Wrestlemania Countdown 2018: The SmarK Rant for WWF Wrestlemania 12

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…

– 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.

– 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 cel 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. 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. 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 anemic 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. 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

– 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). 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. 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.

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.