WWE WrestleMania 12 Review
The twelfth WrestleMania was all about the main event: Bret Hart defending the WWE World Heavyweight Title against Shawn Michaels in a 60 Minute Ironman Match.
For the first time since Hulk Hogan vs. Warrior at WrestleMania 6, the main event featured two babyfaces. Bret was the reigning champion who had held the WWE World Title three times by this point while Shawn was getting a championship match at WrestleMania after winning the Royal Rumble for the second year in a row. This time he was a babyface.
The other noteworthy bit of information regarding this show was that the Ultimate Warrior was making his WrestleMania return after a four-year absence. He was facing some young guy named Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who was making his WrestleMania debut. Steve Austin was also making his WrestleMania debut here.
Two of the five guys on the poster above jumped to WCW soon after this and Razor Ramon wasn’t even on the show. No big deal, really, but thought it was worth pointing out. On with the show.
WWE WrestleMania XII
March 31, 1996
From The Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California
The voice-over guy tells us: “The World Wrestling Federation. For over 50 years the revolutionary force in sports entertainment.”
They aired a nice video package focusing on the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels match. This was around the time when they were starting to do video packages on a more regular basis. Technology is a good thing.
Cue the classic WrestleMania theme song as we get a shot of the Anaheim Pond in Anaheim, California, which is near Los Angeles. The announcers at ringside are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler, which was the team from the year before as well. Vince was in full yelling mode trying to hype up the matches.
We got a six man tag match to start us off with Vader (managed by Jim Cornette), Owen Hart & British Bulldog teaming up against Yokozuna, Jake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson. The story was that Jim Cornette had fired Yokozuna so this was his revenge. Vader was new in the company at this point and had been suspended after attacking Gorilla Monsoon. They did a really good job of debuting Vader, who was a very good big man worker.
Vader, Owen Hart & British Bulldog w/Jim Cornette vs. Yokozuna, Ahmed Johnson & Jake Roberts
If Yoko’s team won he got five minutes in the ring with Cornette. They brawled at the start. The faces won the brawl, knocking the heels to the floor. Vader went in the ring to brawl with Yoko for the super heavyweight battle while Vince was orgasmic at ringside. He loved it when fat guys fought eachother. Owen tagged in and Yoko hit a back elbow. Owen & Bulldog double teamed Yoko to knock him down. Vader tagged in and drilled Yoko with a barrage of punches to the head. I guess Yoko is the face that the heels are going to work on. Not the best strategy, really, although even at his size Yoko was a better worker than Ahmed. Yoko hit an urinage (think Rock Bottom) and then tagged in Johnson, who decked Bulldog & Owen with a punches. Powerslam on Bulldog. Vader walked in and clubbed him in the back of the head. I loved Vader and didn’t care for Ahmed, so I enjoyed that. Ahmed came back with a leaping clothesline on Vader. I loved how Vader was in there illegally for like 30 seconds and the ref didn’t do anything. The match was a bit disjointed to say the least. Ahmed went for the Pearl River Plunge on Bulldog, so Owen went to the top and hit a missile dropkick. The Cornette team isolated Johnson. Vader hit a splash on Ahmed followed by a running attack. Owen ran the ropes and Ahmed decked him with a shot to the head. Did I mention Mr. Fuji in Yoko’s corner waving the American flag? Jake Roberts made his WrestleMania return with a short arm clothesline on Owen followed by a knee lift. Jake whipped him in the corner and Owen got his feet up. The heels worked on Jake, who was stumbling all over the place. It’s like that was a natural move for him. I had to do one drunk Jake joke. Vader hit a clothesline on Jake and then he splashed him in the corner. Vader slammed Roberts and Owen tagged in to get an elbow off the top rope. Bulldog tagged in and hit his running powerslam on Jake. That was his finisher. I’m a bit surprised that he kicked out of that. In the center of the ring, Vader hit a big splash that Jake kicked out of. Bulldog missed a leg drop. Jake tagged in Yoko for the hot tag while Vader also tagged in. Yoko destroyed him with punches as the crowd went wild. Splash in the corner. Owen & Bulldog went after him and Yoko rammed their heads together for the DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER~! Samoan drop on Bulldog. Tag to Jake. All six guys started brawling. Jake hit the DDT on Owen. The ref was focused on the guys outside the ring. Vader saved an attack on Cornette and decked Jake with a clubbing blow to the head. Vader hit the Vader Bomb for the win at 12:51.
