WWF WrestleMania XII 3/31/1996
March 31, 1996
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler
Buy Rate: 1.2
Fun Fact: This is the first and only time in WWF PPV history that there were graphics on the ring canvas. The Wrestlemania XII logo was in blue on the canvas.
1) The Body Donnas defeated the Godwinns to win WWF Tag Team Titles in 5:12
Fun Fact: This was the finals of a tournament because Billy Gunn was injured and the Smokin’ Gunns were injured and forced to forfeit the belts. Here are the results of the tournament: 1st Round: Body Donnas defeated the Bushwhackers, Savio Vega & Razor Ramon defeated 1-2-3 Kid & Tatanka, Owen Hart & British Bulldog defeated Hakushi & Barry Horowitz and the Godwinns defeated the New Rockers. 2nd Round: Body Donnas defeated Savio Vega & Steve Austin and the Godwinns defeated Hart & Bulldog.
2) The Huckster and the Nacho Man fought to a No-Contest
Fun Fact: As 1996 rolled around, Vince began feeling the pressure from Eric Bischoff and WCW. In the fall of 1995, Monday Nitro started up and was in direct competition with Monday Night Raw. Bischoff began using some questionable tactics, such as giving away results of the taped Raw shows on Nitro. In an attempt to fire back, Vince began airing vignettes of “Billionaire Ted’s Rasslin’ War Room.” The skits usually featured Billionaire Ted (Ted Turner), the Huckster (Hulk Hogan), the Nacho Man (Randy Savage), Scheme Gene (Gene Okerlund) and various Turner yes men (one who was portrayed by Vince Russo). The skits started harmlessly enough and it was eventually announced that the Huckster and Nacho Man would face off at Wrestlemania. We saw a few vignettes of the two men training with Scheme Gene shilling the bout on his hotline. As the big match approached, however, the skits started getting a little weird and malicious, as Vince started accusing Turner of “predatory practices” and started pleading Turner shareholders to tell Turner to stop attacking the WWF.
1) Vader (Leon White), Owen Hart & British Bulldog (David Smith) defeats Yokozuna (Rodney Anoia), Ahmed Johnson (Tony Norris) & Jake Roberts (Aurelian Smith Jr.) when Vader pinned Roberts with the Vaderbomb at 13:08
Fun Fact: This was originally scheduled as a singles match between Vader and Yokozuna, but was changed to a six-man on the 3/18 Raw when Jake Roberts laid down the challenge to Jim Cornette after a match with the British Bulldog. It was then revealed that the fine print read that if Yoko’s team won, Yoko would get 5 minutes alone with Cornette.
Scott: This was a tough PPV to book because knowing that 1/3 of the show is dedicated to one match; Vince had to do some magic to get much of the roster on the card. So he comes up with a 6-man tag involving the current members of Camp Cornette against their former partner. This is Jake Roberts’ first Wrestlemania since the Undertaker squashed him four years earlier at the Hoosier Dome. He’s looking pretty good against these younger lions. Owen Hart and British Bulldog are still hot heels, and later on in the year become a pretty good tag team. Vader is clearly the showcase heel here, as he’s being groomed for bigger things later in the year. As for the other side Yoko never truly gets the upper hand in this feud, Jake’s demons become a storyline and Ahmed Johnson is there to gain the cheers for a bigger moment in his career later in the year. The Anaheim crowd is quiet for most of the match, and their energy doesn’t get much higher. Grade: 2
Justin: A pretty sluggish match, as the feuds really get kicked into high gear here, mainly because the feud was thrown together a couple of weeks before (the Jake/Ahmed vs. Owen/Bulldog parts anyway). Yoko and Vader would continue to feud in the upcoming months while the other four would feud for the next month or so. A decent opener that should have gotten the crowd pumped, but it failed in that regard, which is never a good thing. Ahmed was still pretty good at this point and carries the face team work-wise. The match serves its purpose, however, which was to establish Vader as a monster heel. Grade: 2
2) Roddy Piper (Roderick Toombs) vs. Goldust, Hollywood Back Lot Brawl Part I (4:08)
Fun Fact: This match was supposed to be a Razor Ramon/Goldust rematch, but Razor was sent to rehab a few weeks beforehand, so Piper was inserted into the feud in his place. Razor and Goldust had actually had a great and memorable brawl on Raw in February to set up the street fight here, so it was a shame it didn’t happen. When Piper was named President, Goldust began coming onto him, saying he was attracted to power. Piper, of course, did not take this lying down and popped Goldust in the face after he told Roddy of his affection. Goldust even went so far as to do a fake “Piper’s Pit” episode, mocking the Rowdy Scot.
