Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mania Memories: Iron Men

Iron Man match (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

By the time Wrestlemania 12 rolled around you just knew that Shawn Michaels was going to win the WWF heavyweight title from Bret Hart.  The two were scheduled for a 60 minute Iron Man Match, and when the bout ended after an hour with no one scoring a victory the crowd wondered what was going to happen.  Bret Hart, who had been through one helluva match grabbed his championship belt and headed back to the dressing room.  I guess he assumed the match would end in a draw (I know he really didn't think that).  The champ was met by then WWF President Gorilla Monsoon in the aisle who informed him the match must continue.

Sweet chin music (WWE)
So after going an hour, Bret and Shawn went a few more minutes before the Heartbreak Kid landed Sweet Chin Music and covered the exhausted Hitman for the pin.  It was the start of a new era for the WWF, or so we thought.  Shawn Michaels brought a little irreverence to the table.  He was a bad boy, even though he was a baby face.  He was Goofus to Bret Hart's Gallant (Google it if you don't get it)

Shawn's victory was impressive, but like I said, you knew it was coming.  The WWF had gone through great lengths producing video packages documenting Shawn's quest to fulfill his boyhood dream.  Sure enough on March 31, 1996 the kid from San Antonio, Texas did just that.  One thing I was really impressed with was his zip line entrance, in fact I found it so cool I tried to convince my then fiancĂ© to have our church set one up for to enter our wedding ceremony.  My request was denied.

Warrior returns (WWE)
Wrestlemania 12 was the first to feature such a match.  It was also the Wrestlemania with the least amount of matches, only six.  This was still at a time when the company was struggling with keeping top tier talent in place.  Diesel and Razor Ramon were just months away from defecting to WCW.  "Oldtimers" like Jake "the Snake" Roberts and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper were brought in as well, and after a nearly four year absence, the Ultimate Warrior returned to the WWF, beating Triple H (who had Sable in his corner before she left him for Marc Mero)

The Undertaker kept his streak alive by soundly beating Diesel.  But as I mentioned he was on his way out, so this outcome came as no surprise.  The Bodydonnas won the tag team titles in a Free for All match before the pay per view.  This was a tournament final, but honestly I can not remember why the previous champs were stripped of the belts or lost them in the first place.  I do remember they beat the Godwins, again this was a lean time for talent in the WWF.

Brawlin' (WWE)
Steve Austin wasn't quite Stonecold yet, but got the win over Savio Vega.  Vader teamed up with the British Bulldog and Owen Hart to beat the odd combo of Ahmed Johnson, Yokozuna, and Jake the Snake.  And in probably the second most memorable match of the night, Piper beat Goldust in a Hollywood Backlot brawl.  The match had some crazy spots outside, including Piper getting hit by a car, Goldust being choked with a baseball bat, and archived footage of the OJ Simpson bronco chase (don't ask).  It all ended back in the ring with Piper stripping Dustin's golden suit to reveal lingere, ala Dr. Frank n Furter in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Goldust was the Intercontinental champion, but the title wasn't on the line as Piper ended up the victor here.

Notably missing from the card, former IC champ Razor Ramon.  The 123 Kid (Sean Waltman) was also not on the show.  I don't know if the two had been suspended or were hurt, as I remember them both being on the following month's pay per view prior to their departure for WCW.  So not only would the company lose Ramon, Kid, and Diesel, but Bret Hart ended up taking a hiatus for several months after Wrestlemania 12.  It was truly a time for developing new talent, and the returns of Warrior and Roberts just didn't cut it.  We saw a minor push for Vader, Johnson, and Mero who debuted right after the event.

What are your thoughts on Wrestlemania 12?  Did you enjoy the Iron Man match?  Post your comments here or on Facebook.

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