WrestleMania XII is largely known for one match: The Iron Man Match between Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart and Shawn Michaels. The storyline spun for this match was that Shawn had wanted to be WWF champion since he was a boy and after overcoming a legit-turned-into-a-storyline concussion (legit was from an altercation with some Marines, storyline was from Owen Hart), he won the Royal Rumble two times in a row, only the second man to do it (the first was Hulk Hogan, but that won’t be mentioned). The story of these two legendary rivals and this match is what comes to mind when WrestleMania XII is mentioned.
What about the rest of the card? The rest of this card had a pretty interesting line up: A Hollywood Backlot Brawl featuring a very odd match up, a six-man tag, a match between the tallest men in WWF at the time, and the WrestleMania debuts of two men that would be taking the WWF into a new direction in a very short time.
So, is the legendary Iron Man Match the only match worth watching at WrestleMania XII? Let’s find out!
We start off with a montage about Bret and Shawn and their dreams, and their contrasting personalities. We also get a great promo for the Iron Man Match.
Vince and Lawler welcome us and give us the rundown of the card.
Six Man Tag: The British Bulldog, Owen Hart, and Vader (with Jim Cornette) vs Yokozuna, Ahmed Johnson, and Jake Roberts (with Mr. Fuji)
Vader and Cornette are out first to little reaction. We’re told that if Team Yokozuna wins, Yokozuna gets five minutes with Cornette. Owen and Bulldog are out next to the same.
We get a small recap of Yokozuna getting tired of Cornette and turning face.
Team Yokozuna are out together to a great pop. Lawler is wigged out by Damien coming out too.
This match starts with chaos, but the faces clear the ring. Ahmed goes for a flight, and Jake joins him.
This was a rough match to watch. Yokozuna’s increased size really hindered his athleticism and ability to keep up. Also, the contrast in styles of the six men didn’t mesh very seamlessly, the pairing for Team Yokozuna felt a little random That said, everyone did a pretty good job and the match wasn’t total waste of roughly fifteen minutes.
Winner: Team Cornette by pinfall.
Highlights: Owen going for a dropkick on Yokozuna and bouncing off him. Mr. Fuji waving the American Flag. Jake the Snake still getting a great pop for the DDT. Yokozuna hitting a Samoan Drop on Davey Boy.
Comments: I’m a little ‘meh’ on this match. It feels like it was supposed to be Yokozuna vs Vader, and the other four men were put in to take the pressure off Yokozuna.
We get a recap of Piper/Goldust, starting with a retrospective on Piper’s career and why this match is happening. Vince and Lawler tell us that earlier (presumably in the Free-For-All, which was the 90s version of Kickoff shows) that Piper was seen with a baseball bat and a hose. Marlena is at the arena with champagne on ice for the expected Goldust victory.
Hollywood Backlot Brawl Part 1: Roddy Piper vs Goldust (with Marlena)
Piper’s there, bat in tow. A gold Cadillac (I needed Vince and Lawler to say what kind of car it was, BTW) pulls up. Piper doesn’t seem scared, but Vince does. Piper takes the fire hose and sprays it all over the car’s windshield (maybe he was trying to take the godawful gold paint off). Piper grabs his bat and start bashing out the windows of the car with a shout that would’ve made Mel Gibson’s William Wallace proud.
Goldust gets out of the car and tries to run for it (BTW, this thing is being watched by people at whatever studio lot this is at). Piper begins choking Goldust with the bat. The lot crowd seems to love this, at least. Piper uses Goldust’s head to wreck catering.
After a lot of trash talk, Piper turns the hose on Goldust, and then uses him to dent that poor Cadillac. Piper’s wearing out, so Goldust low blows him and decides to get the hell out of Dodge. In trying to get out of this alley, he hits a white Ford Bronco (more on that and why I know what kind of car that is later) and hits Piper. Goldust then takes off with Piper still on the hood, before Piper gets off. Goldust leaves and Piper goes after him, in the white Ford Bronco. If you were alive and aware of the news in the spring of 1996, you know where this is going.
Winner: I’m going to call this a draw.
Highlights: First use of ‘Vintage _’. Piper beating the s**t out of Goldust. Piper stiff shoting Goldust right in the face (you could hear the ‘smack’)
Comments: I actually liked this part of the match. We got to see Piper in his element.
Back in the arena, the crowd seems to have enjoyed that and its time for our next match.
Stone Cold Steve Austin (with Ted DiBiase) vs Savio Vega
Austin and DiBiase are out first to little reaction (yes, there was a time when Austin did not get a huge pop).
