March 31, 1996! Eleven years from the date of the first WrestleMania, it’s time for the twelfth edition of the greatest spectacle in sports entertainment! Tonight, Shawn Michaels takes on Bret “Hitman” Hart in a 60-Minute Iron Man Match for the World Wrestling Federation Championship! Whichever man can score the most falls in the span of one hour will be the winner! Let’s go!
We’re live at the Anaheim Pond as Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler tell us about the card, including Undertaker vs. Diesel, Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. The Ultimate Warrior, and Goldust vs. Roddy Piper in a Hollywood backlot brawl. But first, it’s Vader time! Vader is accompanied by Jim Cornette, and if his team loses tonight, Yokozuna will get 5 minutes alone with Cornette in the ring. Vader’s partners are Owen Hart and The British Bulldog. Their opponents are Yokozuna, and his partners Ahmed Johnson and Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
The match doesn’t take long to get started as Yokozuna goes straight for Vader. Vader soon finds himself in the ring with all three members of the other team, but they let Yoko handle him. The referee finally gets everything under control, and it’s Yoko and Vader starting the match, but Vader quickly tags in Owen Hart. When Owen and the Bulldog get Yoko down, Vader tags back in. Yoko finally gets the tag to Johnson, but it’s not long before he’s trapped in the opposing corner. Roberts gets tagged in and he too winds up in the wrong corner. Jake gets beat down by Team Cornette, but gets some separation, and tags in Yokozuna, who takes out all three members of the other team. Jake gets tagged back in and drops Owen with a DDT, but the referee is distracted on the outside. Jim Cornette tries to attack Jake with the tennis racket, distracting Roberts long enough for Vader to come in and drop the Vader Bomb on him for the win.
Hall of Famer count: 5 (Howard Finkel, Lawler, Yokozuna, Mr. Fuji, 2014 inductee Roberts)
We get a video package detailing the feud between Goldust and Roddy Piper. We’re shown Marlena sitting backstage. Vince throws it to the backlot, where Piper is waiting. He smashes out the windows of Goldust’s gold Cadillac, then attacks Goldust himself with the baseball bat. Piper throws Goldust all around the area. He sprays Goldust with a fire hose, and slams him on the hood of his own car. Goldust is bleeding, and Piper decks him right in the face. Goldust hits a low blow on Hot Rod, then tosses him into the side of a dumpster. Goldust gets back in the car and runs over Piper, driving around with Piper on the hood, straight into another dumpster. Goldust drives off, and Piper gets in his car as well. Vince McMahon says we’ll come back to the action later.
Hall of Famer count: 6 (Piper)
Back in the arena, Ted DiBiase leads in the Million Dollar Champion, Stone Cold Steve Austin. We get Dok Hendrix backstage with Savio Vega, and he asks if Savio has a counter for the Million Dollar Dream. Savio says he’s ready for Steve Austin. Way to dodge the question bud.
Vega gets right in the ring and we get started, and it’s back and forth from there. Roddy Piper calls in from the road, and sirens are heard in the background as he says he’s going 80MPH on the freeway. They lost the connection with Piper, as Vega seems to hurt his arm. Austin capitalizes on the injury, and we get Piper back on the line. He says he came to fight, and he’s going to catch Goldust no matter where he goes. We lose Piper again as Austin works over Vega. Vega gets a two with a cross body. Austin and Vega repeatedly exchange near falls. We get arial footage of Roddy Piper being chased by the cops – which I think may have been the OJ Simpson chase footage. The referee gets knocked out, Austin hits Vega with the Million Dollar Championship and cinches in the Million Dollar Dream. DiBiase splashed some soda in the face of the official, waking him up. Vega’s arm drops three times, and Austin wins by submission.
Hall of Famer count: 7 (Austin)
We cut back to the footage of “Piper” driving into the arena.
Mr. Perfect is backstage with Diesel, and shows him footage of The Undertaker dragging him to hell, and then giving him a casket with himself inside. Diesel says he doesn’t sweat the little things. Or the big things. Tonight, Big Daddy takes “cool of you,” and HBK is next.
More shots of “Piper” driving.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley, along with a stunning blonde, is out first for his match with Warrior. Jerry Lawler says his sources say that Warrior is 400 lbs and bald, but that’s not true. Warrior actually looks great!