Scott: We’ll break this match up into 2 parts. Goldust started to get cute with Piper right after he was announced as interim president, replacing Gorilla Monsoon after he was attacked by Vader. It starts in the back parking lot, thus the match is called the “Hollywood Back Lot Brawl.” Piper is waiting for Goldust with a baseball bat. The bizarre one arrives in a gold Cadillac, which Piper immediately bashes with the bat. He drags the Intercontinental Champion out of the car, and starts pounding on him, throwing Goldust into a dumpster, and a catering table. The shots are incredibly stiff, but both Piper and Dustin can take it. Goldust gets a nut shot in, jumps in his Caddy, and drives off. Piper hops in his….white Bronco? Oh, brother. He drives off, and that ends part I of this match. We get highlights over the next couple of matches.
Justin: The opening part of this match was actually a pretty good brawl, as these two real life tough guys lay in some stiff shots. I believe I have read somewhere that Piper legitimately broke his hand punching Goldust in the face, so that tells you how stiff it was. While the feud heading in here was tacked on hastily, they did a nice job building it and adding a lot of tension. Piper played the homophobe role quite well (or was just himself, who knows) and Goldust played up the infatuation with the President nicely as well. Even the mock Piper’s Pit was intriguing. Some of the spots are a little hokey, but it is stiff enough to be interesting. Anyway, the first of this match is pretty good, but the second half is pretty poor, which definitely ruins the memory of the Brawl. They should have just had the whole match take place in the back lot and it would have been one of the more positive parts of this show.
3) Steve Austin (Steve Williams) defeats Savio Vega (Juan Rivera) with a sleeper at 10:07
Fun Fact: Savio Vega and Ramon were originally teammates in the Tag Title Tournament, but when Ramon went AWOL in late-February, WWF officials assigned Austin to be Vega’s partner after a random drawing. In their match against the Bodydonnas, Austin avoided being tagged in, and then would cost his team the match, triggering an interesting feud.
Fun Fact II: By this time Austin had completely shaved his head, grew out the goatee, and was officially called “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The official name change occurred on the 3/11 Raw before a match with Savio. That match ended in a double count out, leading to the rematch here. This match is where he debuts his black boots, as up to this point he had his white boots with the star on them that he had in WCW.
Scott: The PPV singles debut of Austin, as he has the physical persona of Stone Cold, but still doesn’t quite have the “attitude” yet of the Austin we would grow to love. Like Triple H he wrestled very different back then, as he was more cerebral, more technical, and not as much of a brawler as he would be in his main event days, mostly because he hadn’t had the pain of a severe neck injury just yet. Unfortunately the match doesn’t get its due because they keep going to Roddy Piper on his phone talking about chasing Goldust, which diverts the audience at home’s attention from the match here. Of course at the time they really didn’t care about Austin yet anyway, he was just another mid-carder. Vega was a solid popular face, and Austin cheats to win with the help of Ted DiBiase, who by now finally dispatched the pathetic Corporation, and only had Austin and the Kid. By the end of the year, he’d be managing Hogan, Hall, Nash, and…oh sorry, wrong company. Austin wins with 2 stiff shots with the Million Dollar Belt. Vega would get his re-match two months later. This was a solid match that doesn’t get any credit due to the nonsensical Piper/Goldust updates and the OJ stock footage. Grade: 2.5
Justin: An excellent, super stiff match that is totally marred by the ricockulous Piper on the phone nonsense. Austin has an excellent PPV singles debut, as he was still an awesome technician in the ring, and Vega is right there with him. These two had a great, yet underrated, feud in early-96, and the matches helped establish Austin as a great worker (in the WWF) anyway. A little less than one year after his debut, and Savio continues to be a solid mid card face who could work with a variety of opponents. A fun match to watch, but these two would out-do themselves two months later, and this time, there was no garbage to distract everyone from the match. Grade: 3
4) Ultimate Warrior (Warrior) defeats Hunter Hearst-Helmsley (Paul Levesque) with a splash at 1:36
Fun Fact: This was the Wrestlemania debut of HHH, the PPV return of the Warrior and the WWF debut of Sable, who is HHH’s valet for the evening. After the match, HHH is verbally berating Sable for his embarrassing loss, when he runs into the debuting Marc Mero (who was being interviewed) in the back. Mero defends Sable and attacks HHH. The next night on Raw, Mero would again save Sable, and the rest is history.
