January 2, 2009
Wrestlemania XII, March 31, 1996, Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim, CA
Announcers: Vince McMahon & Jerry ďThe KingĒ Lawler
Alright, so itís time for Wrestlemania XII, built around the ascendance to the throne of Shawn Michaels as he challenges Bret Hart for the WWF Championship in an Ironman match. Unfortunately for the rest of the roster, that match takes up a lot of time, so thereís really not much else on this show. The next biggest match features the Diesel/Undertaker feud come to a head and the only other things getting any degree of hype here are a Hollywood Backlot Brawl between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Goldust as well as the return of the Ultimate Warrior from an absence of over three years. Letís see how this one holds up.
Opening Match: Vader, Owen Hart, & The British Bulldog (w/Jim Cornette) vs. Yokozuna, Ahmed Johnson, & Jake ďThe SnakeĒ Roberts (w/Mr. Fuji)
To kick things off here we have Camp Cornette against the man who was recently fired from that stable, Yokozuna, and a couple of his new buddies. If Yokoís team wins, then Yoko will get five minutes alone in the ring with Cornette. Yoko and Vader go right at it and then everyone gets involved, but the faces clear the ring. Ahmed does a dive on Vader and now that leads to everyone brawling on the floor. Finally Yoko and Vader get in and get the match going for real. They trade shots for a bit until Vader tags Owen. Yoko doesnít see it, so Owen gets him with a dropkick from behind. Yoko just no sells it though and when Owen then comes off the ropes he runs into an elbow. Yoko whips him to the buckle, but Bulldog pulls Owen out of the way as Yoko charges. Tag to Vader, who draws Ahmed in, which distracts the ref and allows Owen to get some cheap shots in from the apron. Vader works him over, but misses a shot and Yoko nails him with a Rock Bottom (not called that yet, obviously). Tags are made to Bulldog and Ahmed, who beats up everyone on Cornetteís team. He hits a powerslam on Bulldog, but gets nailed from behind by Vader. Irish whip by Vader leads to Ahmed trying a sunset flip. He canít get it, but Vader also misses when trying a sitdown splash. Ahmed nails a shoulderblock, but soon gets caught in the corner and worked over. Bulldog is in now, but gets bodyslammed. Ahmed sets up the Pearl River Plunge, but while the ref is distracted by Cornette, Owen nails him with a dropkick off the top rope. Owen switches off with Bulldog, drops an elbow and then nails the ensiguiri. Tag to Vader who gets a splash and follows with a bodyblock. Tag back to Owen who hits a clothesline to no effect, and when he tries a second one he gets nailed. Now Ahmed gets the tag to Roberts who immediately gets the short clothesline, but Owen blocks the DDT by grabbing the ropes. He whips Owen to the buckle, but Owen gets the boot up on the charge. Tag to Bulldog leads to Roberts getting triple teamed in the corner. Tag to Vader who hits his own version of the short clothesline. He then hits a splash in the corner and tags Owen who comes in with an elbow off the top for 2. Tag to Bulldog, who gets the running powerslam, but Roberts shocks him by kicking out at 2. Tag to Vader, and he nails a splash, but Roberts also kicks out of that at 2. Tag back to Bulldog, who misses an elbow which allows the tag to Yoko while Bulldog tags Vader. They go at it to a big reaction and Yoko pounds him down in the corner. Owen and Bulldog come in, but Yoko takes them out too. Tag back to Roberts, who goes for the DDT on Owen, but Bulldog saves him. Ahmed takes Bulldog out and now Roberts successfully gets Owen with the DDT. The ref is distracted though with whatís going on outside, so Cornette comes in with the racket, but Roberts nails him. Vader comes from behind on Roberts and nails a bodyblock. Vaderbomb then gets the 3 count on Roberts at 13:10. Good match and a nice way to open things up here. **1/2
Hollywood Backlot Brawl: Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Goldust
Originally this was going to be Razor Ramon finishing off his feud with Goldust, but he got suspended and already has one foot out the door anyways so they call on Piper, who was actually the acting President of the WWF at this point to fill in. This match is pretaped and takes place in an alley somewhere in Hollywood, or possibly a movie set. Piper waits with a baseball bat as Goldust pulls up in a gold Cadillac. He smashes the car windows to draw Goldust out and then beats the hell out of him. That goes on for a bit until Goldust finally hits a low blow and gets back into his car to escape, running Piper over on the way out. Piper gets in his own vehicle (a white Ford Bronco, in a reference to the famous OJ Simpson case from a couple years earlier) and gives chase. Throughout the next few matches we get some updates on the progress of the chase as they make their way towards the arena. Not a real match, so it gets no rating and Vince McMahon has it bang on when he says ďAll I can say is that Iím happy thatís over withĒ.