Winners by pinfall: Vader, Owen Hart & British Bulldog
Analysis: ** A decent tag match to open the show. The heel team had more star power, so obviously they had to go over. Vader was new in the company and would get a push in the summer as he should have. I would have liked to see Owen in a bigger role too. Too bad he didn’t have a singles feud for this show.
They aired a video package to set up the Piper/Goldust “Hollywood Backlot Brawl” with Piper’s line about how he’s going to make a man out of Goldust.
The camera went to a shot of Roddy Piper in the backlot holding a baseball bat. This was a pre-tape. A gold car drove up as Piper attacked it with a baseball bat. Piper went after Goldust immediately, throwing him into some trash cans and hitting him with the baseball bat. Vince: “This is vintage Piper!” That’s one for the vintage fans out there. Piper slammed him on the car and beat him with punches. Hard right hand to the face by Piper. Goldust hit a low blow and jumped into his car. Then he backed up and drove the car into Piper. Piper went for a ride on the hood of the car as Goldust took off. I guess that’s where you hire a stuntman huh? Piper jumped into a white Ford Bronco to take off after Goldust. We’d see more of them later.
Vince McMahon announced the attendance at 18,852 people saying it was a record for the arena.
Steve Austin made his entrance along with Ted Dibiase. This was Austin’s WrestleMania debut. Dok Hendrix (Michael Hayes) talked to Savio Vega, who was the babyface in this match. We got a video that showed us how the match was set up when they were forced to team up and Austin wasn’t a loyal partner. Savio said he was ready.
Steve Austin w/Ted Dibiase vs. Savio Vega
Austin was being called Stone Cold here although he was the Ringmaster before this and the real Stone Cold transformation happened at King of the Ring a couple of months later. Vega went after Austin at the start, drilling him with chops. Austin threw him in the corner and then hit a double axe to the face. Vega decked Austin with a side kick to the face. Roddy Piper joined us on the phone. He referred to Goldust as a fruitcake. That’s nice. The story was that Piper was chasing him on the freeway. Austin tripped up Vega with a leg trip and worked on the left arm of Vega. Austin gave him a hammerlock and slammed him down. The elbow off the middle rope connected for two. Piper phoned in again to say that the fight would continue. Vega got a crossbody for two. The crowd wasn’t into the match too much. Austin hit the Thesz Press, Vega countered with a pinfall, Austin countered with a pinfall and Vega got a pinfall too. Austin bridged into a cover for two. Austin slammed his head to the mat. Vince said they had aerial footage of Piper, so they went to a shot of the white Bronco being chased by the cops, which is of course from the whole OJ Simpson ordeal from two years earlier. Meanwhile, Savio hit an awesome spinning heel kick to put Austin down. Savage went for a splash and Austin got his knees up to block it. Vega got a small package for two. Really good nearfalls in this match so far. Austin slammed him down and went for the diving elbow off the top. Vega got his foot up to block it leading to both guys being down for the KO spot. Vega came back with punches as well as a hard chop to the chest. Back drop by Vega followed by a couple of clotheslines. Vega went for a spinning heel kick, Austin ducked and Vega ended up hitting the ref with it. With the ref out, Dibiase put the Million Dollar Belt on the side of the ring. Vega hit Austin with a boot to the face. Vega was distracted by Dibiase. Austin hit Vega in the head with the Million Dollar Title. Then he hit him in the back of the head with it. Austin gave Vega the Million Dollar Dream sleeper while Dibiase dumped a cup of Coke into the face of ref Tim White. White raised Vega’s hand three times, it dropped and Austin was declared the winner via submission at 10:00.
Winner by submission: Steve Austin
Analysis: **3/4 A good match. Not great. I liked the pinfall sequences they did as well as the back and forth action. Neither guy was really in control until the ref bump. It put over Austin well. The feud continued after this and Austin would go on to bigger things including the King of the Ring win that would launch Austin 3:16 among other things.
Post match, more shots of the Bronco chase as Vince said the footage looked awfully familiar. He can’t even put over his own lame jokes about the OJ trial.
In the locker room, Mr. Perfect interviewed Diesel. They showed the clips of his feud with The Undertaker. Diesel was a heel here. He was great as a heel. He said he’d take care of Undertaker and then said after that he’d be going after Shawn.
