In the build-up to WrestleMania 32, the Flickering Myth writers look back at previous installments of the ‘Show case of the Immortals’.
Vader, Owen Hart & The British Bulldog w/Jim Cornette vs. Yokozuna, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts & Ahmed Johnson
‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper vs. Goldust (Hollywood Backlot Brawl Match)
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin w/ Ted Dibiase vs. Savio Vega
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. The Ultimate Warrior
Diesel vs. The Undertaker w/Paul Bearer
WWF Title Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart (60-minute Ironman Match)
Mercifully, on WrestleMania XII’s entire card there is really only one match that can be considered disappointing. I’m personally of the opinion that Squash Matches (while extremely useful promotion tools) have no place on a ‘Mania show. Having said that, the beauty of hindsight as turned this particular example into the most amusing squash match of all time.
Ultimate Warrior is no stranger to memorable ‘Mania moments (see VI and VIII), nor Squash Matches for that matter. Many a time had fans seen him charge to the ring and defeat an inferior opponent with minimum effort. The only difference here is that the inferior opponent this time around was Hunter Hearst Helmsley, aka Triple H, aka Paul Levesque; the current head of WWE Talent & Creative and Vince McMahon’s heir apparent.
The fact that Helmsley would arguably go on to become a bigger star than Warrior ever was makes revisiting this match both surreal and strangely hilarious. A particular low-point (or highlight depending how you look at it) is the moment that Warrior completely no-sells a Pedigree; the move which has since won the ‘Cerebral Assassin’ 14 World titles.
Triple H would go on to main event WrestleMania six times, but what is truly amazing is that his career survived at all after this total burial.
There are many highlights from the ‘Mania XII card, but I’m going to narrow it down to two; both of which are one-of-a-kind spectacles.
Firstly, there’s the totally insane Hollywood Backlot Brawl Match between Goldust and Roddy Piper. The object of this wrestling match (in the loosest possible way to use that term) is to battle through the streets and incapacitate your opponent in any way you can.
The segment started with Piper waiting in an alleyway, with a baseball bat in hand. Goldust then arrives in a golden Cadillac and the whole just goes nuts. They hit each other with everything, including chairs, tables, dumpsters, fire hoses. There’s even a OJ Simpson-style car chase thrown in!
There have been better ‘brawl’ matches over the years, but considering the competitors involved here, there haven’t been many as bonkers as this one.
The second highlight I want to discuss is a main event of unprecedented scale; the 60-minute Ironman Match between Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart for the WWF title.
Even before the opening bell had rung, it was clear that this was going to be something special. From The Heartbreak Kid’s legendary zip-line entrance, to the deft move of having Earl Hebner explain the match rules on the microphone, this was match was built-up to perfection.
What followed was masterful storytelling; 60 minutes of in-ring wizardry from two of the best workers to ever grace the squared circle. The athletic stamina alone is mind-boggling, but when combined with the equally impressive feat of captivating the audience of over an hour.
The match hasn’t been without criticism (lack of pinfalls, slow middle segment), but the can be no denying that final 20 minutes or so are as good as any you’re ever likely to see.
WrestleMania XII is a fascinating one. Due to the nature of the aforementioned main event, it holds the title of ‘shortest ‘Mania card’ at just six matches (and only one title defence!). However what it’s itinerary lacks in quantity and gold, it makes up for with in-ring quality, as every match is decent and unique in its own way. Not only that but the pace and flow of the show is pitched perfectly.
You’ve got a high-tempo, multi-man opener to kick things off (a notion that would become a WrestleMania stalwart to this day).
Next, it’s two of the most outlandish characters the industry has ever seen, squaring off in an equally outlandish match type. Things are brought back to reality with a hard-hitting and technically-sound third match. That’s followed by the squash match, which remains glorious to relive for all the wrong reasons. Then there’s the battle between two giants which, at the time, proved be the finest ‘Streak’ match we’d seen.
Finally, you have a main event of truly epic proportions. When you really stop and think about what was asked of the competitors involved, it is clearly an overwhelming achievement that I doubt we’ll see replicated any time soon. (Yes, there have been other Ironman matches, but none with the added pressure of headlining the biggest show on the wrestling calendar).
WrestleMania XII is a fantastic event, and one worth multiple viewings. Consider this as a final thought: WrestleMania IV had 16 matches in total, and was ultimately a massive disappointment. Clearly, when it comes to WrestleManias, quality is more important than quantity.
Jackson Ball – Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn
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