Stone Cold Steve Austin (w/Ted Dibiase) vs. Savio Vega
Weird to see Austin come out to some real low key music and get no reaction at all. This feud began on Raw when they brawled to a double countout. Then when Savioís partner in the Tag Team Championship tournament, Razor Ramon, was suspended and missed the TV taping, Austin was somehow slotted in as the replacement, but ended up intentionally costing Savio the match. Savio looks to charge right in, but Austin beats him to the punch. Savio fights back though and headbutts him down. He then gets a side slam and they trade punches to send each other to the floor for more brawling. Back in, Savio sends Austin off the ropes, but puts his head down and ends up sent to the post shoulder first. Austin gets 2 and goes to an armbar, then switches to a hammerlock. Savio escapes and hits a crescent kick for 2. Austin ducks off an Irish whip and nails him and then sends him to the post again. To a rear chinlock, with Savio getting up and hitting a clothesline, but he also hurts himself in the process. Austin goes back to work on the arm with another hammerlock. He even picks Savio up and drops him right on the arm. 2nd rope elbow gets 2, and then an Irish whip sees Savio duck and come back with a bodypress for 2. Austin gets sent off the ropes, but comes back with the Thesz Press for 2 and that leads to a reversal sequence with both guys getting a few nearfalls. Savio gets sent to the corner, but comes out with a spinkick. He goes to the 2nd rope, but his splash attempt hits knees. Savio does still get a small package for 2, but then gets slammed. Austin goes to the 2nd rope, but jumps directly at the boot that Savio raises up. Now Savio controls with a chop, a backdrop, and a couple of clotheslines. He goes for another spinkick, but the ref gets in the way and gets knocked down. Savio hits a big boot and tries to get the ref up, but that lets Austin nail him from behind with the Million Dollar Belt. He then puts Savio on the apron and drops down to the floor, nailing him in the back of the head with it. He hooks Savio in a rear chinlock while Dibiase gets the ref up. The ref now checks Savioís arm and it drops three times to give Austin the win at 10:08. Austin could really go in the ring with anyone back in the days before injuries forced him to adopt more of a brawling style so this was actually a pretty good match. I really donít like that finish though, as it just felt pretty lame. **3/4
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Sable) vs. The Ultimate Warrior
Vince, seeing the success that WCW was having using WWF stars of the past decided to go that route as well and bring back the Ultimate Warrior, a man who heís only had to fire twice before, but he was desperately doing anything he could to try and get those ratings ahead of Nitro. Helmsley has been doing a gimmick where for every match he has a new woman escorting him to the ring, and in this case itís Sable, making her debut that comes out with him. Lawler plays up the rumours that were going around at the time that Warriorís appearance had drastically changed by saying heís got a source that says Warrior is now 400 pounds and bald, but Warrior comes out looking not unlike he did when we last saw him three and a half years ago. Helmsley attacks right off the bat, sends him off the ropes, and hits a boot and then the Pedigree. Warrior just no sells it though and then comes back with three clotheslines, a flying shoulderblock, the gorilla press and the splash to finish Helmsley off at 1:39. This was something that Iím sure HHH would like to see disappear from the tape library. DUD Warriorís big return lasted all of four months before he had to be fired again and he has not been seen in the company since.
Backstage, Todd Pettengill introduces us to the newest member of the WWF roster, Wildman Marc Mero. He talks a bit before Helmsley and Sable crash the scene with a fight breaking out to set up the on screen pairing of Mero and Sable and his first feud with Helmsley.
