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Wrestlemania Countdown: 12

(2012 Scott sez:  And now, the worst rant I’ve ever written.  I hate posting this one because it’s from 1996, written live after the show shortly after I had just moved out on my own for the first time, and before I was even writing on a full-time basis.  I find it embarrassing and amateurish, to be honest. 

Mostly Live from the Pond in Anaheim.

WWF Wrestlemania XII, hosted by Vince MacMahon and Jerry Lawler.

Ahmed Johnson, Yokozuna and Jake Roberts v. Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith and The Man They Call Vader:

I would personally have preferred to see the proffered singles match between Yoko and Vader (WHY?!?), but none of these guys is why we're here tonight anyways, so I'll live. Of note here: Mr. Fuji is carrying an American flag. (Well he is American.)  Pretty standard opening match, with the added stipulation that the Butt Who Walks Like A Man gets 5 minutes with Jim Cornette should the faces win. I'm not really into play-by-play, so I'll spare you the details and just mention that the heels win after a Cornette racketshot to the noggin of Jake Roberts.

Montage of history between Roddy Piper and Goldust, which, really, isn't that much. (Real history:  Scott Hall got into yet another spot of trouble and Piper was an emergency replacement.) 

Roddy Piper v. Goldust (Backlot Brawl):

Well, they're out in a backlot, and they fight. And fight. And fight. Then Goldust runs Piper over. Man, these lovers' tiffs can get ugly, can't they? Piper uses everything but the kitchen sink here, hitting what looked like legit punches to the face of the Gold One. Goldust runs off in his gold Cadillac and Piper pursues in a white Bronco. That last part is important.

Steve Austin v. Savio Vega:

Jerry Lawler makes sure to note this is a non-title match. Okay, fine.

Steve Austin v. Savio Vega (non-title):

There, happy? Okay, well, I hate to say this, but it's a pretty boring match for Steve Austin. but then it's mainly the backdrop for the ongoing Piper-Goldust thing, which is continuing as we speak. Or type. Or whatever. (AAAAAAAGH.  There’s conversational style and there’s fucking annoying.)  During the course of the match, Piper calls on his cellular phone from the freeway, where he's in hot pursuit of the Bizarre One. Then, for a topper, we get an aerial shot of what is supposed to be Piper, in his white Bronco, on the freeways of Los Angeles. Great line from MacMahon here... "This footage looks awfully familiar..." Yes, folks, it's the new low in WWF history: using recycled OJ footage for a Wrestlemania match. (That wasn’t even the new low for 1996.) Sorry, but cute as this idea was, OJ jokes ceased being funny about as long ago as Steve DiSalvo jokes did. Oh, yeah, there's a match, too. Austin wallops Vega with the Million Dollar Belt and gets the win with the Dream. The sleeper, not Dusty Rhodes, of course.

Curt Hennig interviews Diesel, who threatens both the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels in the same interview. Hey, that's called career suicide, my friend. :) (AAAAAAGHH.  Emoticons.)

More OJ footage.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. You Know Who.

The Warrior is like a drum solo: you know it's coming and you know what's coming, but there's nothing you can do to stop it. HHH hits the Pedigree about a minute in after a sneak attack, but Warrior no-sells, hits the clotheslines, the shoulderblock, the press-slam and the splash for the quick win. The Ultimate Warrior is back. I'll refrain from comment until I see him win the Intercontinental title from Goldust.

Merchandising plug.

Pettingzoo interviews..."Wildman" Marc Mero! YAH! He has arrived! And not only that, but he's interrupted by Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and the two fight. Cool, a program with these two. (1996 Scott makes me want to bash my head into my keyboard.)  Btw, Mero even gets a Great Line (tm) in... "Hey, I'm doing an interview here!" Hmm, Marc the Midnight Cowboy? Well, bad movie references aside...

More OJ footage.

Diesel v. The Undertaker.

