Wrestlemania 12 is known to be Shawn Michaels’ most defining moment, when he broke through and became WWF Champion.
Does that mean the card ranks as one of the top Wrestlemanias?
Wrestlemania 12 (Results)
Date: March 31, 1996
Arena: Arrowhead Pond (Anaheim, Calif.)
SUMMARY: Shawn Michaels won the Royal Rumble again while Bret Hart reclaimed his title, setting up a match at Wrestlemania 12. Interim commissioner Roddy Piper declared that the two men would take part in the WWF’s first Ironman match and would have to go for 60 minutes, an idea that would make a wrestling fan salivate. The rules were simple. The one with the most falls would win.
MY ENJOYMENT RATING: C
FAVORITE MATCH: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart. Look, the absence of another suitable match for this spot is more indicative of the show’s quality. I get to the match’s flaws in the ranking moment, but I’ll go over the things I enjoyed in this portion as it, by essentially default, was my favorite match. The final 20 minutes of the match had more action than the first 40 minutes. It was like there was a 40-minute build up to the final 20, which featured big moves such as a bridging German suplex by Bret Hart, followed by a Shawn Michaels comeback that featured his signature moves like the moonsault and diving elbow. The build-up drove the match to the Sharpshooter spot that led to the time limit expiring, setting up the satisfying ending. I also loved the post-match stuff. Shawn’s celebration is truly special, and makes you feel like his journey has reached its first ending.
THINGS THAT MADE ME NOD IN APPROVAL: The buzz around the Ironman match was truly something else. The Shawn Michaels entrance from the rafters was an excellent touch. There was the explanation of the rules that was great. I like them going back to the rule that there must be a winner. It removes the champion’s advantage, but I like there must be a conclusive winner. Other than that, all the good things that made me nod in approval could be found in the final 30 minutes.
THINGS THAT MADE ME LOWER HEAD IN SHAME: Outside of the Ironman match, what else was there? There was a six-man tag team match that lacked the chaos that I love about multi-man matches. The Ringmaster and Savio Vega had a match that was less than stellar. The Ultimate Warrior squashed everything about Hunter Hearst Helmsley. The show was a one-match card. Then there was the shameless about using the O.J. Simpson white bronco footage, and the Backlot Brawl was just confusing.
RANDOM THOUGHT: “So, when did this Backlot Brawl become a rip off clothes match?”
MY ULTIMATE WRESTLEMANIA CARD RANKING: There wasn’t a lot to write about when it comes to Wrestlemania 12. I was really excited about this card. I had expectations. I remember enjoying the Ironman match a lot more. But when it came time to rewatch this, I found myself, for lack of a better word, bored. I remember the Ironman match so differently. There were some great moments, but those came in spurts of two to three minutes of action before we broke into an elongated rest hold period, whether it was an attack on the arm, chin and neck or leg, there was just a lot of resting. The crowd was dead for much of the rest holds, and I initially gave it the benefit of doubt that they were playing it like a piece of music with slow points, but after thinking it over again, the valleys were really low and there weren’t enough peaks. If anything, this match is a case study in how longer matches don’t automatically mean quality. The whole allure of this match was the idea that these two high-level workers are going to go for 60 minutes, but the match was average at best. The match could have used more near falls, since the story was heading to the 0-0 for 60 minutes direction, so near falls are needed to build up excitement that never came.
It’s a shame, too.
Wrestlemania 12 was a relatively tame card left me ranking this far lower than many other people do. But sometimes things from our childhood just don’t hold up, I’m not about to become a victim to nostalgia for a match that was truly average.
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