More of the white Bronco. Fast forward.
The WrestleMania debut of Hunter Hearst Helmsley was next. He was accompanied to the ring by a lovely blonde woman that was Sable. Vince even said Sable here, so she had the name from the beginning. Nice bow in the ring by The Game…I mean Mr. Helmsley.
The big return of the Ultimate Warrior followed. Lots of pyro, spotlights and a huge pop from the crowd. It was his WrestleMania return after four years. Vince yelled out in excitement: “Unbelievable.”
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Hunter attacked him early, getting a boot to the gut and hitting a Pedigree. The Warrior popped right up. Warrior felt 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 at 1:35.
Winner by pinfall: The Ultimate Warrior
Analysis: DUD A squash. Vince loved Warrior, but his return didn’t last more than a few months, which is probably a good thing in the long run because it allowed them to focus more on the younger guys. Hunter’s entrance was longer than the match. That Hunter guy would be just fine after this.
After the match, they went backstage where Marc Mero made his debut in the company and got into an argument with Triple H. Sable was Mero’s wife, so she’d become his manager soon after this.
We got long entrances for both Diesel and Undertaker prior to their match. Undertaker was the face with Paul Bearer at his side and he was rocking the purple look.
Diesel vs. The Undertaker w/Paul Bearer
They brawled right from the beginning with Undertaker pulling him out to the floor. Undertaker rammed Diesel head first into the ring steps. Undertaker went for a Tombstone early, Diesel avoided it so Taker hit a crossbody for two. Nice speed shown by Undertaker. Taker hit the clothesline where he walked across the top rope. Diesel didn’t go down. Taker went for a crossbody again, but this time Diesel ducked out of the way. Undertaker draped Diesel’s neck across the top rope. Undertaker knocked him out of the ring with a punch to the face and then drove Diesel back first into the ring post. A chair to the head was ducked by Diesel. Diesel whipped Taker into the railing outside the ring. Diesel rammed him back first into the ring post two times. Then Diesel stalked Paul Bearer, who had some fantastic facial expressions as usual. Back in the ring, Diesel whipped Taker into the ropes and hit the big boot to the face. Vince was putting over the idea that Diesel was dominating Undertaker like nobody has ever done before. I think we heard that line two or three times per year in these days. Side slam by Diesel got him a two count. Diesel gave Undertaker the snake eyes in the corner and then the running butt splash on the middle ropes. Diesel worked him over, but Undertaker came back with a back elbow to the face and then they gave eachother the big boot to the face at the same time. There’s your double KO spot.
They got up at around the same time with Diesel remaining in control. He whipped Undertaker into the corner and then gave him a bear hug. The story was that he was working on Undertaker’s back. Undertaker came back with a back suplex that wasn’t the prettiest move in the world, but at least it was effective. Undertaker hit an elbow drop. Undertaker went to the top rope and hit a nice clothesline off the top. Undertaker whipped him in, Diesel came back with a punch to the lower back and then he hit the Jackknife Powerbomb. Huge reaction from the fans for that one. Instead of covering, Diesel just stood there confidently. Diesel kicked his chest lightly and then told Undertaker to get up. Taker got up. Diesel signaled for another Jackknife and he hit it. After about 20 seconds he went for a pin. Undertaker prevented it by using his right hand to choke Diesel. Undertaker got back to his feet, but Diesel fought out of the choke and gave Undertaker a back suplex. Undertaker sat right up. After a whip in, Undertaker hit a huge leaping clothesline. Chokeslam by Undertaker. He went down to the mat with Diesel as he did. Later on he did it the way we’ve become accustomed to seeing. Undertaker hit the Tombstone. That’s enough for the win at 16:46. The Undertaker is 5-0 at WrestleMania.
Winner by pinfall: The Undertaker
Analysis: ***1/2 A good big man match that was better than I expected it to be. It holds up well over time too. Undertaker didn’t have that many great matches under his belt at this time while Diesel only had good matches if he was in there with a great worker like a Hart or Michaels. This one showed how good each guy could be. Of course Diesel was motivated because he was leaving for WCW in a couple of months, so he worked really hard here. Motivation was always an issue for him. He would return to WrestleMania, but this was his last one for a few years. This match was great for Undertaker because he took a beating from a credible guy and fought back to get the win. No mention of Undertaker’s winning streak, by the way. Not yet.
