of how thin the roster was at the time and it was a huge risk too as people who have short attention spans could lose interest in it. I guess that’s why it’s the only WrestleMania to have an Iron man match. The bottom line is, aside from Undertaker v Diesel the undercard of this show is very forgettable, but every wrestling fan should watch and appreciate the main event for what it was.

 

WrestleMania Rankings so far:

WrestleMania 10 – 8

WrestleMania 8 – 7

WrestleMania 3 – 7

WrestleMania 7 – 6.5

WrestleMania 6 – 6

WrestleMania 12 – 5.5

WrestleMania 1 – 4.5

WrestleMania 5 – 4

WrestleMania 11 – 4

WrestleMania 4 – 3.5

WrestleMania 2 – 3

WrestleMania 9 – 0.5

 

Up Next: Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin have one epic brawl at WrestleMania 13!

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