WrestleMania Retrospective – WrestleMania XII (1996)

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Here’s Part 12 of our WrestleMania Retrospective series, looking back at past WrestleMania events as we march towards WrestleMania 29 on April 7th

WM12-Poster

WrestleMania XII (1995)
Tagline: None
Sponsor: Tyco R/C: Maximum Heat!
Date: March 31, 1996
Venue: Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim, California
Attendance: 18,853
America The Beautiful: Special Olympian, Kathy Huey
The Undertaker’s Streak: 5-0 (Def Disel)

The main attraction of WrestleMania XII was the novelty of the WWF Championship match that was guaranteed to last at least one hour. On-screen WWF president “Rowdy” Roddy Piper had announced on an edition of Monday Night Raw that reigning champion Bret Hart must defend the title against Shawn Michaels in the first ever “WWF Iron Man Match”; whereby the winner would be the man with the most decisions over a sixty minute time limit. Michaels had earned the opportunity to face Hart by winning the 1996 Royal Rumble, and had also defeated Owen Hart at In Your House 6 for the right to keep the WrestleMania title shot

The main event was built on Bret Hart wanting to retain the WWF Championship against Shawn Michaels, who had suffered a number of setbacks over the course of the previous year, including: failing to win Diesel’s WWF Championship the previous year at WrestleMania XI, being accosted by a group of Marines at a Syracuse, New York nightclub, forfeiting the WWF Intercontinental Championship at In Your House 4: Great White North in October 1995 to Dean Douglas, suffering a storyline concussion at the hands of Owen Hart, and being betrayed in storyline by close friend Diesel at a house show at Madison Square Garden.

WM12-HBKBret1

Debuts 
WrestleMania XII saw the WrestleMania Debuts of two major WWF Superstars, Triple H and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

Triple H, making an embarrassing WM debut at WrestleMania XII.
Triple H, making an embarrassing WM debut at WrestleMania XII.

Hunter Hurst Helmsley
Triple H, known then by his full name Hunter Hurst  Helmsley, was accompanied at the time by WWF Diva Sable. He went on to suffer an embarrassing 1:40 match to a returning Ultimate Warrior. As part of the storyline, Helmsely would later take his aggression out on her. The debuting Marc Mero—her real-life husband—came to her rescue, starting a feud between the two wrestlers.

Known then as The Ringmaster, Steve Austin defeats Savio Vega in his WrestleMania Debut.
Known then as The Ringmaster, Steve Austin defeats Savio Vega in his WrestleMania Debut.

Stone Cold Steve Austin
Steve Austin joined the WWF in late 1995. Initially, Austin wrestled as “The Ringmaster” and was managed by Ted DiBiase, who awarded him with the Million Dollar Championship. He defeated Savio Vega at  WrestleMania XII.  The “Ringmaster” name would soon be removed in favor of the now infamous “Stone Cold”.

The Undertaker
In the summer of 1995, The Undertaker injured his orbital bone near his eye, forcing a period of absence for surgery, until his return at Survivor Series.

The Undertaker bests to 5-0 at WrestleMania by defeating Disel
The Undertaker bests to 5-0 at WrestleMania by defeating Disel

The Undertaker returned at the 1995 Survivor Series, wearing a Phantom of the Opera-like, grey upper-face mask. In the main event of the 1996 Royal Rumble, The Undertaker was unmasked in a WWF Championship match against Bret Hart, when Diesel interfered in the match to cost the Undertaker the championship. A rematch for the title on the February 5 episode of Raw saw similar interference.

At that month’s In Your House: Rage in the Cage, while Diesel was facing Hart in a steel cage match, The Undertaker burst through the ring and dragged Diesel underneath which allowed Hart to get the victory. This feud culminated in a match between Diesel and the Undertaker at WrestleMania XII, in which The Undertaker was victorious, bring his streak to 5-0.

The Iron-Man Match
The rules of an Iron match are, who ever has the most decisions (Pinfalls, Count-outs, DQ’s) at the end of 60 minutes, would be declared the winner. With Less than a minute left, neither Bret Hart nor Shawn Michaels had either scored a decision

Shawn Michaels Hang gliding into WrestleMania XII
Shawn Michaels Hang gliding into WrestleMania XII

Shawn Michaels leaped off the top rope for a dropkick, but Bret caught him and put im in the sharpshooter with 30 seconds left on the clock.  The crowd was going wild while the announcers were yelling that Bret had him and that the match was over. Ref Earl Hebner asked Shawn if he would quit, but Shawn kept saying no. The time expired with Shawn still in the hold. The bell rang. Bret let go of the hold.

Bret was given the title and walked up the aisle while WWF President Gorilla Monsoon talked to Hebner in the ring. Ring announcer Howard Finkel announced that the match would continue under sudden death rules. “There must be a winner!”

In "Sudden Death" Shawn Michaels nails Bret Hart with the Superkick to capture his first WWF Title.
In “Sudden Death” Shawn Michaels nails Bret Hart with the Superkick to capture his first WWF Title.

The overtime period began with Bret back in the ring talking to Monsoon about it. Vince put over that the “must be a winner” idea was agreed upon before the match. Bret restarted the match by working on Shawn’s back. Back body drop for Bret. Bret whipped him in the corner, Shawn countered by jumping over him and Shawn hit the Sweet Chin Music superkick to knock Bret down. Shawn was still out after hitting it because he was still selling the back injury. Bret was dazed by it because Shawn didn’t hit it cleanly. Shawn stood up in the corner, Bret stumbled over towards him and Shawn hit him again with the Sweet Chin Music. Shawn covers for the one…two…three for the win at 61:52, the longest match in WrestleMania history.

Post match, we would later learn that Shawn told ref Earl Hebner to tell Bret to get out of the ring. He used some profanity when he did it too. Bret’s reaction to that wasn’t very favorable just from looking at his face. They also showed Bret’s son Blade singing Shawn’s “sexy boy” song at ringside. That was funny. Bret walked away angrily, even tossing aside a Canadian flag that was thrown to him. Michaels was very emotional in the ring while Vince McMahon delivered the famous line: “The boyhood dream has come true for Shawn Michaels!”

"The boyhood dream, has come true for Shawn Michaels" - Vince McMahon at WrestleMania XIII
“The boyhood dream, has come true for Shawn Michaels” – Vince McMahon at WrestleMania XIII

WrestleMania XI Results
• Camp Cornette (Vader, Owen Hart and The British Bulldog) (with Jim Cornette) defeated Yokozuna, Jake Roberts and Ahmed Johnson (with Mr. Fuji)
• Stone Cold Steve Austin (with Ted DiBiase) defeated Savio Vega Singles match 10:00
• The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley (with Sable) Singles match 01:40
• The Undertaker (with Paul Bearer) defeated Diesel Singles match 16:46
• Roddy Piper defeated Goldust (with Marlena) Hollywood Backlot Brawl 12:15
• Shawn Michaels (with Jose Lothario) defeated Bret Hart (c) Iron Man match for the WWF Championship

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