WM PPV Countdown: #18 – WrestleMania XII

When the topic of a “one match show” gets brought up in wrestling one needs to look no further than WrestleMania XII. With only six matches on the pay per view each is there for a specific reason but the entire show rides on the back of the epic Shawn Michaels-Bret Hart 60 minute Iron Man Match to determine the WWF World Heavyweight Champion.

An Iron Man match meant that the wrestlers involved would compete for a planned amount of time, in this instance 60 minutes, and the one with the most pinfalls, submissions, count out or disqualification wins at the end of one hour would be declared WWF Champion.

The weeks leading up the event showed the two rivals training in each man’s own unique way. The event hype really made the match seem like a big deal and legitimate contest. Hart was shown training with his legendary father in the frozen wilds of Calgary while Michaels employed the assistance of his original wrestler Jose Lothario. It was the most legit a contest looked in the WWF in years. To a twelve year old like me, the match seemed like a “pick ‘em” and I was really more interested in Ultimate Warrior’s return than the main event anyways. At the pay per view itself the ending seemed telegraphed from the onset as Hart, the champion, walked out the usual way, while Michaels zip-corded his way into the arena to much fanfare.

Sixty minutes is a long time to wrestle in today’s pro wresting culture and with today’s athletes, but if anyone could deliver in this type of match it would be Hart and Michaels. According to Michaels’ book, each man planned half of the match on the fly while they were in the ring, using a code of one through five to determine how much they pick up the intensity at any given moment. The match went the entire 60-minute limit with neither man scoring as so much as even one fall. The time limit ended as Hart had Michaels locked in his Sharpshooter submission hold. Hart left the ring content with a draw, but the on-air WWF President Gorilla Monsoon arrived and announced that the match would into sudden death overtime where the winner of the next fall would be Champion.

Hart re-entered the ring under duress and with his concentration broken. Michaels sensed a chance at redemption and just a minute and a half later, Michaels had hit Hart with two of his patented “Sweet Chin Music” superkicks to win his first of many WWF World Championships. Michaels accepted the Title belt as Vince McMahon himself on commentary declared “that the boyhood dream had come true.” As an aside, Hart and Michaels had developed a vicious line of legitimate bad blood between at this point and Michaels eloquently told “Hit Man” to “get the F out of my ring” as he celebrated his victory. With this match Michaels replaced Hart as the company’s hero. It was the WrestleMania match that set Shawn Michaels onto his worldwide road to stardom and laid to the groundwork to the moniker of “Mr. WrestleMania” that he still refers to himself as to this day.

As for the undercard, everything had a purpose. The opening six-man tag highlighted the company’s upper mid card and continued the long-running feud between Yokozuna and Vader’s team, who were all managed by Jim Corrnette. The show also highlighted Steve Austin in his first WrestleMania appearance, before he had even become “Stone Cold” and blew the doors off the company with “Austin 3:16.” The Ultimate Warrior made his much heralded return to the company and used Hunter Hearst-Helmsley of all people as his sacrificial lamb. It’s amazing a difference fourteen years can make on a guy’s career. The Undertaker versus Diesel was a big man dream match and provided for some suspense in the days before Undertaker’s Streak was a factor. And the Roddy Piper-Goldust brawl was a precursor to the “Attitude” era that was just around the corner when Goldust was the hottest villain of the day.

Match Results:
– The Body Donnas (Skip & Zip) beat Henry & Phineas Godwinn to win the WWF World Tag Team Championships live on the Free For All before the pay per view aired.
– Vader, Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith beat Yokozuna, Ahmed Johnson & Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
– Steve Austin beat Savio Vega.
– The Ultimate Warrior pinned Hunter Hearst-Helmsley.
– The Undertaker pinned Diesel.
– Rowdy Roddy Piper beat Goldust in a Hollywood Backlot Brawl.
– Shawn Michaels beat Bret Hart (1-0) in a 60 minute Iron Man Match to win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.

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