*Big* heel pop for Big Daddy Cool. The heel turn was definitely a good idea, this is the most over he's been in months. (And then he left.)  Lawler attempts to make this match out to be of biblical proportions during the match, but really the WWF was better booked so it's no comparison. Undertaker is practically moving at the speed of light in this one, compared to most of his matches. Diesel basically dominates this one, doing what he does best: Being a badass. Might I repeat: Diesel is *over*. People seem to hate him now. (And then he left.)  Cute spot with a double-boot to the head near the end, resulting in a double-knockout. (That one seems to defy the laws of physics, actually.  You pretty much have to stop and put your foot in the air, and given you’re ceasing motion in the process, I’m not certain how you’d continue moving forward and run into the other guy’s foot.)  Someone, who I assume is Eric Chmiel, holds up an Eric Chmiel sign during the match. Okay, so Undertaker comes back, but Diesel hits the Jackknife. He wastes too much time, of course, and Undertaker does the zombie situp. Another Jackknife, but when he goes for the cover, Undertaker shoots out a hand and chokes Diesel. They stand up and Diesel does a belly-to-back, but Undertaker sits up. Chokeslam, and the Undertaker grins. Not a pretty sight, folks. If I was Diesel I'd be pissing myself with the Undertaker standing across the ring *grinning* at me. Tombstone, three count.

Warrior online.

Goldust v. Roddy Piper (part 2):

Yes, there's more. (This rant makes me feel the same way.) Piper pursues Goldust in their cars back to the Pond, and Goldust runs out of the car and back into the arena. Piper chases, and they make their way down to the ring to finish things off. Great spot with Goldust going for a supposed piledriver, which in fact was just an excuse to fondle Piper's ass. :) (How is that a great spot?  It’s fucking stupid.  AND STOP USING EMOTICONS, JACKASS.)  Crowd absolutely hates this guy. Goldust kisses Piper on the lips and Piper goes berserk. Gives him about 4 crotchshots (good ones, too.) and then rips the outfit right off him, revealing pantyhose, a girdle and a G-String. Really, folks, this was funnier than anything you'll ever see and ranks as one of my favorite moments in wrestling now. (Sadly, I wasn’t even drunk while I was writing this.)  Goldust retreats back to the dressing room with Marlena as Piper basks in the crowd's cheers. Words can't really describe this one, it was just great. (For me to poop on.) 

Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart.

History Package first of all.

Comments from Shawn, uncharacteristically brief.

Comments from Bret, just as brief.

Gorilla Monsoon is declared official, no longer interim president of the WWF. Okay, with all that out of the way, let's try it again.

Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart:

Shawn enters first, wait, that's Jose Lothario. he's pointing to the roof. And there's Shawn. On the roof. He slides down on a pulley and wire combo, landing in the crowd. Zoiks. Bret enters, and now, finally... Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart: No, now the referee is giving instructions. What is this, boxing? (Or UFC?) Bret gives his son, Blaine (BLADE!  God!  End this rant now!), the glasses. Okay, enough already.

Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart:

And this time I mean it. Okay, we get a scoreboard and timer in the lower right corner, which is a nice touch. Bret and Shawn pace themselves to start, and the crowd seems split fairly evenly between the two of them, but that'll change. Bret seems to be playing the subtle heel here. About 15 minutes in, Bret lands in the lap of the timekeeper, and Shawn tries a superkick, but Bret moves. The timekeeper takes a wicked shot right in the mouth, and is carried out on a stretcher. And that wasn't even the best spot in this match. :) (STOP WITH THE SMILIES!) About 25 minutes in, the cameraman outside the ring gets in Shawn's way, causing Shawn to quip, on camera, "Get the fuck out of the way" quite clearly. Oops. About halfway through, Shawn tries the Chin Music twice, but Bret duck-and-runs twice. Crowd is *not* impressed. 35 minutes in, and Michaels redoes the Holy Shit Bump from In Your House II. You know how it goes...Shawn goes over the top after a backdrop, and we go "Holy Shit!" Bret and Shawn are engaging in rather a lot of restholds here, though. Bret badmouths and uses Michaels to manhandle the Supersock at various intervals. Bret is fully playing heel at that point. Great sign in the crowd: "Bite Me, WCW!" Short but sweet. Okay, five minutes left, and no pinfalls or anything yet. Bret Hart does some of the Bret Hart Stuff (aka The Five Moves of Doom before I had the name for them, which stemmed from a sign in the crowd that said “Same Five Moves” on one show), but Michaels comes back and does the Shawn Michaels Stuff. Moonsault included. One minute left, and still no pins. Michaels off the top rope, Bret catches him and hooks the Sharpshooter. Crowd is going berserk, but Michaels hangs on until time expires. It's a draw, folks. Well, this was really good, but... What? You mean there's more? Yes, Gorilla Monsoon orders overtime, and Bret is *pissed* as he walks back to the dressing room, and is forced to come back. (He was kind of pissed about it in real life, too.)  That would probably explain why he was so distracted and let Shawn hit the superkick a minute into overtime. Ah, but it's not enough to put him away. Another one, however, is a different story entirely. Well, we've had some great lines tonight, but the best one of all follows: "The winner, and NEW World Wrestling Federation heavyweight champion...The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels!" (That line wouldn’t be so great 18 months from then.)  Shawn gives us the image we've been waiting for since WM 11: Posing with the WWF title in the ring.