Helmsley starts the match on the offense. He drops Warrior with a Pedigree, but Warrior gets back up and dominates. A press slam and splash later, and this one is over. That was fast!
Hall of Famer count: 9 (Mr. Perfect and 2014 inductee Warrior)
Backstage, Todd Pettengil is with Wildman Marc Mero. Hey, that’s Johnny B. Badd from WCW! He’s excited to join WWF on the day of WrestleMania. Helmsley bumps into him. The two men brawl.
We go to more footage of Roddy Piper’s Bronco, apparently on his way to the arena.
Back inside the arena, Diesel makes his way to the ring. The lights go out, and Paul Bearer leads The Undertaker to the ring. Diesel doesn’t appear to be intimidated at all – in fact, he goes right after The Undertaker. Diesel is in control, but then my video goes out and Undertaker has turned the tide. Not sure what happened there. Undertaker walks the ropes and crashes down on the arm of Big Daddy Cool. Undertaker grabs a chair, but Diesel ducks it, causing Undertaker to hit the ringpost instead. These guys are battling all around ringside. Diesel takes over and starts to toy with The Undertaker. Not sure if that’s a wise move or not. I’m going with “not,” since Undertaker starts firing back, but both men take each other down with big boots. Back on their feet, Diesel wears down the Dead Man with a bearhug, but Undertaker fights out of it. Diesel drops Undertaker with the Jackknife, but he doesn’t attempt to capitalize, instead showing off to the crowd. He starts taunting The Undertaker, who sits up, which is what Diesel was hoping for. He hits another Jackknife. He takes his time before going for the cover – and The Undertaker grabs him by the throat! Diesel fights his way out once, but Undertaker grabs him again. Diesel again fights out, but Undertaker again gets him by the throat. The Dead Man rises to his feet, but Diesel fights out of the Undertaker’s grip, and gets him with a back body drop. Undertaker sits up again, and Diesel backs off when he sees him on his feet. Undertaker ducks a clothesline and hits a flying clothesline of his own. He grabs Diesel by the throat again and chokeslams him. A tombstone piledriver later, and The Undertaker has defeated Diesel, his fifth consecutive win at WrestleMania.
Hall of Famer count: 10 (2014 inductee Bearer)
Todd Pettengil is at security control, watching the monitors, where Goldust has just plowed through a barricade, then we cut to the scene, where Piper is hot on Goldust’s trail. Goldust gets inside with Marlena. They hear Piper coming, and the two men wind up in the arena. They’re trading shots inside the ring, and Goldust gets control, choking Piper out with his own shirt. I’m not even sure how you win this thing, there’s no referee, which Vince McMahon says is “by design.” Goldust goes to the top, but Piper shakes the ropes, sending Goldust crashing down on his.. uh.. golden globes, if you will. Goldust kisses Piper on the lips, which angers the firey Scot. Piper grabs Goldust by the balls and squeezes hard, then drops a knee to the groin. He spanks Goldust a bit before stripping him down to his… lingerie?!? Ok, I didn’t need to see that. Piper drops another knee to the balls, and Goldust and Marlena hightail it out of there. So… I guess Piper wins? His music is playing, so we’ll go with that.
Up next is the 60-minute Iron Man Match is up next! We get a video package of how this match came about. President Gorilla Monsoon is back to oversee the proceedings. Jose Lothario comes out, but Shawn Michaels doesn’t. Jerry Lawler says he must have been too scared to face Bret Hart tonight. Lothario points up to the top of the arena, where Shawn Michaels is. He jumps off and glides down on a zip line. That’s pretty damned cool! He lands right in the middle of his Kliq. Bret Hart just walks to the ring like normal. Loser. Referee Earl Hebner explains the instructions. They’ll wrestle for 60 minutes. The man who wins the most decisions will be declared the winner and the World Wrestling Federation Champion. Decisions can be earned by pinfall, submission, countout, or a disqualification. They must break on four, he will disqualify them on five. If they leave the ring or are thrown out, they have a 10 count to return or they’ll be counted out. Both men confirm that they understand the rules. There are no questions. Hebner wishes them both luck, Hart hands the belt to Hebner, and we’re underway!