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.
Backlot Brawl: Roddy Piper vs. Goldust w/Marlena
They fought in the ring. I guess we’ll refer to this as the match portion of this fight. 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. He was PIPERING UP~! 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. That was not a visual that I wanted to re-watch. Oh the things I do for my readers. Vince: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.” I hope that’s true Vince, but I don’t really believe that. Piper split his legs apart and gave him a knee to the balls one more time. The crowd popped huge for it. I guess that’s the end of it with the in-ring portion going about 6:00 or so. Call Piper the winner because Goldust ran away.
Winner: Roddy Piper
Analysis 1/2* It’s hard to rate it as a match because it wasn’t really a match, but it was very entertaining. Piper knew how to have good brawls. I’m glad I wrote brawls there instead of balls because this was a match full of ball shots. If you’re into that sort of thing, it’s for you.
(There’s a ranking of the 35 greatest matches in WrestleMania history on WWE.com and they had this Piper/Goldust match at 32. What? It’s not even close. It was fine as a brawl I guess, but to rank it that high among WrestleMania matches is ridiculous.)
We got the video package telling us about how Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels got to this match.
Prior to the main event, Howard Finkel welcomed Gorilla Monsoon, who was the President of the WWF at this time. The Fink introduced Shawn Michaels, but Jose Lothario is the one that walked out. I remember wondering where Shawn was. Jose got in the ring and pointed up. It was Shawn Michaels at the top of the rafters. He took the zip line down and landed in the crowd. It was a very extravagant entrance that was very cool.
For Bret’s entrance, he walked down to the ring like he normally did and had some pyro go off as part of the entrance. Ref Earl Hebner explained the rules, noting that they’d be wrestling for 60 minutes and whoever got the most falls in that time would be declared the World Wrestling Federation Champion. Falls could be determined via pinfall, submission, disqualification, or countout. Earl asked them if they understood the rules. They did. Bret kissed the title and gave it to Earl, who held it up for the crowd. Bret gave his sunglasses to his son Blade, who was in the front row.
WWF World Heavyweight Title in a 60 Minute Ironman Match: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
They looked up to start, Bret got a waist lock and Shawn fought him off. The feeling out process lasted a few minutes until Bret grabbed a side headlock. Lawler was trying to put over the idea that half the fans liked Shawn and half the fans liked Bret. It’s a nice idea, but there were fans like myself that loved both guys. Most fans liked both guys. We just wanted a great match. They had a scoreboard on the screen, which told us how much time was left in the match. That was a good idea. There was a nice sequence of moves with each guy trying to get control only for Bret to grab the side headlock once again. Michaels fought out with a back heel trip, which led to Bret getting another headlock. Vince pointed out that Bret was more of a strategist while Shawn was more of an instinct man. Michaels came back with a couple of nice arm drags leading into an armbar. They showed Freddie Blassie & Stu Hart sitting in the front row. The crowd was quiet early on, but that’s because the pace was really slow at the beginning, which makes sense for such a long match. They had another nice exchange that showed Michaels using some technical wrestling moves leading to another armbar. Bret pushed him back to the corner and then Shawn came back with forearms. Nice headscissors by Michaels that sent Bret to the floor. Back in the ring, Shawn hit a fireman’s carry leading to another armbar. Bret quickly got out of it and he threw Shawn over the top. Shawn did the skin the cat move to come back in the ring. Bret hit a knee to the gut followed by a headbutt to the abdomen. Chin lock by Bret. Michaels came back with an arm submission. Back to their feet, Bret ran the ropes and dropped Shawn in a spinebuster like move leading to a Sharpshooter attempt, but Shawn was able to grab the ropes. Bret hit a clothesline that sent Shawn to the floor. Out on the floor, Shawn shoved Bret into the ring post leading to Bret sitting on somebody at ringside. Shawn did a superkick, Bret moved and the poor guy went down via Sweet Chin Music. I think it was actually Tony Chimel there. Bret rolled Shawn back in as we just passed the 15 minute mark.
