Reliving Wrestlemania – Wrestlemania XII

WrestleMania XII

Full steam ahead…

Wrestlemania XII would take place at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, CA.

By now, WWF and WCW were both at the top of the mountain, ratings-wise. The WWF was beginning to lose talent, seemingly by the minute. Already gone were Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Rick Rude, Debra Miceli, and Syxx. Knowing they were in trouble, Vince McMahon pulled out all the stops for this Wrestlemania…

Previously, on LOST…

  • Diesel would stay at the top with the WWF title until he dropped it in November to Bret “The Hitman” Hart and would face Diesel, The Undertaker and The British Bulldog for the title, retaining it all the way through. After defeating a young, up-and-coming Triple H, then-(storyline)-WWF President Rowdy Roddy Piper announced that Bret Hart would defend the title against Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 12. Not only that, but the match would be a first-ever Iron Man match where the wrestler with the most falls at the end of the match’s time limit would be declared winner and champion…the match, however, would be 60 FULL MINUTES.

In other news:

  • James Cornette and Mr. Fuji had finally gotten sick of one another. The two managers assembled teams and would face off in a six-man tag team match. Owen Hart was already a heel at this time and The British Bulldog, fresh off his break with Lex Luger, would also be a heel at this point. After his stint in WCW, Big Van Vader came to the WWF as, simply, “Vader”. The three would face off against Mr. Fuji’s odd team of a returning (face) Jake “The Snake” Roberts, a now-face Yokozuna, and newcomer Ahmed Johnson, who joined the WWF in late 1995.
  • After Wrestlemania, Diesel would drop the title to Bret “The Hitman” Hart at Survivor Series. Following that match, The Undertaker would become the number one contender for Hart’s title but Diesel interfered, costing the Undertaker the win. Despite losing the Royal Rumble, Diesel did get one more shot at Bret Hart in a cage match…but this time, The Undertaker interfered in the match, costing Diesel the championship title win. That was all she wrote. Diesel would take on the Undertaker at Wrestlemania.
  • Upon being fired by WCW for a bad knee injury as well as “not being a marketable wrestler”, “Stunning” Steve Austin was hired, in 1995, by Paul Heyman and ECW. Heyman brought back Austin’s career and helped develop him into more a badass. He would come to the WWF as “The Ringmaster” and would be managed by, of all people, Ted DiBiase. DiBiase would award Austin with The Million Dollar Championship. He would take on newcomer Savio Vega (formerly Kwang).
  • The Ultimate Warrior would return to action in the WWF and go up against an up-and-coming Triple H.
  • Finally, Rowdy Roddy Piper would go up against a resurgent Dustin Rhodes…otherwise known as “Goldust”. The two would feud after Piper became an object of his strange affections. Since the two were known for having a flair for the dramatic and theatrical, this match was a “Hollywood Backlot Brawl”. No DQ. No Countout. No holds barred. It would take place anywhere in Anaheim…

On with the show!

We lead off with a teaser for Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels and the Iron Man Match.

Vince McMahon welcomes us to Wrestlemania XII! For the fourth straight year, McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler are your announcers.

MATCH #1: Camp Cornette (Vader, Owen Hart & The British Bulldog) vs. Yokozuna, Ahmed Johnson, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts (w/ Mr. Fuji)
This was a match full of talent on their last legs. Yokozuna was freakin’ large. He had gained weight and liked it, which was a major problem. Surprisingly, he was STILL in the WWF. Honestly, I thought he was done after losing the WWF title but, not only did he manage to stay…he managed to star in two more Wrestlemania events. Jake Roberts, while entertaining, shouldn’t have been wrestling in the WWF anymore, yet here he was. The match is actually pretty good, all things considered. Mixed tag matches are 50-50 to me. I hate sitting through most of them because it’s just tedious and predictable. The ending is the only thing exciting. I love the crowd here, though. I’m proud of them. Every single time Roberts enters the ring, they’re cheering him and chanting “DDT” whenever he’s ready to finish an opponent. He actually DOES do this near the end but the referee is distracted by a total free for all outside the ring. Vader interferes, hits a Vader bomb at the 12 minute mark and this match is over. Camp Cornette wins.
WINNERS: Camp Cornette via Vader Bomb
GRADE: C+. Decent enough. Three more WWF celebs had stories:

  • Jake Roberts would finally leave the WWF in 1997. His wife divorced him and he got back into drugs and alcohol. He would wrestle independently and make short stints with WCW and TNA, the latter of which is where he cut a drunken, incoherent promo. In real life, Jake had major family issues, would cheat on his then-wife, smoke crack, drink heavily, and just be a complete mess. He retired in 2011. Surprisingly, given his turbulent career and life, he’s still alive. Vince McMahon, in a “shoot” interview, once said that it was hard to differentiate the character of Jake Roberts from the real person. I believe it. He recently moved in with fellow wrestler Diamond Dallas Page and Scott Hall. Page’s mission was to get both men sober and back on track for career comebacks. Roberts would make a comeback, of sorts, to Old School Raw in 2014, where he helped CM Punk and The New Age Outlaws beat The Shield following a match. He will be inducted into the 2014 Hall of Fame at Wrestlemania 30.
  • After a long, distinguished career both as a wrestler and manager, Mr. Fuji would retire after Wrestlemania 12 due to health problems which prevented him from traveling. On March 31st, 2007, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Don Muraco.
  • Yokozuna would continue wrestling in the WWF until 1998 when he had gained so much weight, that the New York State Athletic Commission revoked his license to wrestle. From there, he would leave the WWF until 2000…in October of 2000, he would pass away due to Pulmonary Edema. He was only 34 years old.

We tease the Hollywood Backlot match and Vince says that Piper is outside on the backlot, waiting for his opponent…

ONGOING MATCH: Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Goldust
This…match…was…fucking…in…sane…Piper is out in a parking lot, waiting with a bat. A gold car schreeches in and Piper tells Goldust to bring it on. Goldust tries to drive to Piper but Piper hoses the car down with a firehose. Then he shatters the driver’s side window and starts to attack Goldust with the bat. He goes after the catering table next and beats him up some more. Piper grabs a trash can and belts Goldust with it. He just kicks Goldust in the stomach then throws him against a dumpster. Then he uses a hose and sprays Goldust with it. He rams Goldust’s head into the car. Piper lifts him up and puts him on the hood of the car, coming down with a knee. He lifts him up off the car and just belts Goldust in the face before Dust finally pops him in the balls with a fist. He tosses Piper into a dumpster and then gets into the car. Goldust reverses, then runs into Piper. Piper grabs the hood of the car and Goldust screeches off, driving away from him. Piper runs to a white Suburban…oh, dear…

Well…that was fun…there’s more to come, believe me.

McMahon says that he’s happy it’s over with.

MATCH #2: Million Dollar Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (w/ Ted DiBiase) vs. Savio Vega
Ah, Steve Austin BEFORE he was a true badass. It cracks me up. The crowd is near-silent when he comes out to wrestle. Little did everyone realize that they would be out of their seats seeing this guy wrestle a couple of years later. Vega is out next. This match is brutal. Vega and Austin are just brutal wrestlers. During the match, Piper calls from his truck and says the match isn’t over. He’s chasing Goldust. We hear cop cars and then the line goes dead. Meanwhile, this is a well-wrestled match. Both Vega and Austin are great technicians and agile to boot. Piper is back on the line again. He’s yelling about beating Goldust and “make a man out of him”. The line goes dead. Meanwhile, Austin has the upper hand in the match and hits a nice modified atomic drop before Vega gets a near fall with a cross body. Austin gets a near fall after this and Vega reverses into a two count. The two trade reversals more than a few times, getting one two-count after the next. Then, we cut to Piper being tailed by the police on the 405…boy, this looks familiar. Vega sets up Austin with a MEAN chop off the ropes then hits a huge back body drop. He continues to knock Austin off his feet, but his flying kick hits the ref instead. With the ref out, DiBiase gives Austin the belt. DiBiase distracts Vega and Austin clubs him. Then does it again. Then Austin puts a sleeper on Vega and wins the match after DiBiase wakes the ref up. Crowd is dead silent. Stone Cold won’t let go of the hold and DiBiase continues to laugh.
WINNER: Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!
GRADE: C+! C+! C+! This was Austin before he was Austin.