Diesel vs. The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer)
This feud has been brewing for several months with Diesel initially taking exception to Undertaker getting a WWF Title shot at the Royal Rumble and then ultimately costing him the match. Then last month at In Your House, Undertaker got revenge by costing Diesel his shot at Bret Hartís Title, so we have this match here to settle things for good. They go right at it with Diesel sending Taker to the corner and hitting a clothesline. Another corner whip sees Taker get the boot up and nail his own clothesline. He misses an elbow and that lets Diesel clothesline him to the floor. Taker lands on his feet though and pulls Diesel out to the floor where Diesel gets rammed to the stairs. Back in, Taker goes for the Tombstone, but Diesel slips out. Taker comes off the ropes with a bodypress for 2 and then uses a wristlock to setup the ropewalk, which hits. He tries the bodypress again, but this time Diesel avoids it and Taker goes to the apron. Diesel grabs him, but Taker pulls him down on the ropes. He then knocks Diesel to the floor and runs his back to the post. Taker grabs a chair, but misses the shot and ends up getting whipped to the barrier. Now itís Dieselís turn to run Taker to the post, which he does twice. Diesel gets back in, but knees Taker right back to the floor. Now Taker gets back in, but he gets hit with a big boot. Side slam gets 2 for Diesel and he follows up with snake eyes and a rope straddle. After some kneelifts he whips Taker across the ring, but hits an elbow on the charge. They trade shots and end up hitting a big boot on each other at the same time. They both struggle to their feet and Diesel goes to a bearhug. Taker uses a suplex to escape and drops an elbow. He goes up and connects with a flying clothesline for 2. Taker whips Diesel off but gets kicked and hit with the Jackknife out of nowhere. Diesel taunts him rather than following up and then when Taker sits up he gets him with a second Jackknife. After more taunting, Diesel finally goes for a cover, but Taker grabs him by the throat. They get up, but Diesel gets him with a back suplex. Taker sits up again and hits some punches. His Irish whip is reversed, but he ducks and comes back off with the flying clothesline. Chokeslam hits, followed by the Tombstone to get the pin for Taker at 16:45. Diesel was, like his buddy Razor, halfway out the door at this point so the result was no surprise, but they both worked hard and as a result, this was a surprisingly decent match. **1/4
Piper and Goldust have finally made their way here to the arena. They fight in the ring, with Goldust actually controlling most of it, but he makes the fatal error of kissing Piper on the lips which just pisses Piper off. Piper fights back, strips him down to his underwear and gives him a kiss of his own. One more low blow sends Goldust running and I guess makes Piper the winner of this mess.
Gorilla Monsoon, who is returning after being attacked by Vader the night after the Royal Rumble is announced as now being the official President of the WWF. He had been Interim President since last summer, although Piper had taken over as Acting President while Monsoon had been out. He will be at ringside to observe the next match.
Main Event, WWF Championship Ironman Match: Bret ďHitmanĒ Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (w/Jose Lothario)
Bret won the Title from Diesel back at Survivor Series with the intention all along being that they would run this match here with Bret putting Shawn over. His run with the belt was not very impressive as Bret knew that he was just a transitional champ. At the last two PPVís he served as a background character in the buildup of the Undertaker/Diesel match, while Shawn has been looking strong, winning the Royal Rumble match and then getting revenge on Owen Hart at last monthís In Your House. The buildup for the match itself focused not on a feud or issue between them, but rather on the idea that they were two athletes with nothing but respect for each other and that this would be the ultimate competition to determine who the better man was. Shawn, portrayed as the young up and comer, was shown training back in San Antonio with his mentor Jose Lothario and they played up how his high flying ďMexicanĒ style would be his major advantage. Bret, portrayed as the crafty and wily veteran, was shown jogging against the backdrop of the Calgary skyline and the Rocky Mountains, as well as getting stretched by his father in the Dungeon. Everything pointed to a pretty obvious title change, so to generate interest they decided to go with the Ironman stipulation. The idea is that they will wrestle for sixty minutes and the one that wins the most decisions in that time will be the winner. While no one doubted that Shawn and Bret could pull it off, it was still considered a bit of a risk considering that matches of that length were not common at any point in the history of the company and it would be hard to say how the fanbase might react. Jose Lothario comes out first and he points to the top of the arena where Shawn is standing. He comes down on a zipline and lands among the fans before making his way to the ring. Bret comes out with a more standard entrance and from the crowd reactions it seems that Shawn might be the slight crowd favourite here. In continuing with the idea of the athletic competition build the match received, they make a big deal of the referee going over the instructions, although no mention is made of there being overtime in the event of a draw.