Scott: This wasn’t much of a match, just an opportunity for the fans to see their hero again. Warrior hasn’t been on a WWF PPV since Summerslam 1992, when he foolishly chose not to turn heel and win the WWF title from Randy Savage, and instead just vanished. He returns to a huge pop, and squashes the up and comer. This is a perfect example of how Helmsley had it much worse before the “Curtain Call” incident at MSG, which occurred in late April. By October he was Intercontinental Champion, so things didn’t go that bad after April. They were much worse here. Even after this match, he starts a program with newcomer “Wildman” Marc Mero, formerly Johnny B. Badd in WCW, but more on him in our next review. This feud would last practically all of 1996. Warrior would hang around into the summer. Why Vince got suckered into bringing this guy back is anyone’s guess but he did sink a good amount of cash into him, and obviously got little in return. Grade: 1
Justin: A nothing match that is just there to give the returning Warrior a big PPV Squash. The funniest part is before the match, when Lawler keeps talking about the “rumors” he heard about Warrior being 400 lbs. and bald. After weeks and weeks of hype, the Warrior comes back to the WWF and does nothing more than have bad feuds and shill his crappy Warrior University wrestling school. Scott pretty much summed it all up, so I won’t say much else except that pushing Warrior over young talent was a stupid, 93-ish mistake. Grade: .5
This feud started at the Royal Rumble when Diesel cost Undertaker his World Title match and continued at In Your House #6 when Taker returned the favor. The two would continue playing mind games in the weeks leading up to the show. On the 3/18 Raw, while Diesel was taking on Barry Horowitz, Paul Bearer, who had beaten down by Big Daddy Cool the week before, wheeled a casket to ringside. After the match, Diesel opened the casket only to find a
5) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Diesel (Kevin Nash) with a Tombstone at 16:43
Fun Fact: replica of himself laying there. Diesel was freaked out but tried to play it cool.
Scott: The Undertaker debuts more tattoos and then defeats the former WWF Champion in a surprisingly good power match. Even though he was slated as the heel in this match, Diesel was still getting some face pops. The reason was his character was edgier and nastier. Now if he was allowed to have some of that edge during his World Title run in 1995, it wouldn’t have been such a money-losing debacle. This match was a great example of how two power guys with limited wrestling ability could put on a great match with psychology and stiffness. From side slams to clotheslines to Diesel’s Jackknifes, they laid into each other with every move they had. There were a couple of restholds to spell the middle of the match, but it didn’t take away from Diesel’s early control of the match, and Taker’s brisk end with the Chokeslam and Tombstone. Diesel really didn’t look bad in losing, as he gave Taker everything he had and was really Taker’s first solid Wrestlemania opponent. Now Taker’s career started off solid with an awe-inspiring debut, a World Title win over Hulk Hogan and a Wrestlemania win over Jake Roberts. But then began the run of garbage, starting with the feud with Kamala in the summer of 1992, through Giant Gonzales, Yokozuna, another Undertaker and a silly Corporation feud. By 1996 Taker was rumored to be pissed off and ready to bolt. Then he gets the title match with Bret at the Royal Rumble and a solid feud with Diesel. Then starting with the night after Wrestlemania he would begin a feud that would re-charge his career and begin the best in-ring run he’d ever have. Big Daddy Cool would have one more PPV hurrah, and then dollar signs would flash in his head. Grade: 3
Justin: We get a pretty solid power match here, as these two bring it on the big stage. This is probably the only Diesel match that was good without a better wrestler carrying Nash and it came at a great time: Wrestlemania. Diesel was on a hot streak in 1996, and that is the main reason the NWO worked out so well when Nash jumped in ’96. He had a great streak of matches and an established badass attitude going for him, and he already looked like a rebel long before he showed up on Nitro in June. Taker was finally getting some good feuds, and the feud that really saved his career would start the very next night. The build up here was quite good and it was booked as a dream match of sorts between two powerhouses that had never met on the big stage. Diesel had regained that missing magic that had been vacant since late 1994 and Undertaker was as motivated as he had been in years. Combined with a solid angle and some genuine intrigue by the fans and these guys were pretty much set to deliver. And deliver they do, as they put on a really good power match. Good stuff all around as Diesel continues to regain that special something he once had. Grade: 3
6) Roddy Piper defeats Goldust in the Hollywood Back Lot Brawl when he ripped off Goldust’s clothes in 9:45 (Part II was 5:36)
Fun Fact: This was Roddy Piper’s last WWF PPV appearance until 2003.