In the center of the ring, Bret put Shawn in a chinlock as they showed a shot of the knocked out man at ringside. It was definitely Tony Chimel, who got taken away on a stretcher. Nice spot to put over the superkick. Bret had Shawn in the chinlock for about two minutes. I wasn’t a fan of that much time without any action. Michaels got a clothesline. Then Bret got back up and hit one of his own before grabbing another chinlock. Michaels got back up with fists to the gut and hit a dropkick before going for an armbar again. We’re 20 minutes into the match now with Michaels going for a cross armbreaker. Bret tried to stand up to break the hold, but he couldn’t do it. Bret finally got out of it by driving Shawn into the corner and hitting him with back elbows to the head. Michaels countered a whip and shoved Bret left shoulder first into the ring post. Michaels wrapped the arm against the ring post and then swore at a camera guy that got too close. Vintage Michaels going nuts on a camera guy! Michaels hit a shoulderbreaker on the left arm followed by a double ax to the left arm. The announcers put over how Michaels surprised them by focusing on a body part instead of making it a fast-paced match. Michaels continued to work on the shoulder by ramming Bret into the turnbuckle multiple times. Bret made a comeback, but Shawn countered with a nice single arm DDT and then put him in the cross armbreaker although it was a right arm so Shawn switched back over to the left arm. Bret got to his feet and stepped on Shawn’s face to break out of the hold. After another armbar, Bret fought back with punches and dropped Shawn’s neck across the middle rope stun gun style. Bret gave him a slingshot into the ring post, which sent HBK bouncing back to the center of the ring. Bret covered for two. We’re nearly 30 minutes in and that was the best nearfall so far. Michaels came back by ramming Bret’s head into the corner. Shawn charged in, Bret moved and Shawn went crashing into the turnbuckle. Bret hit an inverted atomic drop followed by a clothesline for two. Bret hit a bulldog. Bret went to the top, Michaels blocked it and then Bret drove his knee into the back of the head of Shawn, which knocked ref Earl Hebner down as we reached the 30-minute mark.
They got back to their feet and Shawn hit a powerslam for two. Bret’s left arm injury was gone all of a sudden. He didn’t sell it anymore. It was very surprising for him not to sell an injury. Bret hit a piledriver. He did a weak cover and Shawn kicked out at two. Bret went to the top and Shawn threw him off with a slam similar to the Ric Flair bump off the top. Michaels hit a hurricanrana into a series of punches. Michaels got a backbreaker for two. Michaels set up for the Sweet Chin Music. Bret slid out to the floor. As Bret walked around the ring, Michaels climbed to the top and hit an awesome crossbody block off the top onto Bret on the floor. That was impressive. Ref Earl Hebner counted them both out, then Shawn rolled back in and Earl reset the count. Most of the time the ref keeps counting in that situation. Shawn rolled Bret back in and hit a crossbody. Bret rolled through for the two count. Terrific nearfall there. Michaels got a small package for two. Michaels hit a Perfectplex for two. Michaels put Bret in the sleeper, but of course, Bret didn’t submit to it. Michaels drove him into the corner and hit a back elbow to the face followed by a mule kick to knock Bret down. Michaels whipped him into the corner, then he charged into Bret and the Hitman gave him a back body drop over the top to the floor. Hebner had the slowest ten count in the history of the business there. Bret went to the floor and rammed Shawn back first into the ring post. Bret gave Shawn a headbutt to the lower back followed by a hard whip into the corner. The Sharpshooter focuses on the back, so it’s good psychology to have Bret work on the back. Bret hit an elbow off the middle rope right into Shawn’s lower back. Bret gave him a backbreaker followed by a leg drop to the face. Bret whipped him into the corner, Shawn flipped upside down, sat on the top rope and Bret gave him a back suplex off the top for a count of two. That was a cool spot. Shawn fought out and had Bret in a pinning predicament for a count of two, but Bret countered with a shot to the back. Shawn jumped off the middle rope. Didn’t work as Bret hit him with a punch in the gut followed by a Russian legsweep for two. Bret gave Shawn a hard whip into the corner and it sent Shawn flying over the top rope. His foot hit Jose Lothario in the head. Then Bret whipped Shawn into the steel steps, which also knocked down Jose. That felt unnecessary. Old guys bumping was fun, though. Bret rolled Shawn back in as we reached the 45-minute mark of the match.