  • Ted DiBiase, after years of being a star in the WWF, left the WWF later in the year for WCW where he became a member of the nWo until 1999. After leaving the WCW, Ted DiBiase became a Christian minister, founding The Heart of David ministry and also writing a book called “Every Man Has His Price”, a partial autobiography and religious testimony. Six years later, he was hired as a creative consultant for WWE Smackdown. He would return at Wrestlemania in 2006 but in a cameo role. In 2008, he introduced his son, Ted DiBiase, Jr., as his successor of sorts. In 2010, Ted DiBiase was finally inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and has made several small appearances across WWE TV.

After the match, we see Piper’s truck driving through Anaheim…LOL…

Backstage, Mr. Perfect is with Diesel.

  • Mr. Perfect would have a slight feud with Triple H but he had a contract dispute with Vince McMahon and the WWF and would leave for WCW where he would wrestle for three years until 2000. From 2001 to 2002, Henning would wrestle independently before finally returning to the WWF and Wrestlemania in 2002. He would, technically, compete at Wrestlemania 18 in a tag team match but the match was aired as a “Sunday Night Heat” match and was not at the same arena. His team would go on to lose the match. He would job to superstars from then on and be released from his contract after the infamous “Plane Ride From Hell” in May of 2002. He would compete in TNA for the latter part of 2002 to 2003. A month after beating David Flair, Henning was found dead in his Florida hotel room. Toxicology ruled that he had died of a cocaine overdose and his father said that he had also been on steroids and painkillers. Two of his children still wrestle. His wife signed a “Legends” contract for the WWF out of respect for her husband. In 2007, his long-time friend and baseball superstar, Wade Boggs, inducted Henning into the WWE Hall of Fame. Henning was only 44 years old when he died.

MATCH #3: The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Sable)
Triple H cracks me up here. He’s NOTHING like his current gimmick. Here, he’s a refined snob who wears a beautiful suit and is escorted to the ring by Sable and his music sounds like it was written for the 1700’s. Again, like Austin, crowd is DEAD for Triple H. The Warrior comes screaming out of the backstage area for his first match since Wrestlemania 7 and his first appearance here since Wrestlemania 8. It’s funny – when he poses on the mat for a few seconds before going in, he looks almost like Triple H later in his career. The crowd pops BIG TIME for Warrior here. The match is a squash, I might add. After HHH hits his moves and then a Pedigree, Warrior no-sells and goes on his Warrior Rage. Clotheslines everywhere. Warrior hits his set-up, the should block. Then he calls for the Gorilla Press which hits with ease, hits the Warrior Splash. Done. Crappy match. I thought we were done with this crap.
WINNER: The Ultimate Warrior via Warrior Splash
GRADE: F. Mark out all you want. This was shit.

