wrestling / Video Reviews

Kevin’s RetrospectiveMania Series: WrestleMania XII

August 1, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
WrestleMania XII
WWF WrestleMania XII
March 31st, 1996 | Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California | Attendance: 18,852

Talk about a one match build. The whole setup of this show surrounded the idea of pitting Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels one on one for an hour long Ironman Match. It had never been done before and was a ballsy move to main event the biggest show of the year. Personally, I’ve always felt the Bret/Shawn rivalry was overrated, so I’m interested in how this holds up. This show also marked the debut of some big stars and the final Manias for others.

Where will it rank among the rest of the WrestleManias so far? We’ll find out here. As a reminder, I’m reliving these WrestleManias and rating them on a 1-10 scale in these seven categories. They’ll be ranked by their total score.

• Match quality – Self-explanatory. Will always be the longest section.
• Memorability – How memorable is the show?
• Historical significance – The impact the show had on wrestling
• Booking decisions – Did the event have logical booking decisions for the stories they told
• Presentation – Things like stage setup, video packages, commentary, etc.
• Pacing/Flow – How well is the show laid out? Does it drag or move along smoothly?
• Entertainment – The non-wrestling elements like promos, celebrity interaction, concerts, etc.



Match Quality


Ahmed Johnson, Jake Roberts and Yokozuna vs. British Bulldog, Owen Hart and Vader ~ I love Vader. The major selling point here was the collision between Vader and Yokozuna. This was the better route considering the shortcomings of the babyface team (Yoko’s size, Roberts’ age, and Ahmed’s skill). Interesting to note that Yoko and Owen were partners last year. Anytime the face team got momentum, Vader would stall it with his power. Ahmed attempted some athletic stuff here. He did a dive to the outside, leaping sunset flip, and a big shoulder block. Oddly, they worked the hot tag to Roberts. I know he couldn’t go at this point, but he wasn’t exactly lighting up the crowd either. The second hot tag went to Yokozuna, which worked out better. After a bit, Roberts ended up legal again, only to fall to the Vader Bomb in 13:08. It had some energy, but the segments with Roberts lacked and held it back at parts. Still, a fine way to start the show. [**¾]

Hollywood Backlot Brawl: Goldust vs. Roddy Piper (Part 1) ~ Goldust drove up in a gold car but Piper avoided getting run over and wailed on it with a bat. This was all sorts of zany, with the kind of antics Vince McMahon loves. Random food and weapons were thrown around while Piper talked all sorts of trash. Desperate and in trouble, Goldust got back in the car and hit Piper as he drove away with him on the hood. Piper fell off and Goldust drove off. Piper hijacked a white Bronco and followed. This went about 4:45 and would continue later.

Savio Vega vs. Steve Austin ~ It’s the WrestleMania debut of Steve Austin. Also the debut of Savio Vega but that’s less important. Austin still came out with Ted Dibiase and was Million Dollar Champion, though he was known as “Stone Cold” already. These two had some solid exchanges and most of the work was crisp. The problem was that the crowd was kind of dead and commentary was more focused on Piper chasing Goldust in a white Bronco. That meant split screen shots where the match played second fiddle. A ref bump came late, allowing Dibiase to slide the title in. Austin hit Vega with it twice and then applied a weak chinlock on the out cold Savio. Dibiase revived the referee with a glass of soda and he saw that Vega was out at 10:08. That was a good match. I wish there was more attention paid to it and that it had a better finish. Still, it was enjoyable. [***]

Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. The Ultimate Warrior ~ Big pop for Warrior. He got a ton of pyro and hype for his return. HHH jumped him and hit the Pedigree, only for Warrior to no sell and get right up. Warrior got his stuff in and won in 1:38. Total squash that did its job. HHH’s Mania debut didn’t go well, but he’d be fine because one loss, even like this, doesn’t “bury” a guy. [NR]

Diesel vs. The Undertaker ~ It didn’t last long, but heel Diesel was incredible. Coming into this, Diesel’s only great matches were with smaller guys. Taker didn’t really have many under his belt to pull from. And yet they went out and worked remarkably well together. They showed off some impressive athleticism that you wouldn’t expect from guys their size. Undertaker started hot but Diesel turned the tide. As he took control, he taunted and walked around with an air of confidence. It bit him in the ass as Undertaker rallied and they hit stereo big boots that put both men down. Smart use of a move that both of them are known for. Still, Diesel hit the Jackknife and wasted more time by acting like he had the match in hand. The same happened after a second Jackknife. That allowed Taker to grab him by the throat and start in with his signature offense. A Tombstone ended Diesel in 16:46. A very good match that holds up today. It was a clash of the titans, yet they threw him some unexpected stuff to take it over the top. It slowed a bit in the middle, but started and ended hot. [***½]

Hollywood Backlot Brawl: Goldust vs. Roddy Piper (Part 2) ~ After mocking the famous OJ Simpson chase, Goldust and Piper returned to the arena. It was time to wrap things up in the ring. Piper beat the hell out of him and stripped him down to lingerie. The whole thing went about 11:15. It’s difficult to fully rate because it was more of an entertaining segment than a match. I’ll go with an average or so score because it had some fun bits but wasn’t anything special. [**]