Dok Hendrix is with Savio Vega and we get a recap of why Austin and Vega are feuding: They were randomly paired up in a tag match in the Tag Team Championship Tournament, and Austin refused to tag in, then took out Vega out when it looked like they had the match won. Vega says his dream of being at WrestleMania has come true and he’s ready to fight and says Austin better be ready too.
Vega doesn’t get much of a reaction either, but this match starts as a slugfest and we’re off.
This was more of a fight than a wrestling match. Austin and Vega were literally rolling around at one point. That said, these guys are great together. This was a lowcard match with an ‘eh’ story, but the match quality was outstanding.
Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin by submission. The crowd is livid with Austin.
Highlights: DiBiase’s fake tan. DiBiase using a fan’s drink to wake up the ref.
Comments: I really liked this match, this could be a contender for match of the night.
As that match was going on and we were getting ‘aerial’ footage of the Piper/Goldust chase that looks very familiar to anyone who remembers the summer of 1995. Now that the match is over we’re getting some more footage and it’s so shameless, I’m actually laughing.
We go to Mr. Perfect, who is interviewing Diesel and rehashing what lead up the match with Undertaker and the mind games Taker had been playing with him. Diesel isn’t bothered by the mind games, and says Undertaker is a big obstacle, but Big Daddy Cool is going to take care it and then wishes HBK good luck in his match but promises to get him next.
Some more footage and we’re on to the next match
The Ultimate Warrior vs Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Helmsley is out first with the woman that would become known as Sable on his arm. Warrior is out next to a huge pop. He’s got a new look, but it’s the same old Warrior. This match was quick and dirty, the most I can say is that Warrior didn’t stink the place up.
Winner: Ultimate Warrior by pinfall
Comments: This match was ugly. I would feel sorry for Helmsley for the ignominious loss, but then I remember the much better things that are down the road for this young man.
We go to Todd Pettengill, who is out in the truck area and we are introduced to ‘Wild Man’ Marc Mero. Pettengill botches the name a little. Mero says that he’s been waiting five long years to come to WWF and now he’s finally arrived and at the SuperBowl of Sports Entertainment. Pettengill asks about the quality of opponents (he includes the Ultimate Warrior in the list with a straight face). Mero says he’s up to the challenge. We are interrupted by Helmsley and Sable and a shoving match starts. Helmsley gets in Sable’s face, and when Mero grabs him, Helmsley gives a straight right hook. A fistfight breaks out and the two have to be separated.
We get more ‘footage’, but it’s now time for the next match.
The Streak: Undertaker (with Paul Bearer) vs Diesel
Diesel is out first to a LOUD round of boos, which is wild considering how loved he was just a year ago. Diesel seems untroubled by the crowd, and is actually smiling. The gong sounds and the lights go out to a huge pop. Taker and Paul Bearer have the urn back, and the crowd is ecstatic to see them. Lawler compares Undertaker’s mind games to the plagues of Egypt and Freddie Krueger.
Taker brings up the lights a little and begins getting prepared for the reaping. Diesel still isn’t bothered by the spectacle. This match starts with a fistfight and sets the tone for the match. If you’re looking for scientific or technical stuff, this is not the match for you. This is a fistfight, pure and simple. However, these guys worked well together, both move very well for guys nearly seven feet tall.
Winner: Undertaker by pinfall. Streak is 5-0
Highlights: Seeing two seven footers breaking out some surprisingly agile moves.
Comments: This was a surprisingly great match. Taker and Diesel really brought out the best in each other despite having very similar styles.
Note: This match marks the first time that Undertaker’s win/loss record at WrestleMania is ever mentioned, though it was said in an offhand way. This would also be the final WrestleMania appearance by Kevin Nash, he would leave for WCW in May. He would return to WWF/E in 2002 as part of the NWO.
We go to Todd Pettengill, who is in security. We see the poor, gold Cadillac tearing in with the Bronco right behind it. And part two of the Brawl is underway.
Hollywood Backlot Brawl Part 2: Roddy Piper vs Goldust (with Marlena)
Marlena is with Goldust, but Piper is on their heels, ranting like a madman in a horror movie. Strangely, no one seems really interested in stopping him. Goldust and Piper are heading for the ring, Goldust begging for mercy, but Piper’s not in the mood after that drive through LA traffic.
This match starts as a fistfight and keeps going. Goldust dominates throughout, but Piper is wily and won’t back down. Goldust makes a huge mistake when he kisses Piper on the mouth, something that you didn’t do or show in 1996. Piper is incensed, and all hell breaks loose. Piper grabs Goldust by the family jewels, gives Goldust a quick spanking and shows us all what is under the jumpsuit, and it was probably something no one wanted to know: women’s lingerie, complete with panties, a bustier (that quickly falls apart), garters and stockings. Piper gives Goldust a kiss of his own and does his best to take off the suit. Marlena comes out and whisks Goldust away.