  • The Warrior left the WWF a few months later. He had taken time off to “grieve for his ailing father” but McMahon didn’t believe it, saying that he didn’t really care for his father. He’d make an appearance in WCW as “Warrior” in 1998, feuding with Hulk Hogan, which was ridiculous. They would face off at Halloween Havoc where Warrior took a loss in one of the most boring matches in the history of wrestling. The storyline fell apart, Warrior would leave the WCW in 1999 and announce his retirement from professional wrestling. He wrestled, independently, in Spain in 2008, but that was it for his pro-wrestling career. He is now a Conservative nutjob with some of the most ignorant trash ever written. The WWE, as an almost-revenge scheme, would release a retrospective about the Warrior called “The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior” in which several WWE personalities, past and present, were interviewed about his erratic behavior. Warrior, who had officially changed his name to that (I wish I was kidding), sued the WWE for this but it was dismissed a year later. He currently runs a blog where he discusses politics, sexuality and patriotism. He also uses that to answer letters from fans. In 2013, he buried the hatchet with Vince McMahon and the WWE, allowing his likeness and character to be used in the 2K Sports game, “WWE 2K14”. He will be inducted into the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame class along with Jake Roberts, Paul Bearer, Lita, Carlos Colon and Mr. T.

Piper is on his way, I guess, to the arena.

MATCH #4: The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer) vs. Diesel
Diesel, prior to this, had already signed a contract with WCW and this was the way he would go out. What better way to bury your career in the WWF than facing The Undertaker? He was a heel by this time, of course, due to his interference in the matches with The Undertaker and Bret Hart. I don’t think he cared much. He was still well-loved. When that gong hits, it’s on. This was the first match that almost humanized the Undertaker. You actually saw fatigue for the first time. I actually liked that. The whole “Deadman” thing was pretty neat but you can’t be unkillable all the time. The Undertaker changed it up because he didn’t want fans to grow tired of him. The match is a battle of the giants and I love the fact that Diesel is quickly aware of what he’s up against – Undertaker misses an elbow but sits right up. Diesel immediately dumps him over the ropes. Undertaker lands on his feet and IMMEDIATELY grabs Diesel’s legs, dragging him out of the ring. Love it. Diesel hits his boot and then taunts the Undertaker to get up. Then he just punches his face repeatedly. Diesel just continues to destroy the Undertaker, seemingly enjoying it. One of the best moments is when Diesel and the Undertaker trade punches at the same time, then both go off the ropes and hit each other with a Big Boot. Undertaker sits up, like he always does. The match becomes slow as molasses after this with Diesel bearhugging the Undertaker. The Undertaker finally gets up first and hits an elbow. He hits a HUGE forearm off the top rope to Diesel and only gets a two count out of it. Diesel hits a HUGE Jackknife at this point and Diesel stands there, looking cocky. He walks over to Paul Bearer, showing what he’s done, then pushes on him with his foot, telling him to get up, which he does. Diesel just punches him and sets up for another Jackknife and hits another one. Then he smiles. He continues to taunt the crowd and Paul Bearer. He goes for a cover but the Undertaker chokes him until Diesel punches him out. Again, the Undertaker goes for a choke but Diesel punches him out. Again, a choke…and this time, he gets up with Diesel. Undertaker has him but Diesel reverses with a nice back suplex. Undertaker sits up. Diesel calls for a Jackknife and turns around but the Undertaker is facing him. Undertaker hits a HUGE flying clothesline. He goes for a chokeslam and hits it. He calls for the Tombstone. He scoops up Diesel and hits it. Folds up his arms. RIP Diesel.
WINNER: The Undertaker via Tombstone
GRADE: B-. Better, though clunky. With this win, The Undertaker was 5-0 at Wrestlemania.

  • Diesel (along with Scott Hall) would leave for WCW to become part of the nWo. He would return to the WWF, with Hulk Hogan and Scott Hall, in 2002. 

Post-match, The Undertaker walks to the dressing room.

Backstage, Todd Pettengill says that Piper and Goldust should be on their way any second. Their cars FINALLY get backstage. Goldust comes in first. Piper in next. Piper gets out of his truck. Marlena and Goldust are backstage. Goldust looks beaten up. Piper follows.