The two men take their time in the early going, almost feeling each other out. Maybe even just trying to pace themselves for the next 50+ minutes. It’s weird, it almost seems like I can hear them hitting the mat louder than usual. A little scoreboard pops up on the screen. Hart gets a couple of near falls early on a side headlock. The pace picks up for a few moments until Bret gets Michaels back in the side headlock. Michaels tries to turn Hart onto his shoulder and gets a near fall himself.
Five minutes in, Michaels gets out of the headlock, but eventually gets into a front facelock. Hart brings it back into the side headlock and takes Michaels back to the canvas. Michaels counters into an armbar as we get a shot of Stu Hart with Freddie Blassie. Michaels maintains his advantage with a hammerlock. Hart gets back to his feet and backs Michaels into a corner. Michaels turns it around, then sends Hart to the floor with a flying head scissors.
Ten minutes in, Hart is taking his time getting back in the ring. Michaels goes back to the arm when Hart does get back in. Bret tries to throw Shawn out of the ring, but Michaels skins the cat and goes right back to work on the arm. Bret fights back, taking Shawn down with a knee to the midsection. He locks Michaels in a rear chinlock. Michaels breaks out and legdrops Bret and goes right back to work on the arm. Bret gets away and goes for the Sharpshooter. Michaels avoids it but gets clotheslined over the top rope and to the floor. Bret goes out after him, but Michaels sends him crashing to the floor. At the 15 minute mark, the timekeeper gets Sweet Chin Music when Bret Hart moves out of the way.
Back in the ring, Hart has the chinlock back on Michaels. Michaels is in the hold for a while before getting out, and he takes Hart down with a dropkick before locking him back in an armbar. Michaels starts dropping knees into the ribs of Hart while he has the hold locked in.
20 minutes into the match, and Michaels scores a couple of near falls while he has Bret in a submission hold, pulling the arm while pushing the body away with his feet. Hart finally gets out of it and starts hitting European Uppercuts in the corner on Michaels. Michaels turns things around sending Hart crashing shoulder first into the ring post. Michaels wraps the injured arm around the ring post again. Michaels hits a shoulderbreaker on Hart, then goes up to the second rope. He comes off with a double axehandle down to the same shoulder. A hammerlock slam continues the work on the shoulder. He tosses Bret shoulder first into the turnbuckle a couple of times.
An arm ringer by Michaels is fought out of by Hart at the 25 minute mark, but Michaels goes right back to work on the arm. Hart rolls through a cross armbreaker, and punches his way out. Michaels doesn’t relinquish the advantage, however, and goes right back to the arm. Bret finally gets a breather by dropping Shawn throat first across the second rope. He then catapults Michaels into the ringpost. He crawls over but only gets a two count. Michaels slams Hart’s head into the turnbuckle, but misses a splash in the corner. Bret turns things around, dropping Michaels with an inverted atomic drop and a clothesline, but only gets a two count. A bulldog takes Michaels down and Hart climbs to the top rope, but he takes too long, or so it seemed. He takes Michaels down with a knee to the back of the head, but accidentally hits the referee too.
Half way through the match, Michaels powerbombs Hart, but only scores a two. Bret piledrives Michaels but Michaels kicks out. Hart goes back to the top rope, but Michaels catches him again and slams him to the canvas. Michaels hits another flying headscissors and pounds away on The Hitman. He takes him down with a backbreaker for a two count. A back elbow barely drops Hart, who then ducks Sweet Chin Music. Michaels comes off the top rope with a flying cross body to the floor. Michaels gets back in the ring and the count is put on Bret. Michaels doesn’t take the countout however, and goes back out after Hart. He rolls him back into the ring, and hits another cross body from the top, but Hart rolls through and gets a two count. Hart goes for a backslide, but Michaels flips over and gets a small package, only getting a two count. Michaels hits a Perfect Plex for two.
35 minutes into the match, Michaels locks in a sleeper hold. Bret backs him into the corner to break it, but Michaels puts it back on. After a little more back and forth, Hart backdrops Michaels over the top to the floor, nearly taking out a cameraman in the process. Hart doesn’t take the countout either, and he rams Michaels spine-first into the ringpost. He rolls Michaels back in and goes to work on the lower back. He hits a backbreaker, followed by a knee to the back.
