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Much of the build ahead of Wrestlemania 12 surrounded what was happening off screen. In the final week in February Razor Ramon handed in his notice with the company, not (at least at that moment in time) to join WCW, more to ensure his contract didn’t auto renew. Two weeks later Diesel, in a phone call with Vince McMahon also handed in his notice, he would be joining WCW. Not long after, Ramon confirmed he would be too.
While Ramon’s match with Goldust was abandoned after he was suspended for failing a drug test, Diesel’s match with Undertaker would go ahead as planned. Diesel’s role for his final 90 days with the company would be to go out “on his back” putting over both The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.
The big storyline was the confirmation that Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels would face off for the WWF Title in a sixty minute iron man match. A brave choice to possibly compromise a great Wrestlemania match, and one that would fill nearly half of the show. The build between Bret and Shawn was by and large about respect – and the relative conditioning of both performers. The animosity was limited to a couple of gentle gibes by Bret about Shawn’s wrestling style.
Vader, The British Bulldog and Owen Hart (w/ Jim Cornette) vs Yokozuna, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Ahmed Johnson
On a show without a guaranteed sixty minute main event, it’s probable this combination of wrestlers may have been two matches rather than one, combined with the fact that Vader was still coming off of shoulder surgery and we get this six man. It’s a good match, and the crowd are into it without it ever being in danger of every turning into anything great. There’s the usual pops – Jake Roberts’ DDT and the Yokozuna offence on Vader – Vader won with a Vaderbomb on Roberts. Hardly the best framing of Vader as a monster heel, but his team did win I suppose.
Piper vs Goldust - Hollywood Backlot Brawl (Part 1)
We go to the backlot, Goldust arrives in a gold painted car, Piper smashes it up with a baseball bat. Piper then beats the piss out of Goldust for the next few minutes, including spraying him with a hose and (at least trying) to bodyslam him onto the hood of the car. Goldust buys some time with a low blow then speeds off in the car after running Piper over. Piper – sprightly considering – gets into a big people carrier and goes off in chase.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin (w/ Ted DiBiase) vs Savio Vega
Man… a match formed on two-weeks notice and a performance that would be forgotten within two weeks. No crowd heat, very little action (and what we did get was essentially just a conduit for updates on Piper – they’ve got a chase helicopter!). Austin hits Vega with the Million Dollar Title with the ref down, then locks in the Million Dollar dream submission. The ref comes to and awards Austin the match. Just bad.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs The Ultimate Warrior
Hunter’s entrance takes forever, Warrior comes out and gets a great reaction (fortunately Warrior storms to the ring). The action begins in earnest, Hunter hits his pedigree finisher straight away, Warrior pops straight back up then basically starts going home. He hits some clotheslines, a shoulder tackle, a press slam then hits a running splash and picks up the win. A great showcase for Warrior, but a bizarre opponent given that they allegedly have high hopes for HHH.
Tod Pettengil is backstage and he introduces Johnny B Badd! He’s now going by the moniker “Wildman” Marc Mero. Mero starts to cut a promo, Hunter bumps into him and the two start brawling.
Diesel vs The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)
A long bear hug aside, this was the exact formula that should’ve been used with big man Diesel matches in 1995. He and Undertaker kept a match largely on its feet that maintained a pace that felt believable without being lethargic. The action spills to the outside, Undertaker drives Diesel into the ringpost. Diesel hits a jackknife, then celebrates. Hits a second, delays going for a cover but cannot get the job done. Undertaker hits a chokeslam, then a tombstone piledriver and that’ll do that. Not great, but could’ve been a lot worse.
Goldust vs Piper (Part 2)
We cut to the outside, the car chase culminates, shockingly back in the ring. The four police cars that were tailing Piper have vanished. Piper chases Goldust eventually to the ring itself. They brawl – Goldust gets touchy feely for a while, then kisses him. Piper grabs him in the bollocks, then starts to pull of his wrestling suit to reveal Goldust wearing lingerie… lovely. Goldust hurries off to the back and Piper seeming wins this brawl. Crowd were all over this.
Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario) vs Bret Hart in an Ironman Match for the WWF Championship
Shawn zip lines into the arena, which is great. Quite how Bret was supposed to follow that I’ve got no idea, he just walks out to an amazingly lukewarm reaction. Earl Hebner goes through the rules which, while delivered a bit awkwardly, really makes the match feel significant. “If you don’t break by a count of four, I *WILL* disqualify you”.
For all the talk of conditioning, we go to the rest holds very early in this match. Bret is working headlocks, Shawn working Bret’s arm. To be simplistic, it largely stayed like this for the first half hour. The action picks up as we start the second half, Shawn hits a powerslam, Bret kicks out, Bret hits a piledriver, Shawn kicks out. Michaels, for about a thirty second spell in the entire match, tries for a superkick, after that he mysteriously doesn’t go for it again in normal time.
The second half of the match is more of a series of spots as the match built in intensity. The crowd, largely, were pretty flat through. There are some gasps – Shawn goes vaulting over the top turnbuckle to the outside, something that played out even better on TV with the cameraman underneath the action. With ten minutes to go, the intensity and desperation picks up, but the drama never really did. Shawn, inexplicably, never went for the superkick (despite dominating a 2 minute stretch of the final five minutes). Shawn goes to the top, Bret catches him jumping off and locks in the sharpshooter with 30 seconds to go. Shawn survives and Bret thinks (as he’s probably in his right to) a 0-0 final score should be enough.
Gorilla Monsoon says we should go into Sudden death. Bret fires Shawn into the corner, Shawn vaults the charge then leathers a superkick. Both men go down, Shawn gets to his feet, hits a second superkick and wins the match. The crowd pop for that.
Overall, this was a good match. However, when you consider that it largely decimated the entire card, and cost us what probably could’ve been a barnburner of a Shawn/Bret match otherwise, it’s a disappointment. For all the talk of conditioning Bret and Shawn shot for rest holds way too early, and the 0-0 story felt clichéd, almost obvious. A far better story would’ve been Shawn picking up a fall at any stage during the match, then Bret desparately trying to get one back, using heel tactics as a result. That would’ve given the crowd more reason to react, rather than watch, and would've made the sharpshooter conclusion far more dramatic. Good match, but could and should have been better.
Score Rating: 6/10
Go Back And Watch: Bret/Shawn – it’s not great but it does need to be watched. The rest of the show is probably skippable, but sure many will want to see for the historical value of Austin, HHH and an Undertaker match. Opener isn't bad, either.