Closing highlight montage. Well, it's kinda hard to be objective about any show that features Shawn winning the title and Goldust getting humiliated, so I'll refrain from giving it an enthusiastic thumbs up until the dust has cleared a bit.

The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania XII

- For those who have read the original rant from 1996 and cringed as much as I do when I read it, here’s a version that DOESN’T suck… (Relatively speaking.  This is still pre-2000 and thus desperately in need of updating one day.) 

- Live from Anaheim, CA. Original airdate March 31, 1996

- Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler.

- Somewhat notable pre-game show sees the, ahem, long-awaited blowoff for the Huckster v. Nacho Man feud and the Bodydonnas beating the Godwinns in the finals of the WWF tag title tournament. Which was the bigger parody? You decide.

- .Opening match: Yokozuna, Jake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson v. Vader, Owen Hart & British Bulldog

Yoko sends Vader over the top to start, and Ahmed follows with a tope con hilo that pops the crowd. Back in, Yoko gets caught in the corner, and Bulldog & Owen double-team him. Vader punches him down but gets caught with a Rock Bottom and Ahmed tags in. Powerslam to Bulldog, but a cheapshot from Vader slows him down and he plays face-in-peril for a bit. Owen gets a missile dropkick to stop a tiger bomb attempt during a comeback, and hits the enzuigiri for fun. Ahmed tags in Jake, who teases the DDT, but Owen blocks and Jakes gets worked over in enemy territory. Vader demolishes Snake, and Owen gets two with a flying elbowdrop. Bulldog powerslams him for two. Vader splash gets two. Yoko finally gets the hot tag, and beats Vader down in the corner, then everyone else. Jake comes in for the DDT again, and a brawl erupts. The ref is elsewhere, allowing Cornette to work his magic and Vader to use that advantage to Vaderbomb Roberts for the pin at 13:07. Major yawner. *1/2

- Hollywood Backalley Brawl:

Goldust v. Rowdy Roddy Piper. This was supposed to be Ramon’s match, but he was in rehab and on his way to WCW, so it’s noted homophobe Piper who gets moved into the feud. This is a pre-taped segment that takes place in an alley in “Hollywood”. Goldust pulls up in a gold Cadillac, where Piper is waiting. Piper smashes in his windows with a baseball bat and basically mugs him. He rams Goldust into a dumpster and tosses garbage cans at him. The editing here is pretty obvious. He whips out his firehose and sprays Goldust down. Geez, that’s not Freudian AT ALL, Roddy. Piper lays in some stiff shots, but gets low-blowed. Goldust runs him over with the Caddy (cue stuntman!) and drives away. Piper follows in a white Ford Bronco as we head back to the arena, where we find a dead crowd as a result of a long pre-taped segment. (Although this was kind of a precursor to the Vince Russo-era hardcore matches, so it’s got that going on.) 

- Steve Austin v. Savio Vega.

This was Austin’s first real feud in the WWF. Savio gets a quick side-slam and they brawl outside. Back in, Austin sends Vega to the ringpost and hammers him for two. Vega flips out of a hammerlock and spinkicks Austin for two. Meanwhile, Piper is on the cell phone. Austin works the arm. Funny watching Austin the Master Technician given what he turned into. Vega tries that flip counter again, so Austin drops him on his arm. Ee-yowch. Vega hits a cross-body for two, but Austin gets a Thesz press and they go into a series of pinfall reversals and fight over a backslide. Austin’s doing an admirable job of carrying Savio on his back here. We go to a split screen of the Bronco being chased by police on the LA freeway. If you don’t get it, it’s an OJ Simpson reference and believe me, it had ceased being funny by the time the WWF made it and is even less so today. (Now it’s kind of funny again because OJ’s in jail.  Hey, speaking of people who killed their significant other and got away with it, this would be a tremendous place for a Tamina reference!)  Vega hits a quick side-kick, but Austin goes back to the arm. Austin heads to the top and eats boot coming down. Slugfest, won by Vega. He mounts the comeback but the ref is bumped on a leg lariat. Dibiase slips the Million Dollar belt to Austin, who KO’s Savio with it, then goes that extra mile and smashes it into his head once he’s down. Now THAT’S a heel. Dibiase revives the ref by dumping a glass of soda on his head, then Austin puts on a half-assed chinlock for the submission at 10:08. Crowd was silent throughout, but man that was one HELL of a match. ***1/2 I miss the real Austin.

- Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. The Ultimate Warrior.

The Bimbo of the Week for HHH is some blonde…I think her name is Rena-something. (Oo!  Oo!  I know!  It’s Sable!) This was the Warrior’s big return, and HHH got to be the sacrificial lamb. And this was BEFORE his big punishment, oddly enough. Better days would of course be ahead. Warrior gets an anaemic pop, despite piles of pyro and weeks of hype. He would disappear back to his hole in the ground four months later. Usual Warrior squash here as he no-sells a very quick Pedigree and finishes with his usual array of scientific maneuvers (shoulderblock, gorilla slam, splash) for the pin at 1:36. DUD

- Backstage, we meet a debuting “Wildman” Marc Mero for the first time, as he gets into a Verbal Confrontation with HHH.

- Diesel v. The Undertaker.

This was built up by months of mindgames, and was one of the last true “dream matches” left for the WWF. (Until John Cena v. The Rock, of course)  They slug it out to start and brawl outside. Diesel goes headfirst to the stairs. Back in, UT gets a bodypress for two. Ropewalk is no-sold and Diesel dodges the flying clothesline and dumps Taker to the floor. UT comes back in and returns the favor. He posts Diesel and takes a swing with a chair, but Diesel ducks and then rams UT into the post. Back in, Diesel hits the big boot and pummels him. Sideslam gets two. Snake Eyes puts UT down, but he fights back. They do a really nice double-boot that knocks both guys out. Diesel goes to the bearhug but gets backdropped. Top rope clothesline gets two for Undertaker. Diesel suddenly gets the Jackknife out of nowhere, however, but refuses the pin. He picks Undertaker up and Jackknifes him again. UT suddenly revives, chokes him down, and no-sells a suplex. Flying clothesline, chokeslam, and tombstone is enough to kill Diesel dead for the pin at 16:42. Good match for both. **3/4 (I think it was better than that but it’s been a while since I watched it.) 

- Piper & Goldust arrive back at the arena and fight to the ring. Goldust works on the knee and gropes him a bunch. Goldust hits the LIPLOCK OF DOOM, causing Piper to go berserk and apply a groin claw and knee to the groin (does anyone else see the scathing irony there?) and finishes by ripping Goldust’s clothes off to reveal S&M gear. Goldust flees, I guess essentially conceding the match. Total junk, but the crowd loved it.

- WWF World title: Bret Hart v. Shawn Michaels.

This is, of course, a 60-minute Iron Man match. Most falls win. A clock in the corner helpfully counts down the time and falls won by each. Mat wrestling to start. Bret works the headlock, burning up 7 minutes. Shawn tries the armbar as his time-waster of choice, working the arm.

- 10 minutes gone. Michaels takes Bret to the floor with a flying headscissors and Bret takes a breather. Back in, Shawn goes back to the arm. Matches like these make for easy recapping with all the slow stretches. Bret gets the headbutt to the groin and legdrop, then goes to the chinlock. I’m gonna resist fast-forwarding as long as possible. Shawn goes into a vicious wristlock but Bret doesn’t watch UFC, I guess, because he sells it like a resthold. Bret comes back and tries the Sharpshooter, then clotheslines Shawn to the floor. Bret lands in the lap of the timekeeper, but ducks a superkick and the poor timekeeper is down for the count (nyuk nyuk). (At least Vince can’t come down and yell at him to stop the match.)  Back in, to the chinlock. Bret is working the neck, Shawn the arm. Shawn clotheslines Bret, Bret returns the favor. Back to the chinlock. Must…not…fast-forward.