Scott: This was a very strange and quite annoying match. It lasted almost an hour, yet technically is only 9:45. The cars would return to the Pond, and both men would finally get in the ring and finish it. Piper rips off Goldust’s clothes, to reveal garter belts, and…well, whatever. I’m just glad it’s over. There’s not much more to say here, just that this would be Piper’s last PPV appearance for a while. Goldust would move on to his next feud, and continue to be IC Champ, as this was not for the title. I was just annoyed with this match because it took up so much time, and was a pile of nothing. Grade: 1.5 (3 for the first part, 0 for the second part)
Justin: This portion of the match definitely ruined the solid brawl from earlier in the night, and ruined most of the show as well. I’m guessing the reasoning behind this match was to spell the crowd after the last slow-paced match and to let them have a little comedy before the long battle they were about to endure. Piper would be gone by the next night and would make a shocking defection before the year was out. Goldust would jump into numerous feuds over the spring and summer, and would continue to be a solid mid-card player for the next few years. Nothing else to really say here except this nonsense ruined at least one match and, after the nice brawl early in the show, brought nothing but disturbing images of Goldust to the table. Grade: 2
7) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) defeats Bret Hart in an Iron Man match to win WWF World Title with a Superkick at 61:53
Fun Fact: This is the first ever Iron Man Match on WWF TV, and the first ever 60-Minute Iron Man Match on PPV. WCW had done two 30-Minute Iron Matches in the past: Rick Rude vs. Ricky Steamboat and Rick Rude vs. Dustin Rhodes.
Fun Fact II: This is the PPV debut of Jose Lothario, who would remain Michaels’ manager until January of 1997. We first saw Lothario in the extensive training videos that were shown for both men during the build up of this match. Lothario had trained Michaels in San Antonio when he first broke into the business.
Scott: The moment has finally arrived for Shawn Michaels. He has achieved his dream of becoming World Champion, after hanging for 60-plus minutes with the Excellence of Execution. The first Iron Man match in WWF PPV history had excellent psychology. Vince and Jerry were talking up Michaels as though this was his moment. Hart, to his credit, wrestled a difficult match. On the one hand, he knew he had to play a little bit of a heel, somewhat like he did against Bulldog at Summerslam 1992. On the other hand, there were still plenty of Hitman fans, so he also had to make comebacks for them. Lawler actually makes a good point here, in that he feels (in storyline) that Hart is worried that his fans were leaving him for the “kilq”, or Shawn Michaels’ group of fans. The ironic thing is it may have been Bret’s real thinking. Now the hatred they had for each other didn’t reach the detestable levels it would until 1997, but they still wouldn’t give a pin to each other, and the fact its 0-0 after 60 minutes takes the grade down a little for me. Plus except for a few moments here and there (including Shawn superkicking the timekeeper by accident), the first 56 minutes of this match were dreadfully boring. There were some pretty creative grappling maneuvers that could be construed as submission moves. The last 4 minutes, including the 37 seconds Shawn was in the Sharpshooter, were classic. The match ends in a draw, or so it seemed. Remember what Roddy Piper said at In Your House #6: “There must be a winner.” Well Gorilla Monsoon, back in his role as President by the end of the show, said there must be a winner. So we begin overtime. Hart, obviously upset with the decision tries to pound Shawn to death. Shawn gets two superkicks in, pins the champ, and, as the famous quote from Vince McMahon says: “The boyhood dream has come true for Shawn Michaels.” However, the quote you don’t hear is as Shawn is about to be handed the title he tells Earl Hebner “Don’t give me the belt until he gets out of my ring.” Then when Hebner struggles to get the belt on Shawn, HBK pushes him out of the way and tells him to get the fuck out. Real classy. That’s when the real seething hatred Bret had for HBK began, with those unnecessary comments. The crowd is off the hook, and the brooding Bret Hart walks out of the arena, takes a vacation, and, except a couple of appearances, isn’t seen until October. Shawn Michaels finally has the spotlight all to himself, and we’ll see as the year progresses how he handles it. This was a great match that could have been better with some decisions and a little more action in the middle. Grade: 4
