March 26, 2011
Steve Riddle

Wrestlemania XII
March 31st, 1996
Arrowhead Pond
Anaheim, California

Free For All:
1. The Bodydonnas (w/ Sunny) defeat the Godwinns (w/ Hillbilly Jim) at 5:21 to win the vacant WWF Tag Team Chapionships.

The Buildup/Title Change: The tag titles were declared vacant after an injury to Billy Gunn forced the Smoking Gunns to vacate the titles. This is the finals of a tournament that started back in February.

Tournament Matches: Quarterfinals: Bodydonnas def. The Bushwhackers, Razor Ramon/Savio Vega def. The 1-2-3 Kid/Tatanka, Owen Hart/British Bulldog def. Hakushi/Barry Horowitz, and Godwinns def. The New Rockers. Semifinals: Bodydonnas def. Vega/Steve Austin and Godwinns def. Hart/Bulldog.

Actual Show:

We see the opening video for Wrestlemania XII.

Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler.

1. Vader, Owen Hart and the British Bulldog (w/ Jim Cornette) defeat Yokozuna, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, and Ahmed Johnson (w/ Mr. Fuji) when Vader pins Roberts at 12:51.

Stipulation: If Yoko’s team won, Yoko would get 5 minutes alone with Cornette.

Match Change: This was booked as a one-on-one match with Yoko and Vader, but the other four were added when Roberts made the challenge on RAW prior to the show.

WM Debuts: Vader and Ahmed Johnson

Farewell: This is Mr. Fuji’s last PPV. He would quietly retire and currently resides in Knoxville. Mr. Fuji was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007 by Don Muraco.

Analysis: A pretty decent 6-man affair to start the event. Considering four of the combatants were thrown in at the last minute, it wasn’t too bad. The heels were red hot, as Vader was being pushed while Owen and Bulldog were gelling as a team. On the face side, Roberts looks good, as does Yoko, but it’s clear Ahmed is the star on the team. With the stip that Yoko would get Cornette for 5 minutes, many assumed the faces would win and Cornette would get his. Yoko and Vader pound the hell out of each other, then the heels do two heat segments, one with Ahmed, and one with Roberts. The crowd, although it does pop every once in awhile, especially for Ahmed, is quiet. Yoko comes in and cleans house, then chaos ensues. Cornette tries to help, but almost eats a DDT, until Vader attacks Roberts. A Vader Bomb later, and the heels win and Cornette escapes Yoko for now. Yoko and Vader aren’t finished, and the other four move on to different feuds. A good match, but the crowd could’ve made it better. Grade: 2

We see the buildup to the Hollywood Backlot Brawl.

The first part of the Hollywood Backlot Brawl between Roddy Piper and Goldust takes place. I will review it when they finish the match in the ring before the main event.

Dok Hendrix interviews Savio Vega, who says it’s a dream to be at Wrestlemania and tonight will be a fight.

2. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (w/ “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase) forces Savio Vega to submit at 10:00.

The Buildup: Savio and Razor Ramon were in the tag title tournament, but when Razor was taken out, Austin was chosen to be his replacement. Ausitn would cost his team the match. After the two had a scuffle on Superstars, this match was made.

WM Debuts: Steve Austin and Savio Vega

Analysis: A much better match than is remembered, only because Vince keeps going to Piper who was supposed to be chasing Goldust. Austin was growing in the midcard, while Vega was fine in is role as a face. This stems from when Austin cost Vega the tag titles, so they have a match here. Both men slug it out to start, until Austin takes control and works on Vega’s arm. It’s hard to get into the match with the constant updates from Piper, and it also doesn’t help the crowd is still too quiet. Of course, they wouldn’t be quiet with Austin for long, but that’s for later. Vega regains control, but the ref takes a spin kick to the face. Austin then serves Savio with two shots from the Million Dollar Belt. He then puts the Dream on, but Savio is already out. Dibiase revives the ref, and he ends the match because Savio is out. A big win at WM for Austin, but these two would tangle again in a few months. A really good match to keep the show moving. Grade: 3

Mr. Perfect interviews Diesel, who says the mind games won’t work and he will defeat the Undertaker.