Start Of The Match: They lockup and break in the corner. Second lockup sees Shawn get a waistlock takedown. Bret reverse, but Shawn escapes. Bret goes to a side headlock, but Shawn takes him down and gets out of it. Bret tries the headlock again, but it leads to the same result. Shawn uses a wristlock, and then Bret counters to a headlock. Shawn tries to take him down again, but this time Bret holds on. Back to their feet, Shawn tries to fire him off, but Bret still holds it. To their feet again, but now Bret takes him down and gets a 2 count. Shawn is still trying and failing to escape and that lets Bret get him down again for another 2. Now Shawn rolls over and gets his own 2 count. Finally Shawn fires him off the ropes and gets a hiptoss, but Bret kicks him away. Bret takes him back down with the side headlock, but Shawn breaks with a headscissors. Bret kicks out and goes back to the headlock, but gets rolled up for 2. Shawn struggles out, so Bret switches to a front facelock and gets him back down for a couple more near falls. Shawn punches out, sends Bret off the ropes and uses an armdrag to an armbar and drops a leg on it. Bret makes it to his feet and sends Shawn off, and then uses a drop toehold to get back to the side headlock. He switches to an armbar, but Shawn makes it to the corner for a break. Bret nails him with a cheapshot and hits some shoulders in the corner. Shawn reverses positions and gets him with some forearms, and then whips him to the other corner, but itís reversed. As Bret follows him in, Shawn leaps up, hooks the head with his legs and headscissorsí Bret to the floor. When Bret gets back, Shawn takes him down with a firemanís carry and goes to the armbar. Bret fires him off the ropes and tries to toss him, but Shawn skins the cat and goes right back to the armbar. Bret fires Shawn off again, and this time connects with a knee. He drops a headbutt on him and then drops a leg. To a rear chinlock, but Shawn uses a jawjacker to break and goes back to the armbar. Bret kips up and reverses, but gets fired off. Shawn tries a leapfrog, but Bret catches him, drops him, and goes for the Sharpshooter. Shawn gets to the ropes, so Bret just clotheslines him to the floor.
Fifteen Minutes In: Bret follows Shawn to the floor, but gets shoved to the post. He lands in the timekeeperís lap, but gets out of the way just in time as Shawn goes for the Superkick and the timekeeper gets knocked out. Back in the ring, Bret controls by dropping an elbow and going to a rear chinlock. Shawn gets to his feet, but Bret takes him back down. Now Shawn escapes and hits a clothesline. An Irish whip is reversed with Bret hitting a clothesline of his own and going to the rear chinlock. Shawn punches out and tries a rollup, but canít get it. He does get a dropkick and the armdrags Bret into an armbar. He drives in some knees and gets Bretís shoulders down for a few near falls. Bret gets up, but Shawn takes him right back down and keeps in control. Bret reverses to a side headlock, but Shawn counters back to a hammerlock. Bret elbows out and hits some uppercuts. He tries to send Shawn to the corner, but Shawn holds on and nails a kneelift. He then sends Bret to the post shoulder first and wraps his arm around it. He hits a shoulderbreaker and then goes to the 2nd rope and comes off with a double ax handle. He slams Bret on the arm and runs his shoulder to the post a couple of times. Bret fires back and sends Shawn off the ropes, but he puts his head down and takes a single arm DDT. Back to the armbar, from which Bret stomps his way out, but Shawn shoulders him in the corner. He gets a snapmare and goes back to the armbar. Bret fires back again and drops Shawn on the ropes to escape. He then catapults Shawn to the post for 2. Bret tries to ram Shawn to the buckle, but itís blocked and Bret gets rammed instead. Shawn misses a splash though and gets kicked. Bret connects with an inverted atomic drop and a clothesline for 2. Bulldog sets up Bret to go up top, but Shawn is right there. Bret takes him down with a knee to the back.