Justin: A very good match, especially considering it was a first at the time, and Vince definitely picked the right guys to pull it off. This is a weird match for many reasons. You have to watch it in its entirety to really get the flow and pacing and understand the story. However it is a terribly difficult match to sit through, since it is mainly 56 minutes of technical, mat-based wrestling. It is definitely not for everyone, and is not a match you can watch on a regular basis. That said, though, the match itself is a clinic in scientific wrestling and is a fun match true for wrestling purists, as it featured awesome wrestling combined with a great story. Michaels had fought so hard for many years to reach this point, and was finally given the ball to run with. Hart, however, was disappointed to drop the strap, and even takes a hiatus following the show, taking a much needed break. During that time off, however, his contract expired and he almost jumped ship, but more on that in November. All in all a really good match, but not one that deserves the ridiculous hype the WWE showers on it. At the time it was unique and top notch, but as time has gone by, other matches of its type have surpassed it on the excitement level. It is definitely one that is enjoyed now and then and not one to be watched on a regular basis. As Scott said, if there were any pinfalls and more fast paced action, it could be a little easier to sit through, but as is, it is a technical classic that made Michaels’ big win that much more memorable. Grade: 3.5
Scott: This was a step in the right direction for the WWF, as we get a better Wrestlemania than last year, but still with some flaws. The mid-card was practically ignored because of 1) The length of time due to fitting the Iron Man match in, and 2) the constant Piper/Goldust updates. Steve Austin’s first PPV singles match is ignored, which sucks considering it’s a good match. Only 6 matches at this show, again because over an hour had to be set aside for the title match. Then the title match is remembered for the last 4 minutes of regulation and overtime. Getting back to Piper, another flaw with this show is that you put Piper and Ultimate Warrior over two of your future superstars. So Vince was still trying to bring some nostalgia back to keep fans from bolting to WCW. At the time WCW’s product was not that great either, but by the summer they’d make a big splash. Here Shawn is now your champion, but his clique breaks apart by the start of summer. Razor Ramon isn’t even at this show, which should tell you something. Neither is 123-Kid, and Hunter Hearst-Helmsley and Diesel are jobbed out. Shawn would hold the title until November, and have some great matches, but would also be remembered for many on-air temper tantrums. Shawn Michaels’ legacy was fairly clean, until now. Now as World Champion, his reputation would really take a nose-dive. As for the show, it’s not great, but a step in the right direction. Final Grade: C+
Justin: A very big step in the right direction for Vince, as he took the focus off of the celebrities and pushed the show based on wrestling. The Diesel/Taker, Austin/Vega and Iron Man matches are all worth watching, but unfortunately the Piper/Goldust nonsense bogs down the middle portion of the show. The undercard may only feature 14 guys, but no one of circumstance is left off this show, as most of Vince’s roster was depleted, and in the process of being rebuilt over the next month or two. Business-wise this show was a success, as Vince pushed his stars and not Hollywood Stars like in 1995. However, the crowd was out of it for most of the show (except the end of Piper/Goldust and end of the Iron Man) which was understandable given the long matches and pre-taped segments. The show is very important historically, and due to the 3 big matches is a plus wrestling-wise, so in the long run, I think it deserves a solid, if unspectacular grade. Grade: C+
MVP: Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart
Runner Up: Savio Vega/Steve Austin
Non-MVP: Roddy Piper/Goldust
Runner Up: Razor Ramon
All Time PPV Active-Wrestler Roster
“Special Delivery” Jones
King Kong Bundy
Andre the Giant
Big John Studd
Davey Boy Smith
King Tonga (Haku)
Dory Funk, Jr.
Billy Jack Haynes
Koko B. Ware
Honky Tonk Man
One Man Gang
Bam Bam Bigelow
Big Boss Man
Kerry Von Erich
Irwin R. Schyster
Jimmy Del Ray
Ted DiBiase’s Undertaker
Squat Team #1
Squat Team #2
PPV Rest in Peace List
“Playboy” Buddy Rose (Wrestlemania I)
“Special Delivery” Jones (Wrestlemania I)
Uncle Elmer (Wrestlemania II)
Adrian Adonis (Wrestlemania III)
Haiti Kid (Wrestlemania III)
Little Beaver (Wrestlemania III)
Junkyard Dog (Summerslam 1988)
Big John Studd (Wrestlemania V)
Sapphire (Summerslam 1990)
Dino Bravo (Wrestlemania VII)
Andre the Giant (Summerslam 1991)
Texas Tornado (Royal Rumble 1992)
Hercules (Royal Rumble 1992)
Elizabeth (Wrestlemania VIII)
Sensational Sherri (Wrestlemania IX)
Ludvig Borga (Survivor Series 1993)
Captain Lou Albano (Royal Rumble 1995)
Dick Murdoch (Royal Rumble 1995)
Rad Radford (Survivor Series 1995)
Bertha Faye (Survivor Series 1995)
Bam Bam Bigelow (Survivor Series 1995)
Next Review-IYH: Good Friends, Better Enemies