In the center of the ring, Bret hit a belly to belly suplex for two. Bret went for a suplex, Shawn countered, drove him into the ropes and rolled him up for two. Bret powered out, knocking Shawn to the floor. Bret charged the ropes and dove over the middle rope right onto Shawn on the floor. Hebner again did one of the slowest counts ever and restarted it again. Bret tried to suplex Shawn in, Shawn fought out of it and Bret hit a beautiful bridging German Suplex for two. Amazing nearfall there too. Bret gave him some kicks to the face and then went to the chinlock again. The chinlock lasted about two minutes as the crowd made a lot of noise while the match reached the 52-minute mark. Shawn got up, ran the ropes and they hit a double clothesline for the double KO spot. Bret put Michaels on the top rope and hit an awesome superplex. Vince proclaimed that “it’s over!” Bret didn’t cover. Instead, he went for the Sharpshooter, which was blocked by Shawn kicking him away. Bret put Shawn in the one-legged Boston Crab. Shawn made it to the ropes after about 20 seconds. Bret hit a backbreaker. The elbow off the middle rope was countered by Shawn giving him the double boot to the face. Shawn hit a dropkick followed by a forearm to the head. He whipped Bret into the turnbuckle, which led to Bret doing his patented sternum first bump into the corner. Shawn got whipped into the ropes and came back with a flying forearm to the head. Shawn did a kip up although the camera missed it. Lawler: “Here comes vintage Shawn Michaels!” That’s for all you people that like the vintage word. Michaels hit a back elbow and then a double axe for two. Suplex by Shawn. To the top, Shawn hit a left handed flying elbow for a count of two. Gutwrench suplex by Shawn. He went to the top for a beautiful moonsault press that got him another two count. Off the middle rope, Shawn jumped on Bret’s shoulders, Bret went for a powerbomb, but Shawn countered it into a hurricanrana into a pin for two. Wow that was amazing! Shawn hit a body slam and then he collapsed in pain, selling the fatigue factor as well as the back injury. Less than a minute left. Michaels leaped off the top rope for a dropkick, but Bret caught him. Sharpshooter time with 30 seconds left! The crowd was going wild now while the announcers were yelling that Bret had him and that the match was over. Ref Earl Hebner asked Shawn if he would quit, but Shawn kept saying no. The time expired with Shawn still in the hold. The bell rang. Bret let go of the hold.
Bret was given the title and walked up the aisle while WWF President Gorilla Monsoon talked to Hebner in the ring. Ring announcer Howard Finkel announced that the match would continue under sudden death rules. “There must be a winner!”
The overtime period began with Bret back in the ring talking to Monsoon about it. Vince put over that the “must be a winner” idea was agreed upon before the match. Bret restarted the match by working on Shawn’s back. Back body drop for Bret. Bret whipped him in the corner, Shawn countered by jumping over him and Shawn hit the Sweet Chin Music superkick to knock Bret down. Shawn was still out after hitting it because he was still selling the back injury. Bret was dazed by it because Shawn didn’t hit it cleanly. Shawn stood up in the corner, Bret stumbled over towards him and Shawn hit him again with the Sweet Chin Music. Shawn covers for the one…two…three for the win at 61:52. Longest match in WrestleMania history.
Winner and New WWF World Heavyweight Champion – Shawn Michaels
Analysis: ****1/2 I love this match. It’s not a five-star match for me, but it’s still very good and one of my favorite matches ever featuring two guys that made me the fan that I am today. The first 20 minutes were done at such a slow pace that it hurt the match a little bit. The last 40 minutes of the match were absolutely fantastic, though, so to me it’s not a big deal as far as how slow the first part was. It was about pacing the match. What I would have liked are some falls because the 1-0 finish wasn’t as good as something like 3-2 or even 2-1. They should have each got a countout win if they weren’t willing to take pinfalls. Ego got in the way here. As for their work in the ring, both guys worked at an extremely high level. Michaels showed off everything by using his speed, taking some big bumps, hitting some big offensive maneuvers and even using technical wrestling to help the flow of the match although I do think he went to the armbar a little too much. Hart was fantastic too by working more of an aggressive heelish style although not going all out in terms of being a heel. Like I said earlier, I was a bit surprised that he totally ignored the arm injury that was being worked on early. That’s not like him. Obviously, the animosity between them was a factor in how they worked the match and there were times when it appeared as if they were working stiffer than you’d expect. As good as their matches were, if they got along better and didn’t have clashing egos there’s a chance that they really could have put on the best match ever. That’s not taking anything away from this match. I just wish it could have been booked a little better.