MATCH #5: Piper vs. Goldust (w/ Marlena)
Out to the ring, comes Goldust, begging off. Piper comes out next, wild as ever. The match just continues with no ref inside the ring. Piper looks pissed after Goldust rams his leg into the ring post. Goldust keeps doing the oddest things…grinding against piper, rubbing Piper’s chest, almost kissing him…it’s disturbing to say the least and I really don’t care for the almost-homophobic theme running here but the match is still badass. He gives Goldust the Kiss of Death and punches Piper but Piper no-sells it. Piper wipes his mouth and continues to no-sell and beats the holy shit out of Goldust, grabbing him by the nuts at one point and leading him around the ring. Then he drops a knee on Goldie’s junk. Roddy gives Dust the Kiss of Death and strips him down to a thong, bra and stockings…yeesh. One of my favorite moments in the commentary comes at this point:

King: NO! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!

Anyhow, Piper “wins” the battle when Marlena vacates the ring with Goldust.
WINNER: Piper via…I have no idea.
GRADE: B+. This was just fun to watch.

  • After 12 years in the WWF and participating in ten of the twelve Wrestlemania events, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper would leave the WWF for WCW where he would wrestle for the next four years. In 2003, seven years after he left, Piper would make his return to the WWF.
We get to see another promo for Hart and Michaels.
MATCH #6: Shawn Michaels (challenger) (w/ Jose Lothario) vs Bret “The Hitman” Hart (champion) in an Iron Man Match for the WWF Championship
Gorilla Monsoon is now announced as the President of WWF as Piper is no longer with the WWF. Howard Finkel introduces Shawn Michaels…but there is no Michaels, just Jose Lothario. King calls Michaels a chicken until Lothario gets up on a turnbuckle and points to a corner of the arena. Michaels is on the top of the arena in a corner on a rope line. He jumps and rides the zip line to the ring! Hart is out next…both men look ready. Earl Hebner explains the rules: the match will be 60 minutes long. The man with the most falls by the end of the 60 minutes will be declared winner and champion. A fall will be counted by the usual – pinfall, submission, countout, and DQ. Countout is ten seconds outside the ring. DQ is using weapons in view of the ref or not breaking a hold when told to and that will be after a five second warning goes unheeded. Both men understand and they’re ready. This is, probably, my favorite match of all-time. This is the story of two of the greatest warriors ever to fight in a ring. Both are skilled beyond belief. There are so many reversals, near-falls, and power moves out of desperation, it’s hard to cover. This goes beyond a regular wrestling match. It was this sort of match that took the WWF out of it’s goofy, cartoony atmosphere and propelled it into another dimension. Gone were the gimmicks, the partners at ringside looking to help their guy cheat his way to victory, the sudden interference by another gimmick wrestler…this was something special. It was a showcase and masterpiece. Both men gave everything they had. It was Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels in a test of wills. The match nearly ends when Michaels gets trapped in a Sharpshooter with thirty seconds left. He doesn’t tap but the match’s 60 minute limit ends. Bret grabs the title but Gorilla Monsoon decides that there WILL be a winner and orders the match to continue into Sudden Death Overtime. The first person to record a fall would win the match and become new champion. The match goes for 2 more minutes after this. Michaels looks like he’s asleep on his feet at this point. A few minutes in, Hart rushes Michaels in the corner but he leap frogs Hart and immediately hits the Superkick. However, Michaels goes down and stays down. Hart actually gets up FIRST…then Michaels hits another Superkick…and this time, Hart goes down and stays DOWN…and Michaels makes the pin to become the WWF Champion for the first time in his career.
WINNER: Michaels via Superkick
GRADE: A-. The main problem is that it goes on too long.
Post-match, Michaels is awarded the title, Hart leaves, disgusted. Michaels sits in the ring, weeping over the belt.
This (along with Piper and Goldust) was a HELL of a match and pretty much saves Wrestlemania 12. This is, easily, one of my favorite Wrestlemania events.
GRADE: Yep. I still say that. It’s an easy A-. I might change my mind later but that’s where I stand now.

Until next time.
— Matt

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