Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart will probably forever be linked. They both became singles competitors around the same time, they were both great wrestlers and both were pushed high up on the card around the same time. Of course, they would both be tied to the night in Montreal as well, but this show isn’t about that. They wrestled a few times before, including headlining Survivor Series 1992, but this time was completely different — they’d be wrestling for an hour, and this time it seemed like Michaels’ time to shine in the spotlight. It was the right match to do. Bret was fine as champion, but Shawn was arguably more charismatic, probably more than anyone else on the roster. They teased giving it to him last year at WrestleMania, but Diesel was on his push, so it wasn’t in the plans to give Shawn the title. But the Diesel run ended up being a bust, Shawn was now ready to stand in the spotlight and try his luck with a title run.
Meanwhile, another superstar looks to be making his return as the Ultimate Warrior has returned after a four year absence. His opponent? A relative newcomer to the WWE by the name of Hunter Hearst Helmsley. The WWE at the time needed some star talent as by 1996, they were sorely lacking in names, and they tried to remedy that by bringing in Jake the Snake Roberts and, yes, the Ultimate Warrior. Neither would last long due to their own respective problems, but it’s clear WWE needed a creative shot of adrenaline. And while we won’t see it this year, they’re in the right direction as next year we’ll be seeing a brand-new WWE.
Looking at my notes, no one sang “America the Beautiful”, so now we just go to the opening contest. That’s kind of a bummer.
Vader, Owen Hart and The British Bulldog vs. Ahmed Johnson, Jake Roberts and Yokozuna: Vader and Yokozuna exchanged punches, then Vader tagged in Owen who bumped around for him. Ahmed came in and looked pretty good. I know he wasn’t what you would call good technically and he was totally injury prone, but I liked his comeback here. Owen grinds him down until Ahmed finally tags in Jake Roberts who gives Owen the short arm clothesline and goes for the DDT, only for Owen to grab the ropes. Vader interferes and Owen gets a nearfall with an elbow. Yokozuna is hot tagged in and waffles Vader with punches in the corner. Roberts is tagged in and gets a visual pinfall, but the ref is distracted on the outside. Cornette tries to interfere, but Jake tries to lay him out with a DDT only for Vader to come in and lay him out. One Vader bomb later and that’s it. Good, simple opener. **3/4
Vignette showing Piper and Goldust’s feud. It involved Goldust doing lewd things with a bagpipe.
We open to the backlot brawl as Goldust enters the lot in a gold cadillac. Piper, with a bat, busts the car apart and chokes him with the bat. He threw him into a table full of food.Then he sprays him with a fire hose. Goldust is kinda busted open at this point. Goldust manages to low blow him and throw him into a trash bin, then peels out of the lot, Piper getting hit in the process. Kinda. He just jumps on, then rolls off as Goldust speeds away. Piper responds by limping to a white Bronco and chases after him. White Bronco. 1996. What could this entail?
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Savio Vega: Yup, Steve Austin’s WrestleMania debut has him being the Million Dollar Champion, managed by Ted DiBiase. A few months prior to this, he was the Ringmaster. Thankfully that name didn’t last. Wild brawl to start, with Austin eventually slowing things down and working over Vega. The match was mostly a backdrop to Roddy Piper calling in and repeatedly calling Goldust a fruitcake and he’s seen nothing yet while police sirens were playing. Lots of fun near falls, but who cares as they now have AERIAL FOOTAGE. They show pictures of the OJ Simpson police chase. This is so lame and to use a match for a backdrop to it is extra lame and insulting to the people who are competing. But who am I to question Vince McMahon’s storytelling abilities? Ref bump after an errant spinning heel kick. Austin tries to attack Savio from behind with the Million Dollar Dream, but Vega takes him out, only to be distracted by Dibiase as Vega gets hit with the Million Dollar title. DiBiase wakes up the ref and that’s it. **1/4
More footage of Piper being chased is shown. Vince says it looks familiar. HA HA HA.
Mr. Perfect interviews Diesel. They show video footage of Undertaker doing the creepy stuff, including showing a lifelike mannequin of Diesel inside a casket. They’ve done that angle several times, and every time they show the mannequin it’s CREEPY. Whoever does these does a great job, almost too great a job honestly. He says he doesn’t sweat the small things, or the big things and says good luck to Shawn Michaels because he’s next.