- 20 minutes gone. Shawn dropkicks him down, and back to the armbar. That turns into another cross-armbreaker and AGAIN Bret won’t sell. Hmph. To the hammerlock. Bret hammers him in the corner, but Shawn gives him a pissed-off knee to the gut and sends him shoulder-first to the ringpost. I sense some hostility there. Shoulderbreaker and double-axehandle to the shoulder, then hammerlock slam. Shawn “AA” Michaels? Bret fights back but Shawn hits a single-arm DDT and cross-armbreaker. Again, Bret won’t sell. Shawn goes into a NASTY standing armbar, but Bret hits a stungun to escape. Bret catapults him into the ringpost for two. Voila!, the arm injury is magically gone. That is SO unlike Bret. Something’s gotta be up there. I’ve seen him sell knee injuries for WEEKS, and within the story here Bret’s arm should be hanging dead at this point. (Yeah, the story is that both guys were being prissy princesses who wouldn’t sell for each other.)  Shawn misses a blind charge and gets pounded with an atomic drop and lariat for two. Bret gets a bulldog and goes to the top. Shawn tries to stop him, but Bret counters by driving his knee to Shawn’s head down to the mat, bumping the ref in the process.

- 30 minutes gone. Shawn powerslam gets two. Bret gets a piledriver for two. Shawn takes him down with a rana and sidebreaker gets two. Bret takes the pussy route to escape a superkick, running to the floor. That draws boos. Shawn follows with a SWEET tope. Back in, bodypress-reversal gets two for Bret. Backslide into small package gets two for Shawn. Fisherman’s suplex gets two. Sleeper uses up more time. Shawn puts Bret in the corner and charges, but Bret backdrops him over the top and Shawn takes his patented “HOLY SHIT” bump to the floor in suicidal fashion. Bret tosses him back in and wisely starts working on the back. He drives an elbow from the 2nd rope, then hits the backbreaker and legdrop.

- 40 minutes gone. Bret banzai drops him on the back and hits a backdrop superplex for two. Bret goes to the rear chinlock. Shawn sunset flips him for two. Bret puts him on top and tries another superplex, but Shawn blocks, then gets nailed coming down. Bret cross-corner whips him and Shawn goes over the top and nails Jose accidentally on the way down. They brawl on the floor and Bret whips Shawn into Jose again, and yells at Jose. What’s up with that? Back in, Bret gets a belly-to-belly for two. Bret hammers him down. Shawn escapes a suplex with a rollup for two. Bret kicks out and sends him to the outside, then follows with his tope suicida. Bret allows the ref to count Shawn out, but then changes his mind and suplexes him. Shawn reverses mid-move, but Bret reverses that and hits a nasty german suplex for two, then does a good ol’ beatdown.

- 50 minutes gone. Back to the chinlock. Double KO, and Bret gets a quick superplex and goes for the Sharpshooter. He changes his mind and goes into a half-crab instead. He starts the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM, but Shawn kicks him in the face to block the elbowdrop. Standing dropkick sends Bret to the corner, and Shawn comes off with a fivearm. Running elbow and double axehandle get two. Flying elbowdrop gets two. Doctorbomb and moonsault press get two. Flying rana gets two. Shawn goes up with one minute left, but gets caught with the Sharpshooter on the way down, and Bret holds on until the 60 minute time limit expires. The match is a draw.

- BUT WAIT! Gorilla Monsoon declares that there MUST BE A WINNER, so Bret comes back…

- Overtime: Bret continues hammering the back, hitting a backbreaker, but Shawn gets Sweet Chin Music out of nowhere. He’s too tired to capitalize, and Bret does a half-hearted selling job. Shawn hits it again and that’s enough to put Bret out, and Shawn gets the pin and the WWF World title at 1:47 of overtime. ****3/4 Can’t go the full monty for this one because of Bret’s attitude problems, and the fact that there was about 5 different points where a pin or submission could have feasibly occurred, but neither guy wanted to job first. But the rest is AWESOME. (Eh…I’ve gone lower each time I’ve watched it.  I’m down around ****-****1/4 at this point.  It just doesn’t hold up.) 

The Bottom Line: A pretty blasé show in terms of fan interest and storyline, but there’s actually some good quality wrestling here, and with only 5 official matches and three of them being good, you can’t really beat that.

Still, the Bret-Shawn match is definitely an acquired taste, and prepare to be bored if you’re not into the storyline of the match. It should be noted that this match set the stage for the next year and a half of real-life soap opera, so it definitely has historical value. Bret Hart took six months off after the show to pout while Vince went with Shawn as his champion, before doing a monster heel turn thanks to Steve Austin. The promised rematch would not occur until Survivor Series 97, and we all know what happened there.

Mildly recommended.