Winner: Roddy Piper. Piper celebrates with the crowd. This would be his last WrestleMania appearance for over a decade, as he would go to WCW and feud with the NWO.
Highlight: Goldust showing some fighting skills. Dustin Runnels being man enough to let himself be stripped down and seen in women’s lingerie on PPV television. That did NOT happen in 1996.
Comments: This match was a great palate cleanser since the fans were going to be watching an hour-long match in a few minutes.
As Vince and Lawler discuss the Iron Man Match, Lawler briefly breaks character and comments that only Bret vs Shawn could top the Hollywood Backlot Brawl, and considering that he’d been feuding with the Harts (minus Owen), that’s quite a compliment.
We get a recap (and our first introduction to Michael Cole, or his voice) of the feud and the Iron Man Match.
We talk to HBK who, for once doesn’t have a whole lot left to say. He says everyone knows the story. Bret says that this is finally coming to a head and that the Iron Man will show just how good HBK is and how good Bret himself is.
60 Minute Iron Man Match for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship: Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart vs Shawn Michaels (with Jose Lothario)
Finkel introduces us to WWF President, Gorilla Monsoon who will be overseeing this match.
HBK is out first to an okay pop, but instead of HBK, we get only Jose Lothario. Lawler thinks HBK’s chickened out. The music stops, Mr. Lothario comes into the ring, climbs onto the second turnbuckle and points to the rafters. HBK’s music starts up again and we see him up in the rafters. The crowd goes crazy as HBK comes down on the wire (that Vince tried first earlier in the day to prove it was safe). HBK lands in the midst of the fans. HBK looks so excited, but his dancing still stinks.
Bret’s entrance isn’t nearly as exciting, but he gets a pretty good pop.
Hebner gives the rules: The man who scores the most decision (pinfalls, submissions, countouts, disqualifications) in sixty minutes will become the WWF World Heavyweight Champion. He warns both men that he will not hesitate to DQ either of them if they don’t break by the count of five and that they will be counted out if they don’t get back in the ring by the count of ten. Both men agree, no more questions are asked.
Bret gives Hebner the belt and goes out to give his sunglasses away. We see him teasing a child before handing over his sunglasses. We’re told that that child is Bret’s son, Blane. This was a good match, but it was boring in places. Things didn’t pick up until the last five or ten minutes.
At the end of the sixty minutes, there has still not been a single pinfall scored. The crowd is NOT happy and no one is sure of what to do.
Bret and Hebner assume that since the match was technically a draw, Bret retained his championship. Hebner gives Bret the belt and Bret leaves the ring. Monsoon gets in the ring and talks to Hebner. Bret is about halfway to the back when the announcement that the match is being continued so that there is a winner. Bret is not happy and makes his way to the ring. He throws down the belt and gets in the ring, pausing to argue with Monsoon. Bret’s mad and taking it out on HBK. He shoots HBK into the corner, HBK leaps over him and connects with Sweet Chin Music but doesn’t get all of it. Bret and HBK both stagger to their feet and HBK superkicks Bret again and nails him for the three. The crowd LOSES it, so does HBK.
Winner: Shawn Michaels by pinfall in Sudden Death.
Highlights: HBK showing technical skills, to Bret’s surprise. HBK accidentally taking out the timekeeper. HBK’s reaction to FINALLY winning the WWF Title.
Comments: This was a good match, it wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but it was good. I have to admit that even though I’ve seen this match a few times, I still jumped to my feet and screamed ‘He got him!’ when the second Sweet Chin Music connected.
So, should the WrestleMania XII card only be known for the Iron Man Match? In my opinion, no. Except for a couple of stinkers, this was a great card. Yes, the Iron Man Match was a good, if somewhat boring, match that definitely deserves to be remembered, the rest of the card was nothing to be sneezed at.
Snoozers: I have to be honest, the Iron Man match was boring until the end. It was a good match, but sixty minutes of it was too much.
Stinkers: Ultimate Warrior vs Helmsley. That was a waste of a slot, they should’ve given that spot to the Tag Team Championship match instead of having it on the Free For All.
Match of the Night: Undertaker vs Diesel. Honorable mentions for Austin/Vega and Piper/Goldust.
Shameless Moment of the Night: The use of the OJ Simpson White Bronco chase footage was so blatant that it was hysterical.
Final Thoughts: Overall, I liked this WrestleMania. It was a solid card, except for a couple of stinkers.