Torch Flashbacks WWE WRESTLEMANIA COUNTDOWN - 1996 PPV Report (WM 12): Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart Iron Man match, Ultimate Warrior vs. Triple H
Mar 15, 2010 - 12:00:07 PM
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Leading up to WrestleMania 26 on March 28 in Arizona, we will be publishing a daily WrestleMania PPV flashback report going back to 1992 at WrestleMania 8. We'll be publishing one PPV flashback report around 12:00 p.m. CST every afternoon until this year's WrestleMania.
-- Thursday, Mar. 11 - WrestleMania 8 (1992): Hogan vs. Sid, Warrior run-in
-- Friday, Mar. 12 - WrestleMania 9 (1993): Hart vs. Yokozuna, Hogan wins title
-- Saturday, Mar. 13 - WrestleMania 10 (1994): Razor vs. HBK, Bret vs. Owen
-- Sunday, Mar. 14 - WrestleMania 11 (1995): LT vs. Bigelow, Diesel vs. HBK
-- Monday, Mar. 15 - WrestleMania 12 (1996): HBK-Hart Iron Man match
-- Tuesday, Mar. 16 - WrestleMania 13 (1997):
-- Wednesday, Mar. 17 - WrestleMania 14 (1998):
-- Thursday, Mar. 18 - WrestleMania 15 (1999):
-- Friday, Mar. 19 - WrestleMania 16 (2000):
-- Saturday, Mar. 20 - WrestleMania 17 (2001):
-- Sunday, Mar. 21 - WrestleMania 18 (2002):
-- Monday, Mar. 22 - WrestleMania 19 (2003):
-- Tuesday, Mar. 23 - WrestleMania 20 (2004):
-- Wednesday, Mar. 24 - WrestleMania 21 (2005):
-- Thursday, Mar. 25 - WrestleMania 22 (2006):
-- Friday, Mar. 26 - WrestleMania 23 (2007):
-- Saturday, Mar. 27 - WrestleMania 24 (2008):
-- Sunday, Mar. 28 - WrestleMania 25 (2009):
-- Sunday, Mar. 28 - WrestleMania 26 Live Coverage
WrestleMania PPV Flashback Report - WM 12 (1996)
March 31, 1996
Anaheim, Calif. at the Anaheim Pond
Report by Wade Keller, PWTorch editor
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TORCH NEWSLETTER HEADLINE COVER STORY: Michaels defeats Bret after 60-plus minutes SUBHEADLINE: Highly anticipated main event falls short of expectations, Warrior's return met with cheers
Shawn Michaels defeated Bret Hart one fall to none less than two minutes into a sudden-death overtime session. No falls took place in the initial 60 minute period. Michaels pinned Bret after two superkicks. Hart left the ring without congratulating Michaels, uncharacteristic of what traditionally happens after two babyfaces wrestle such a long, grueling match. The storyline is Hart was upset because WWF President Gorilla Monsoon ordered the match to continue; after all, had the match been ruled a draw after 60 minutes, Hart would have retained the title. That bit of controversy can be used down the line as the main controversy for what appears to be a marketable rematch after Bret Hart's hiatus.
By walking out of the match without personally handing Michaels the belt, Bret may have been showing the legitimate undercurrent of legitimate heat he has over having to drop the belt to someone with whom he shares personal and professional animosity and friction. There were no blow-ups backstage to confirm that the tension was a shoot, but Michaels's reaction after the match also lent credibility to that theory.
After being handed the WWF Title belt by the referee, and after having been through the longest and most important match of his career, Michaels's facial expression seemed to be fighting back the same feeling many viewers have voiced: letdown. The match fell short of what had been grand expectations. Michaels tried to cry for the camera as he clutched the belt, but either exhaustion or disappointment prevented it.
The match built slowly - very slowly - and for many viewers, it wasn't the type of match they were expecting. It was rarely not well executed, but the highspots (some of them very good) were not plentiful and the lack of falls took away a tool for generating crowd heat, something lacking throughout because the pacing was so deliberate.
Bret Hart clearly dictated the style and pace of the match. Michaels, it seems safe to assume given his pre-match hype, would have preferred a faster-paced match, but being the junior of the two wrestlers, went along with Bret's call of the match. Bret kept the action on the mat for most of the match and at a pace that, had the two wrestlers not been so over to begin with, would have made for a pretty boring match.