Thirty Minutes In: Bretís Irish whip is reversed and Shawn nails a powerslam for 2. He sends Bret off, but puts his head down allowing Bret to hit a piledriver for a close 2. Bret drops a leg and goes up again, but Shawn catches him and slams him off. Shawn hits a rana, followed by some punches. Backbreaker gets 2, and then he uses an elbow off an Irish whip. He sets up for the Superkick, but Bret just rolls out to the floor, so Shawn goes up and comes off on to Bret with a crossbody. Back in, Shawn goes up and hits another crossbody, but Bret rolls through for 2. They fight over a backslide, which no one gets, but Shawn does get a small package for 2. Irish whip and shot to the gut set up a fishermanís suplex for 2. Shawn goes to a sleeper, which Bret backs to the corner to break, but Shawn gets right back to it. The arm drops twice before Bret gets back to his feet, but Shawn runs him to the corner and reapplies the hold again. Bret goes to suplex out, but Shawn flips over and connects with an elbow. He whips Bret to the corner and charges, but gets backdropped over and out to the floor. Bret follows and runs his back to the post before getting him back in the ring. Bret now goes to work on the back, dropping an elbow from the 2nd rope and using a backbreaker. Corner whip sees Shawn flip over and land on the top rope. Back suplex from there gets 2 for Bret. To a rear chinlock now, but Shawn punches out and gets a sunset flip for 2. Bret goes back to work on the back and sets Shawn on the top rope again. Shawn fights back and comes off there himself, but Bret nails him in the gut. Russian legsweep gets 2 and then when he whips Shawn to the corner, Shawn goes over to the floor, knocking Lothario down in the process. Bret goes after him again and whips him to the stairs which knocks Lothario down again.
Forty Five Minutes In: Bret gets Shawn back in the ring and hits a belly to belly suplex for 2. Another suplex attempt sees Shawn slip out and get a rollup for 2, but he gets sent to the floor again on the kickout. Bret then follows him out with a dive. He appears to be content to get a countout at this point, but Shawn make sit back to the apron. Bret tries to suplex him in, but Shawn slips out and hits a German suplex for 2. Bret gets him with a headbutt and goes back to the rear chinlock. Shawn elbows out and comes off with a couple of clotheslines. He hits some forearms, but Bret picks him up, put him on the top rope and gets a standing superplex. He goes for the Sharpshooter, but Shawn blocks it and he settles for a half crab instead. Shawn makes the ropes, so Bret uses a backbreaker and goes to the 2nd rope, but Shawn gets the boot up as Bret comes off. Dropkick by Shawn and he sends Bret to the buckle chest first. Irish whip is reversed, but Shawn comes off with a flying forearm and kips up. Irish whip leads to an elbow, followed by a slam. Shawn goes up and comes off with a double ax handle for 2. He hits a suplex and goes up again, this time dropping an elbow for 2. Now he uses a gutwrench powerbomb and goes up a third time. This time he gets a moonsault for 2. Corner whip is reversed, but Shawn gets the boot up on the charge. He goes to the 2nd rope and comes off with a rana which then becomes a rollup for 2. Slam sets up another trip to the top rope, but this time Bret catches him by the legs and hooks the Sharpshooter with thirty seconds left in the match. Shawn struggles, but wonít give up and he manages to hang on until the time limit expires at 60:00. Bret appears to retain the Title with the draw, but President Monsoon declares that the match will now go into sudden death overtime.
Overtime: Bret goes right back to the back with some knees and a backdrop. He then uses a backbreaker and sends Shawn to the corner, but Shawn comes back over and nails the Superkick out of nowhere. Both guys are out and struggling to their feet. They get up and now Shawn connects with another Superkick and that gets the pin and gives him his first WWF Championship at 61:54. The crowd was respectful of the entire match and did still have the energy to get into the finish. This was just a great match, pulled off by two of the best ever. Iím going to call it ****3/4, with that last ľ* being deducted only because the Ironman stip turned out to be meaningless. You could probably nitpick a few things here and there, but considering how much they had to do and the pressure they were under to pull it off, Iím not gonna do that. Great job by both.
Well, the main event is an all time classic and it takes up about half the show on its own so thatís pretty good right there. There are only five (four, really) other matches here and for the most part they are solid, if unspectacular. Piper/Goldust is kind of a waste of time and Warriorís squash may not be good, but itís short and to be fair his return did get a pretty big reaction from the crowd. All in all, Iím going to call it a good thumbs up and really big improvement over last yearís show. Bret/Shawn is the big must see match here and it is available on multiple compilations so catch it somewhere, but the rest of the show can be left behind if necessary.