Post match, we would later learn that Shawn told ref Earl Hebner to tell Bret to get out of the ring. He used some profanity when he did it too. Bret’s reaction to that wasn’t very favorable just from looking at his face. They also showed Bret’s son Blade singing Shawn’s “sexy boy” song at ringside. That was funny. Bret walked away angrily, even tossing aside a Canadian flag that was thrown to him. Michaels was very emotional in the ring while Vince McMahon delivered the famous line: “The boyhood dream has come true for Shawn Michaels!”
Shawn celebrated in the ring and Vince was going nuts: “Go on! Celebrate!” He was cheering him on. Vince was way too excited. Michaels did his poses with the title to end the show.
Then we got a video package of the events of the show to bring it home.
This event had a runtime of 2:47:50 on WWE Network.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– I’m sure there will be people reading this that will tell me I was too mean when grading the Ironman match while others will tell me I was too nice. I’ve read and heard so many opinions about that match. Some will call it the greatest match ever. Others will rip it for the slow pace early. I’m content in saying it’s one of the best matches of either man’s career, but each guy also had another handful of matches better than this with Michaels having way more better ones because he wrestled longer. It was never Shawn or Bret for me. I loved both. I always liked Shawn more, but Bret was right there too for me. I was really looking forward to the match. In a lot of ways they delivered. In other ways, I expected more. It’s a shame we never got a prior rematch before Survivor Series 1997.
– If you’ve never seen Undertaker’s match against Diesel you should give it a look. It was rare for people to get up from a finisher in that area, yet Undertaker was able to survive two of Diesel’s powerbombs and come back with the big win. This was around the time when Undertaker was having better matches too.
– I was such a Vader fan in WCW. When he came to WWE I was so excited. I wish he had a bigger role at this event. They used him as HBK’s opponent at Summerslam, but they should have showcased him more here.
– The return of the Ultimate Warrior was a huge bust. As I mentioned earlier, it was probably for the best. The new generation was about Shawn, Bret, Undertaker, Austin, Hunter and those guys. Not a crazy man like Warrior.
– It’s a shame that Bret left the company for 6 months after this. He was burned out and had plans to film a TV show. If he was willing to come back earlier, turn heel and have a proper feud with HBK it could have been great. Like I said, though, their egos were out of control during this time period and that made things tough in a lot of ways. Bret being away added to the tension because Shawn was mad that Bret wasn’t around while HBK was on top. History would be so much different if they got along more in 1996 and 1997.
Best Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart – Easy decision.
Worst Match: Ultimate Warrior vs. Triple H – Squash city.
Most Memorable Moment: Michaels wins the World Title – My favorite wrestler ever winning the World Title for the first time. Of course I’d pick that.
1. Shawn Michaels – Obvious choice.
2. Bret Hart – Also very obvious.
3. Undertaker – Worked hard. It was the best WrestleMania match of his career up to this point.
4. Diesel – Good effort by him working with Taker.
5. Steve Austin – Nice Mania debut for Stone Cold.
Show rating (out of 10): 5.5
It was a slightly above average show with the main event carrying it. It was only a six-match card. You could even say five since Goldust/Piper didn’t really have a match due to no official being present. The Ironman took up nearly half the show. It was smart of them to do an Ironman match because the roster was so thin, so it’s not like a lot of great talent was missing out on things. It was also a bit of a risk because a match that long was a lot to ask of the fans who often times have a short attention span. I guess that’s why this is the only Ironman match in WrestleMania history although they’ve had 60 Minute Ironman matches on PPV (HHH/Rock), Smackdown (Angle/Lesnar) and Raw (HHH/Benoit) as well as house shows over the years.
I’d recommend the Ironman match if you haven’t seen it. I like the Undertaker/Diesel one because it was the best Undertaker WrestleMania match to this point, but it’s not like it comes close to some of his more recent classics. If you’re a fan of ball shots then Piper/Goldust is for you. The crowd was pretty average. I’m not sure why they felt the urge to go back to this same venue four years later for WrestleMania 16/2000 although Los Angeles is obviously a big market.
That’s all for me. Check out the full list of my WWE PPV Review archive right here. Thanks for reading.