The intent of going 60 minutes without a fall was to build and build and build anticipation of the inevitable first fall, so near falls and submissions would be as entertaining as a breakaway in triple overtime of a hockey game. While many marathon matches lose credibility by having pinfalls too early, this match was unrealistic in that there were no falls well beyond when one would have been expecting them. The crowd may have even caught onto the plan as the pops for near falls and submission holds weren't what they would have been had there been some falls earlier in the match.
At the 59:30 mark Bret caught Michaels coming off the top rope by grabbing his legs. He then quickly wrapped Michaels into the sharpshooter. It was the loudest moment of the match as the fans cheered either for Bret to win or Michaels not to give up. When Michaels didn't give up, though, there was no pop from the crowd, no standing ovation, no sense of relief, just confusion. They were asking the question that sensibly should have been answered well ahead of time: What happens in the case of a draw?
Gorilla Monsoon ruled that the match would continue, but not until Bret Hart had walked down the aisle toward the locker room with the title belt over his shoulder. When Howard Finkle announced the match would continue, Bret turned around, acted shocked, and walked back to the ring complaining the whole way. He threw the belt to the ground just before re-entering the ring.
Less than two minutes later, perhaps too short a time to re-entrench fans into the match, Michaels hit two superkicks in a 60 second span to score the pinfall. After Bret left the ring and Michaels clutched the belt, Michaels did not get the overwhelming ovation he probably dreamed of. The clean finish was marred by the controversy of whether going to overtime was fair to Bret.
The friendship and mutual respect between Michaels and Razor Ramon was clear in their ladder matches. The tension and jealousy between Michaels and Bret was clear in this match. That took away from what - all that notwithstanding - was still a memorable match worthy of its main event position.
In what could turn out to be a big story, Pat Patterson returned for this show and was said to be involved somewhat in its booking, although he was not formally reintroduced to the wrestlers in an official capacity. There were fingerprints of Patterson's booking style throughout the card.
Wrestlemania, earning a 7.6 average Torch reader score, was a good show, but not a classic. It had a little bit of everything, from Warrior's return squashing Hunter Hearst Helmsley (and receiving the biggest pop of the night in the process) to Roddy Piper's stiff brawl with Goldust in the backlot match followed by a tongue-in-cheek O.J. white Bronco chase and Goldust being stripped down to his strange undergarments.
The surprise of the night was the quality of the Undertaker vs. Diesel match. While Diesel doing a clean job may hurt the buyrate of the next pay-per-view, his willingness to do the clean job and his effort throughout the match was a testament to his professionalism.
MATCH RESULTS & ANALYSIS
(1) Vader & Owen Hart & British Bulldog (mgd. by Jim Cornette) beat Jake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson & Yokozuna when Vader pinned Jake Roberts at 13:08. Roberts was the right man in this match to do the job and Vader was the right man to get the win. Roberts is past a point where he is a main event contender, yet beating him still means something. This match benefited from a high energy level on the part of all six wrestlers, a well-booked WWF-style finish, and a hot crowd. The match was hurt by Ahmed being the best worker of the three babyfaces. The match opened with a hot six-way brawl. The babyfaces, of course, cleared the ring with Yokozuna getting a pop for sending Vader over the top rope with a clothesline. Yokozuna then threw Ahmed over the top rope onto Vader, although Vader caught him and sort of landed on him. At 3:30 Ahmed tagged in and cleaned house on all three heels. The timing on some of the moves early, especially the punches, hurt the otherwise strong early part of the bout.
