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Matt’s Retro Review: WWF Championship 1996

Matt takes a look at the exciting year of 1996 for the WWF Championship, featuring two of the all-time greatest in-ring performers!

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WWF Championship 1996 Bret Hart Shawn Michaels

Matt takes a look at the exciting year of 1996 for the WWF Championship, featuring two of the all-time greatest in-ring performers!

Welcome to the tenth edition of the Retro Championship Review on The Chairshot! This will be a biweekly article here on The Chairshot because we have a lot to discuss! In starting, my question for you is; have you ever had a discussion with a friend or in a group online about who is the greatest champion of all time? What is your defense of your claim? Wins? Quality of matches? Length of reign? In this weekly article, I will be looking back one year at a time and evaluating one specific championship in each article, with a yearly grade ranking and overall grade ranking and as we progress through the years, I will reveal who I believe is the best champion of all time.

To start us off, I am going to discuss the most recognizable championship in the history of wrestling, the WWE Heavyweight Championship. These articles will not discuss the “Big Gold” World Championship, Universal Championship, or any other recognized heavyweight championship in WWE, those will be discussed in other articles. During these reviews, I will count matches aired on weekly television, PPV, and matches also released on VHS and later on home media.

Bret Hart (November 19th, 1995 – March 31st, 1996)

  • Record: 8-2
  • Clean Losses: 1
  • Successful Defenses: 3

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Bret Hart d. Bob Backlund, December 11th, 1995, Monday Night RAW
  • Undertaker d. Bret Hart, January 21st, 1996, Royal Rumble
  • Bret Hart d. Diesel, (Steel Cage), February 18th, 1996, Rage in the Cage
  • Bret Hart d. Triple H, March 4th 1996, Monday Night RAW
  • Shawn Michaels d. Bret Hart, March 31st, 1996, WrestleMania XII

Thoughts: Bret Hart set the bar so highly in his previous reign that this one felt like a missed opportunity, though it did have some great moments. With ten matches in five months, he wrestled a good amount and had a number of successful defenses, though the company was shifting into a new direction where match finishes were starting to resemble overbooked endings, such as at Rage in the Cage, where Undertaker pulled Diesel through the mat “to hell”. I added Hart vs HHH on RAW because it’s a rare matchup between the two. Of their three matches, this is the only one with a pinfall/submission, and HHH didn’t win any of them, so it’s cool to see. The end of this reign was capped off with the return of Gorilla Monsoon as President, restarting the Ironman match, as Bret Hart opposed, before being booted in the face- starting his character down a dark path. This reign wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great.

Grade (A+ through F ): C

Shawn Michaels (March 31st, 1996 – November 17th, 1996)

  • Record: 24-4
  • Clean Losses: 1
  • Successful Defenses: 9

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Shawn Michaels d. Bret Hart, March 31st, 1996, WrestleMania XII
  • Shawn Michaels d. Steve Austin May 12th, 1996, “The Attitude Era: Unreleased”
  • Shawn Michaels d. Triple H, May 13th, 1996, Monday Night RAW
  • Shawn Michaels d. British Bulldog, May 26th 1996, In Your House: Beware of Dog
  • Shawn Michaels d. British Bulldog, June 26th, 1996, King of the Ring
  • Shawn Michaels d. Marty Jannetty, July 1st, 1996, Monday Night RAW
  • Shawn Michaels d. Mankind, September 22nd, 1996, In Your House: Mindgames

Thoughts: What a workhorse reign. I commended Bret Hart and Randy Savage previously for working, but 28 televised/released matches (some were dark matches later released on DVD) during an eight month reign is just under four matches per month, or almost one per week for eight months! Not all the matches were fantastic, but when he delivered, they were great. The Boyhood Dream came true, and The Showstopper was born here. I added the match with Marty because of the nostalgia feeling it gave. Was a great little wrinkle to see them wrestle, from where they were in 1988 to where Shawn was in 1996 was amazing. The reign started really well with great matches in March and April and May but it faded quickly as HBK was matched up with much larger opponents such as Vader, Yokozuna, and Sid, and none of those matches were enjoyable to me. I know the SummerSlam match is regarded as one of Vader’s best in the WWF, but it just wasn’t for me. Sorry! I was ready to praise this reign as amazing, but it left a sour taste in my mouth. Something to note here is, Shawn Michaels doesn’t lay down for anybody! 28 matches, 4 losses, 1 clean loss.

Grade (A+ through F ): C-


Overall WWE Champion Ranking

  1. Hulk Hogan (January 23rd, 1984 – February 5th, 1988) – A
  2. Bret Hart (March 20th, 1994 – November 26th, 1994) – A
  3. Yokozuna (June 13th, 1993 – March 20th, 1994) — B+
  4. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (April 5th, 1992 – September 14th, 1992) – B
  5. Bret Hart (October 12th, 1992 – April 4th, 1993) — B-
  6. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (March 27th, 1988 – April 2nd, 1989) – C+
  7. Bret Hart (November 19th, 1995 – March 31st, 1996) — C
  8. Sgt. Slaughter (January 19th, 1991 – March 24th, 1991) – C
  9. Hulk Hogan (April 2nd, 1989 – April 1st, 1990) – C
  10. Shawn Michaels (March 31st, 1996 – November 17th, 1996) — C-
  11. Hulk Hogan (March 24th — November 27th, 1991) – D+
  12. Ric Flair (January 19th, 1992 — April 5th, 1992) — D
  13. The Ultimate Warrior (April 1st, 1990- January 19th, 1991) – D
  14. Ric Flair (September 14th, 1992 – October 12th, 1992) — D
  15. Diesel (November 26th, 1994 – November 19th, 1995) — D
  16. Bob Backlund (November 23rd, 1994 – November 26th, 1994) — D-
  17. Hulk Hogan (April 4th, 1993 – June 13th, 1993) — F
  18. Yokozuna (April 4th, 1992 – April 4th, 1992) — F
  19. Undertaker (November 27th, 1991- December 3rd, 1991) – F
  20. Hulk Hogan (December 3rd, 1991 – December 4th, 1991) – F

**Speaking of championships, I am currently designing custom made championships and shirts for your wrestling figure collections! Over the weekend my page passed 500 Likes, and I am hosting a free giveaway trivia game! One lucky winner will receive of these one of a kind custom championship belts of their choosing! Check out the page at Grand Slam Creations – Custom Wrestling Belts & Accessories on Facebook, give us a like and a follow and share with your friends! (If you find the page due to this article, please let me know and you will be given a extra entry into the giveaway!)**


Let us know what you think on social media @ChairshotMedia and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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