WWF Championship Ironman Match: Bret Hart [c] vs. Shawn Michaels ~ I want to preface this by saying that I haven’t seen it in a long time but my thoughts coming in was that it was highly overrated and kind of boring. Let’s see if that stands. Not a lot happened in the first 15 minutes. It was all technically sound exchanges, but nothing of real consequence. Then Shawn accidentally hit the timekeeper with Sweet Chin Music and people perked up. This was laid out so we’d get spurts of big offense and then slow down moments so they could rest. Bret seemingly forgot to sell the arm at some points. Shawn really worked it but Bret decided it wasn’t important to sell. The timing of stuff seemed right on point. Like a ref bump came just about right at the 30:00 minute mark. Once you get past that mark, things got going. Shawn hit some cross bodies and took a huge spill to the outside as we neared 40 minutes. Jose Lothario took two bumps in a row as the match winded down and I got a kick out of that. I liked how Bret was more than willing to take countout victories. That’s not a babyface move but Bret didn’t care. Champion’s advantage, baby. I appreciated the final few minutes the most. Bret kept saying Shawn would make one mistake that he’d capitalize on, but it was Bret who made that first mistake. They played up the drama in the closing minutes with flash pins and near falls that drove the crowd nuts. Then Shawn made his mistake and got caught in the Sharpshooter, but he lasted until time expired and didn’t submit. Bret walked out but Gorilla Monsoon came out and ordered sudden death. Bret was pissed. He was pretty quickly hit with Sweet Chin Music twice and lost in 61:52. Not the all-time classic some have lauded it to be, but also better than I remembered. Again, most of the first half of this is skippable. A lot of the selling and limb work doesn’t play much into the later stages so you don’t need to see it. Basically, it’s a lame first third, very good middle third, and phenomenal final third. [***½]

There are five real matches on this show and three of them got at least three stars from me. Another clocked in at just under that mark and another was a ridiculous Backlot Brawl that was kind of fun. Throw in a quick squash and you’ve got a show that works from an in-ring perspective. That being said, I wouldn’t classify anything as great. Bret/Shawn was always the most overhyped in-ring combo (their Survivor Series 92 match is the best to me) and their real rivalry was much more interesting than the one on screen. What we got was a fair amount of good, almost nothing bad, and nothing that was great.

SCORE: 7.0





When a show is really built around one match, it needs to be a memorable one. And regardless of your feelings on the match (I’ve seen some call it a five star classic and others say it’s a boring piece of trash), you can’t deny how memorable it was. We all remember, “THE BOYHOOD DREAM HAS COME TRUE”! Plus, this is the show where Shawn Michaels zip lined from the rafters. It’s a shot that has been shown in almost every WrestleMania video package since. That’s an IICONIC shot that has withstood the test of time. I also want to give a shoutout to the Hollywood Backlot Brawl. While it isn’t something great, it is remembered by most.

SCORE: 7.5



Historical Significance


There are quite a lot of tidbits here. For starters, this show marked the WrestleMania debuts for a lot of people. Two of them, Steve Austin and Hunter Hearst Helmsley, would go on to become two of the greatest WWE Superstars of all time. That’s insane. You also got the Mania debut of Vader, Sable, Ahmed Johnson, and Goldust. On the flip side, this was the final WrestleMania match for Diesel. He would leave to WCW and even after returning in 2002, he wasn’t in action. There was also the return of Ultimate Warrior. Another notable thing was that this remains the only WrestleMania to ever feature an Ironman Match and it is definitely historic that it was the main event. Lots of stuff here. This Mania would be the answer to a bunch of trivia questions.

SCORE: 9.0



Booking Decisions


A rare case where pretty much every person who went over was the right choice. The heels in the opening tag, Piper in the Backlot Brawl, Austin over Vega, Undertaker over Diesel, an Ultimate Warrior squash, and of course, Shawn Michaels getting his big moment to close out the show. And I have to praise the show for only giving us one cheap finish. Those finishes plagued earlier editions of Mania. Even the overtime stuff in the main event worked since it was supposed to set up a rematch.

SCORE: 9.0





There were strong elements here. I thought the use of video packages was well done, especially for 1996. I loved the WrestleMania logo being on the mat. It’s something the company never did again and it’s always something that stood out to me about this event. However, I still am not a fan of the Vince McMahon/Jerry Lawler commentary duo. They never really clicked for me. Vince would make a better color guy, not play-by-play. Also, while the Arrowhead Pond is one of the better regular sized venues for a Mania, it still can’t hold a candle to the stadium shows. Also, this was the debut of the post-show highlight video.

SCORE: 6.5





When you only have a six match card, the show should move along smoothly. This one mostly did. The matches move briskly for the most part. That’s especially true when Warrior/Goldust goes less than two minutes. There also isn’t a lot of fluff in between to drag things down. I will say that, as noted in the match quality section, the main event is a chore in the early stages. It’s stuff you want to hit the fast forward button on.

SCORE: 7.5





A major struggle for this show. Even when it was C list celebrities, having somewhat notable people around made WrestleMania feel like it was bigger than wrestling. You get none of that here. There are no celebrities around. While I don’t exactly mind that, this section also pertains to non-wrestling stuff. That means the horribly stupid OJ Simpson mock chase. It took away from the Austin/Vega match and was just one of those dumb things that you know Vince McMahon probably found hilarious backstage. The non-wrestling portion of the show didn’t add anything positive and detracted at points.

SCORE: 2.0





This turned out better than I expected. Though it lacked in terms of non-wrestling stuff, it managed above average scores in every other category. The booking and historical significance sections were where this show really scored high. An enjoyable show, especially if you really like the Ironman match. It’ll be interesting to see where this ranks at the end of it all.

TOTAL: 48.5/70
WrestleMania Rankings
1. WrestleMania III – 55/70
2. WrestleMania X – 52/70
3. WrestleMania VIII – 50.5/70
4. WrestleMania I – 50/70
5. WrestleMania XII – 48.5/70
6. WrestleMania VII – 46/70
7. WrestleMania VI – 44/70
8. WrestleMania V – 39/70
9. WrestleMania IV – 32/70
10. WrestleMania XI – 31.5/70
11. WrestleMania IX – 31.5/70
12. WrestleMania II – 29/70

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WrestleMania XII, Kevin Pantoja