Ahmed tagged in Roberts for the first time at 7:00. Roberts hit Owen with a short-arm DDT, but Owen blocked his subsequent DDT attempt. The heels worked over Roberts for five minutes (the bad part of the match) before Yokozuna got the hot-tag at 11:30. Yokozuna cleaned house and got great fan heat. Yokozuna backslammed Owen and tagged in Jake. Jake DDT'd Owen Hart, but when he went for the cover the referee was distracted by brawling at ringside between Vader and Ahmed. Cornette then came in with his racquet. Jake moved out of the path of the swing, but Vader then hit a distracted Roberts with a splash. The referee came in and counted the pin. A good opener and about as good as this match could have been considering the participants. (**1/2)
(2) Roddy Piper fought Goldust to a no contest at about 4:30. The back alley street fight took place "live" and was broadcast on the video wall in the arena. As Goldust drove up in his gold monster Cadillac, Piper charged with a baseball bat and smashed in the side window and windshield. Goldust came out the passenger side and was met by a vicious Piper. Piper used an aluminum garbage can, food from an "actor's buffet," and the wall of the studio against Goldust's head. Piper then sprayed Goldust with a high powered water hose. Goldust took over at 3:20 with a lowblow. He then got into his car and ran into Piper on his way out. As he was hit, Piper leaped so he landed on the hood of the car and then fell off. Piper then got into his White Ford Bronco and chased after Goldust.
(3) Steve Austin defeated Savio Vega via submission with the Million Dollar Sleeper at 10:05. The early portion of the match was merely a backdrop for McMahon and Lawler to talk to Piper via cellular phone as he chased Goldust in his Bronco. The match itself began pretty hot with all-out brawling between both of them. Austin did his usual strong selling and bumping for Vega, although the crowd was not responding until Savio began throwing hard chops at Austin's chest at ringside. At 3:40 when Savio sold a bicep injury after a failed clothesline, Austin worked over his arm. Piper was then interviewed again. He said he's gonna chase Goldust to wherever he goes and "make a man out of this fruitcake." At 4:40 they went to a sequence of near falls, some of which were strong, others a bit sloppy. Savio went for a backslide, but failed to pull Austin over because of his bum arm - a major storyline of the match which McMahon and Lawler failed to pick up on. Vegas took over with a wheel kick, but Austin caught him with a knee as he came off the ropes. More near falls. A minute later Vega caught Austin with boot as Austin dove off the top rope (it didn't look good, though). Vega then took over but when Austin ducked, Vega spin wheel kicked the ref. With the ref down, Austin hit Vega with the Million Dollar belt twice with definite impact. Austin then applied a chinlock on Vega. Meanwhile, DiBiase tried to wake the referee by pouring a soda on his face. The ref lifted and dropped Vega's limp arm three times for the finish. A strong storyline, hard work, good bumps, and lots of near falls mitigated by spotty execution. (**3/4)
McMahon then showed a White Bronco driving through traffic (actually O.J. footage) and implied it was Piper. Mr. Perfect then interviewed Diesel. He said he'd take care of Undertaker, then said, "Shawn, good luck. I'll take care of you next."
(4) Ultimate Warrior pinned Hunter Hearst Helmsley at 1:39. The fans popped for Hunter's music because they knew it meant Warrior's match was next. Although it didn't come across on TV, the fan reaction in the arena was thunderous. Hunter attacked Warrior before the bell. Warrior immediately began no-selling. Hunter executed an early pedigree, but Warrior just popped up a la Hulk Hogan. Warrior then hit Hunter with three clotheslines (what an athlete!) and a flying shoulder tackle. He signalled for a powerslam and got a huge pop from the fans. He pressed him, dropped him, and splashed his back and then pinned him. Hunter was a professional about it and obviously was promised "You'll be taken care of if you do this favor for us." Warrior looked pretty much the same as before. (1/4*)
Todd Pettengill introduced "Wildman" Marc Mero who did an intense interview talking about being excited about entering the WWF after five years of anticipation. Pettengill asked him if the quality of his opponents could be any better, mentioning Ultimate Warrior, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Undertaker (all babyfaces). As Mero answered, Hunter bumped into him. Mero shoved back. When Hunter blamed the woman he was with, Mero came to her rescue and ran him into the metal garage door. Just as the brawling began, they pulled away back to a wideshot of the arena for no good reason.