Ultimate Warrior vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley: My favorite part about this match was Triple H got a giant pop just for coming out, because people knew who would be coming out next. Warrior, of course, came out to a massive ovation, and that’s putting it lightly. It was also the best part of the match. Hunter immediately gives him the pedigree, but Warrior no sells it and immediately gets back up. He calls to the heavens, punches Hunter repeatedly and gives him the Gorilla Press Slam and the splash and pins him in a most hilarious manner for the pinfall. I can see why Hunter was so petrified of doing jobs ever again after this burial. DUD
Todd Pettingill introduces a young man by the name of Mark Marrow. Marrow, who would later change his last name to Mero, says that he’s ready for the competition. He then meets Hunter, who’s a bit miffed about the outcome of his match, and they brawl as people try and split them up.
Diesel vs. The Undertaker: Say what you want about Kevin Nash, but he had the coolest swagger ever during this heel run. Here’s a question, or more of a thought really- why do they always need to point out that this won’t be a “catch as catch can” kind of bout? So what? Are we supposed to look forward to brawls than technical wrestling? It’s just weird, that’s all. I like both, that’s why I watch. Lots of action early. They end up going to the outside where Taker misses a chair shot and Diesel replies by sending him to the barricade, then lightly tapping him against the steel post. Diesel works on him forever, including doing a bearhug spot. Undertaker finally breaks free and hits a clothesline off the top rope for a nearfall. Diesel catches him and lays him out with the jackknife out of nowhere. Another one. But Undertaker keeps coming up. He follows with a chokeslam, then hits the tombstone for the pinfall. A really fun match. It was a lot of action and they slowed it down at the right places. ***
Todd Pettingill is in the security area where Goldust and Roddy Piper make their way back into the arena. They make their way backstage as eventually they wind up back in the ring. After a really, really long brawl Piper gets the better of him and undresses him, revealing that Goldust was wearing neglige this whole time. That was the payoff. If this was a match it would be negative stars. Oh what the hell. -*1/2
Iron Man Match for the WWE Championship: Bret Hart (c) vs. Shawn Michaels: I’m not going to cover the whole sixty minutes of this here as this would be a gigantic wall of text. But it was largely a slow-paced bout for the first 45 minutes or so, with a ton of rest holds with the occasional big spot to wake the crowd up. Then it picked up from here. A hot series of near falls started to happen around the 50 minute mark, and this was the part of the match I really liked. Shawn looked great here. Bret catches him in the sharpshooter, but Michaels refuses to let go as the bell rings at the sixty minute mark. Bret goes to leave, thinking that since it’s a draw, he retains. BUT WAIT. Gorilla Monsoon confers with the announcer and Finkel announces that the match will go into sudden overtime and a winner must be declared. Bret looked pissed. He enters the ring and they wrestle for a couple of minutes until Shawn hits him with the superkick and pins him, winning the championship. I liked this match, but I didn’t love it. I recently saw a match that had Kyoko Inoue take on Manami Toyota. They wrestled for an hour and never let up, hitting high spot after high spot after high spot. It was such an amazing match because the stamina of the two was something to behold; imagine going that kind of a pace for an hour straight. But by the time the sixty minutes were finished, I was burned out — the spamming of all the finishers over and over again between the two got boring, and by the end, while admiring their ability, I was tired of the match. This was the complete opposite of that. They wrestled smarter here, and told a good story in doing so. It wasn’t the most exciting match of all time, and it definitely isn’t the best WrestleMania match of all time, in fact I think it’s overrated. But I enjoyed it, and I guess that is what matters most in the end. ***1/2
Shawn made sure to tell the referee to get Bret and Jose Lothario out of the ring so he could have HIS MOMENT. Really, look at the footage, you can clearly see this. He stared at the title and kneeled down, savoring the moment. I know this was important to him, but it comes off as self-indulgent at the same time. Whatever, it was all about him in the end anyway. He celebrates with the title as the show goes off the air.
Final Thoughts: This was a one match show, and the match was decent enough. There’s not much to talk about beyond this though as the undercard was completely underwhelming and there were no real celebrity cameos to speak of. Not one of the greatest WrestleMania shows of all time, but it was decent I suppose.