3. The Ultimate Warrior pins Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Sable) with a splash at 1:36.

Debut: Rena Mero worked as a model, most famously for Guess Jeans. She married WCW wrestler Marc Mero, and the two would come to the WWF. She makes her debut here as Sable.

Return: The Ultimate Warrior makes his grand return here. Since he left in 1992, he opened Warrior University, a school to train wrestlers. He also appeared on the independent circuit before returning. During his time away, he would legally change his name from Jim Hellwig to Warrior.

WM Debuts: HHH and Sable.

Analysis: Just a basic squash to re-establish the Warrior and introduce WWF fans to another lady who would be a star into the next few years. HHH had been escorted by random women in the last weeks, but here he comes out with Sable, who would stick around. Warrior no-sells all of HHH’s moves, including the Pedigree, and then squashes him in no time with his moves. Warrior gets a great pop here, but it wouldn’t last long. He moves on, and HHH will have issues with a new superstar tied to Sable. Grade: 1

Todd Pettengill interviews the newest superstar to the WWF, “Wildman” Marc Mero. He says no one is safe, but is interrupted by Helmsley who is berating Sable. Mero then comes to her aid.

Debut: Marc Mero began his career as a boxer, winning the Golden Gloves tournament in New York. After an injury sidelined his boxing career, he trained to be a wrestler. He started in Tampa under the Malenkos and signed with WCW. After a few months as a jobber, he was given the character of Johnny B. Badd, a Little Richard look-alike. He was given a nice push as a midcard face and won the TV title 3 times. He would leave WCW in 1995 after taking issue in being involved in a storyline with Kimberly Page. He would make his WWF debut here as “Wildman”, because WCW owned the Johnny B. Badd gimmick.

4. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer) pins Diesel with the Tombstone at 16:46.

The Buildup: This stems first from Diesel costing Taker the WWF Title at Royal Rumble, then Taker cost Diesel the title at the last IYH. Diesel responded by assulting Paul Bearer. Taker then starting playing mind games, the most recent being Diesel seeing a dummy of himself in a casket.

Undertaker’s WM Streak: 5-0

Analysis: A surprisingly good power match between two men going through different phases. Diesel has slowly regained that badass streak he had in 1994, but his shelf life is just about gone. On the flip side, Taker has come off a long four year run of trash storylines and horrendous wrestlers and was about to turn the corner on that. This match was built after both men cost the other the WWF title, so they come to the grand stage to settle the score. On paper, this looks like it could be a train wreck as both aren’t good at carrying an opponent, but they shock everyone by delivering a solid match. Taker starts strong against Diesel, but Diesel takes control and works on the midsection, wearing him down with a bearhug. Diesel then delivers two Jackknifes, but stalls for too long and can’t put Taker away. Taker then makes a comeback, and hits the Chokeslam and Tombstone for the victory. A great effort by both men and an overlooked match on this card. Diesel is just about done, while Taker prepares for a feud that will help rejuvenate his career. Grade: 3

Todd Pettengill is in security and we see Goldust and Roddy piper arrive at the Arrowhead Pond.

5. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper defeats Goldust (w/ Marlena) in a Hollywood Backlot Brawl at 9:45.

The Buildup: Goldust began making passes at Piper, saying he loved men with power, as Piper was the acting President of the WWF. Goldust would play mind games with Piper, including doing a mock Piper’s Pit. Piper had enough and challenged Goldust to a match, with Goldust accepted, but only if it was a Hollywood Backlot Brawl. According to sources, this was supposed to be the blowoff to the Goldust/Razor Ramon feud, as it was to be a Miami Alleyfight. But after Ramon was taken off TV, and after he refused to work with Goldust, the focus was shifted to Piper.

Temp. Farewell: This is Roddy Piper’s last PPV until 2003.