(5) Undertaker beat Diesel at 16:46 after a tombstone piledriver. Diesel opened the match the usual way, bashing Undertaker in the corner. Diesel ran into Undertaker's boot, but Undertaker missed a high elbow drop. Undertaker quickly rose and they brawled at ringside. At 1:50 Undertaker bodyblocked Diesel. He then walked the ropes and came off with a forearm. They fought again to ringside exchanging ringpost shots. Diesel returned to the ring, raised his arm, and the crowd booed. At 8:17 they both gave each other simultaneous high boots. Then the action slowed with Diesel locking on a bearhug at 9:30. At 10:36 Undertaker escaped. A moment later Diesel surprised Undertaker with a jackknife. Diesel kicked Undertaker and challenged him to get up. Undertaker rose. Diesel jackknifed Undertaker again. Diesel stalled, but eventually went for a pin, but as he went for the pin, Undertaker grabbed his throat and rose to his feet. Diesel came back with a short-arm clothesline. Diesel blocked another choke attempt and hit a back suplex as the crowd was buzzing. They exchanged blows. Undertaker power choke-slammed Diesel although it didn't get the pop the move should have received. Diesel got to his feet, but Undertaker tombstone piledrove him for a clean win. Well above expectations. For each man, this was probably their best match in the last year if not longer. (***1/4)
After the match Goldust sped up to the entrance of the arena. Piper followed and rammed into him in the process. Goldust ran to the ring and Piper followed. Goldust took over right away because Piper was still favoring the leg he "injured" when he was hit by the car. Goldust went for a piledriver, but while he had Piper in position, he began rubbing Piper's butt which got a huge crowd pop. Piper went nuts and fought out of it, but Goldust lowblowed him and began ripping off his shirt. Goldust choked Piper with a shirt and wrapped Piper's leg around the ringpost. Goldust then sat on top of Piper and pummeled him with a series of punches. When Goldust went to the top rope, Piper shook the ropes causing Goldust to crotch himself. Goldust headbutted Piper twice and then kissed him. Piper then began no-selling. Piper went berserk and grabbed Goldust's crotch. Goldust sold like mad. Piper kneed Goldust in the groin and then spanked him. At 5:00 he then ripped off is gold suit revealing strange leather undergarments. Piper kneed the barely glad Goldust in the crotch. Marlena wrapped Goldust in a black cloth and they ran to the back as Piper celebrated.
(6) Shawn Michaels pinned Bret Hart at 1:52 of overtime after a 60 minute no-falls draw. Michaels propelled to the ring from a rope atop the arena and slid to the ring in a harness. After feeling each other out early, at 2:20 Bret rolled Michaels into a headlock. After several minutes of Bret locking on the headlock, Michaels locked on an armbar. At 10:30, in the first highspot of the match, Michaels threw Bret from the ring via a headscissors. Michaels went back to an armbar. Except for one brief interruption, the armbar stayed on until 14:00 when Bret caught Michaels in a leapfrog and went for his first sharpshooter attempt. Outside the ring Michaels rammed Bret into the ringpost. Bret fell onto the lap of the timekeeper. Michaels superkicked at Bret, but Bret moved and Michaels KO'd the timekeeper at 15:00. Bret worked a chinlock for five minutes. Then Michaels re-applied an armbar. Michaels worked over the arm in over a dozen ways until 28:00. Bret scored two near falls near 30:00 after propelling Michaels into the ringpost from inside the ring. At 30:50 Bret hit a piledriver for a two count. When Michaels kicked out, there was some booing as fans caught on that they weren't going to do any falls. At 33:00 Michaels hit a top rope bodyblock to the floor. After some near falls Michaels applied the sleeper at 35:00. At 37:00 Michaels charged Bret in the corner, but Bret backdropped him over the top rope to the floor for the best bump of the match. Bret worked over Michaels's back for a long time with the first brief hope spot not coming until 46:00. Bret dove through the ropes and Michaels with a shoulder tackle. The next hopespot came with a simultaneous clothesline off the ropes at 52:00. At 53:00 Bret hit a top rope superplex. Michaels then blocked a sharpshooter and scurried to the ropes. Bret settled for a half-Boston crab. At 56:00 Michaels took over offense for the first time since 37:00. He hit a top rope elbow at 57:30 for a near fall. He hit a moonsault bodyblock for another near fall. After a couple more near falls Bret caught Michaels off the ropes and applied the sharpshooter. The time limit expired. Overtime began, despite Bret's protesting. As Bret continued to work over Michaels's back, Michaels surprised him with a superkick. Both men lay on the mat for a minute. Michaels was the first to his feet. He hit another superkick for the three count and the win. (****1/4)
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He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)
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