40 minutes gone by and still no falls as Bret continues to work on the back of Michaels. Hart hits a top rope belly to back suplex for a two count then locks in the Camel Clutch. Michaels gets back and scores a two count with a sunset flip, but Hart is back in control soon after. He sets Michaels up on the top rope, but Michaels fights back, only to catch a fist to the midsection on his way down from Hart. Side Russian leg sweep by Hart scores two. Michaels gets whipped into the buckle, and goes tumbling over, taking out Jose Lothario on his way down. Michaels is whipped into the steel steps, once again knocking Lothario over as collateral damage. Hart throws Michaels back intot he ring, says something to Lothario, and gets back in the ring.
45 minutes in, Hart is firmly in control, getting two with a belly to belly suplex. Michaels tries to fight back but it doesn’t last long. Hart hits forearms in the corner again, then a suplex, but Michaels floats over and rolls Hart up for a two count, but on the kickout, Michaels goes flying through the ropes and to the floor again. Hart hits a suicide dive through the ropes and takes Michaels down in the aisle. Rather than throw him back in the ring, he lets the referee count. Hart breaks the count, and Michaels manages to get back in. Hart hits a German suplex with a bridge and only scores a two. Hart hits a headbutt and locks the Camel Clutch back in as the clock hits 10 minutes remaining.
With less than ten minutes to go, things look bleak for Shawn Michaels. He manages to get to his knees in the Camel Clutch, but Hart’s got him back in a chinlock. Michaels fights his way to his feet. He breaks the hold with a pair of elbows, ducks a clothesline, goes for one of his own, but Bret had the same idea and both men are down. They get back to their feet, and Hart manages to hit a superplex, but he’s had so much taken out of him that he can’t immediately capitalize. Hart goes for the Sharpshooter, but Michaels blocks it. He can’t get away from Hart though, because Hart hangs on to the ankle. He gets Michaels into a half crab, more punishment to the lower back of Michaels, who gets to the ropes. Hart hangs on for a few moments longer, but not long enough to get disqualified. Backbreaker from Hart.
Five minutes to go, and Hart attempts the second rope elbow drop, but Michaels kicks him in the face. Michaels scores with a dropkick, leaving Hart in the corner. Michaels whips Hart to the other corner, sternum first into the turnbuckles. Michaels hits a flying forearm, then nips up. He stomps on Hart’s face. He hits a back elbow. A bodyslam, and Michaels goes to the top, hitting a double axehandle on Hart, but only scoring two. Michaels hits a suplex and goes to the top again, and hits the flying elbow drop, but only gets two. Gutwrench Powerbomb from Michaels, who goes back to the top. He hits a moonsault, but only scores two. Michaels hits a boot to the face, and another flying headscissors, but only scores two again. He gets Hart back down and goes back to the top rope. Hart catches Michaels coming in and locks in the sharpshooter with just over 30 seconds to go! Michaels is refusing to give up as the clock ticks down. The bell rings, and we finish with no score! What a match!
Gorilla Monsoon gets in the ring and confers with the referee as Bret Hart leaves with the WWF Championship. Howard Finkel tells us that the time limit has expired, but this match has been ordered to continue under sudden death rules. There must be a winner, much to the chagrin of Bret Hart. Hart throws the belt down and gets back in the ring, but stops to question Gorilla Monsoon instead of going after Michaels. The bell rings, and Bret goes right back after the lower back of Michaels. Michaels hits Sweet Chin Music but only gets two. Moments later, however, Michaels hits it again, and scores the pinfall. You winner, and new World Wrestling Federation Champion, Shawn Michaels! The boyhood dream has become a reality!
Hall of Famer count: 15 (Hart, Michaels, Gorilla Monsoon, Freddie Blassie, Stu Hart)
Thoughts: That’s how it’s done. The ton of rest holds in the iron man match made the high paced action in it stand out more. That was a single 60 minute wrestling match that didn’t put me to sleep. And considering how out of it I was during some of the earlier matches, that’s impressive. That’s it for this year’s classic WrestleMania reviews! Next year I’ll be doing 13-18… but I’ve already done 18, so that’ll be interesting. Maybe I’ll just re-post that one. But I’ve got a year to think about it. Oh well. I’m going to do a WWE 2K14 sim of this year’s WrestleMania as JT is unavailable to do so, and we’ve got BWF Radio 120 on Sunday, which will serve as our WrestleMania XXX pre-show.
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