Analysis: We now come to the end of a fight that’s been going on since early in the show. We first saw clips of the fight in the backlot between the two, which Piper pretty much dominated. Goldust took some stiff shots from Piper, some of which were legit and resulted in Piper breaking his hand. Goldust escapes and Piper gives chase. Throughout the show, we see clips of what supposed to be Piper chasing Goldust (in reality it’s just footage of the O.J. Simpson police chase), and they arrive at the Pond. The action hits a dud in the ring as Goldust gets a few shots in, but Piper recovers and strips Goldust down to some weird lingerie. Disturbing images aside, the crowd was surprisingly into it and behind Piper. It also helps them get ready for the next hour of action they would see. Piper stands tall in his last WWF appearance in 7 years, and Goldust moves on to a new feud. Grade: 2

Vince and Jerry hype the Iron Man Match.

We see the buildup to the main event.

6. Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario) defeats Bret “The Hitman” Hart in a Iron Man Match to win the WWF Championship.

Final Score: 1-0

Decisions:
1. Michaels pins Hart at 1:01:52

The Buildup: After HBK won the Rumble and Bret kept the title at the last IYH, then-President Roddy Piper coined that in this match, there must be a winner. It was announced this would be an Iron Man match, in where the man who scored the most decisions in a hour would win the match.

Debut: Jose Lothario is a legend who competed mostly in the NWA throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s. He trained Shawn Michaels and HBK brought him in to be his cornerman.

Fun Fact: This match was named PWI’s 1996 Match of the Year and voted by the WWE Superstars as the greatest match in Wrestlemania history.

Analysis: Just a fantastic match on all levels. Obviously, being the first of its kind, there were a lot of questions as to if the match could be pulled off. But the questions were answered thanks to Hart and Michaels, who were the perfect two competitors to do this. We all know of HBK’s story and journey it took to get to this pinnacle. It was well known Bret wasn’t happy as he felt he was not being appreciated and was only holding the belt for Shawn. Add to it that he was probably so burned out from the 11 long years on the road, he needed a break. Right off the bat, HBK sets the tone with his classic entrance coming in from off the rafters. This match is a wrestling purist’s dream of technical wrestling, but could come across as boring to the average fan. Both men use crisp wrestling to control most of the match, as they try to keep the pace up for the long haul. Each man takes about 10-15 minutes each of working over their opponent, Bret working on Shawn’s back and Shawn working over Bret’s arm. They both use mostly mat based wrestling, with Michaels taking chances throughout the match, and a classic moment is Michaels superkicking the timekeeper. The last 5 minutes are the most exciting, with Michaels making his comeback until Bret traps him in the Sharpshooter with 35 seconds left. But Michaels doesn’t give up as the time expires. The ref awards the match to Bret because of a draw, but Gorilla Monsoon says there must be a winner, and we go to overtime. Bret pounds on Shawn until Shawn nails the SCM twice, finally getting the win. It was a huge moment for Michaels and it’s capped with Vince saying the famous phrase, “The boyhood dream has come true for Shawn Michaels.” Bret takes some time off, while Michaels will now get to run as the top dog. Other reviews have debated whether having no decisions was the right idea, so I won’t dwell on the matter. For now, this is a great match that can stand the test of time and a great gem for both men. Grade: 4

We see highlights of Wrestlemania XII as we go off the air.

Final Analysis: Overall, this was an interesting PPV. With one match having to last over an hour, it meant only a handful of men would get the big payday, and it ended up being 16. I think it also showed who were the players that Vince was keeping and who would be gone soon. Aside from the man event, the Taker/Diesel and Austin/Vega matches were really good. The 6-man tag was decent and the Piper/Goldust brawl was fine enough. The Ultimate Warrior made a grand return to a medicore review, and we saw a future player in Marc Mero. Another positive is that there was no celebrity overload at this WM, as it focused solely on the wrestling. A good WM that was getting the company in the right direction after a dismal 1995. Final Grade: C+

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