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30 Days of WrestleMania: Looking back at WrestleMania XII

Because of the WWE Network, fans can now watch every single WrestleMania from start to finish.

30 Days of WrestleMania: Looking back at WrestleMania XII

Shawn Michaels. (Victoria Arocho/AP file)
Shawn Michaels. (Victoria Arocho/AP file)

Because of the WWE Network, fans can now watch every single WrestleMania from start to finish.

So, for 30 days leading up to WrestleMania XXX, we will take an extensive look back at each event from the very first, to the most recent.

Here's the WrestleManias we've covered so far:

WM I | WM II | WM III | WM IV | WM V | WM VI | WM VII | WM VIII | WM IX | WM X | WM XI |

WrestleMania XII

More coverage

Date: March 31, 1996

Venue: Arrowhead Pond (Honda Center), Anaheim, Calif.

Attendance: 18,853

Match Results:

Owen Hart, British Bulldog & Vader w/Jim Cornette def. Yokozuna, Jake “The Snake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson

Hollywood Backlot Brawl – “Rowdy” Roddy Piper def. Goldust w/Marlena

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin w/”Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase def. Savio Vega

 Ultimate Warrior def. Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/Sable

Undertaker w/Paul Bearer def. Diesel (Undertaker: 5-0)

Iron Man Match for WWE Championship – Shawn Michaels w/Jose Lothario def. Bret “Hit Man” Hart in overtime

Observations:

- WWE hadn’t quite fully recovered from the horrid year of 1995, but you can see the beginning of the improvement by WrestleMania XII in 1996. The talent roster was a little deeper and the quality of matches on this show was a vast improvement over the previous one. The production of the show was much better as well.

- WWE showcased its newfound depth by having a lot of wrestlers make their WrestleMania debut with the most notable being “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Triple H), Vader and Goldust.

- Mick Foley was with WWE at the time, but didn't make his debut with the company until the next night.

- On top of the card was an Iron Man match — the first to ever take place at WrestleMania and one of only a handful in WWE history. Because the match carries a 60-minute time limit with it, WWE rarely books the match on any shows let alone a pay-per-view such as WrestleMania.

- To pull off such a match, WWE needed two men who had supreme stamina and enough ability to keep an audience interested for an hour-long match. Fortunately for WWE, it didn’t have to look any further than its top two stars at the time: Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. I loved the feel of the match between these two. WWE did a great job of building up the match itself and the importance of the title. It did this with vignettes of the two working out in preparation for the match and talking about how much being the champion actually meant. This was a nice and more realistic departure from the story-driven main events of prior WrestleManias. On screen, there wasn’t a personal issue between the two combatants. (Behind the scenes was a different story.) Instead, the focus of this match was purely on the top two guys in the promotion going at it for the top prize. It gave the match more of a sports feel as oppose to an entertainment feel.

- Another big match on the card was the Undertaker versus Diesel. This was Undertaker’s first good match at a WrestleMania and it comes as no surprise that it came with Diesel, who was a good big-man worker in his own right. As everyone knows, Undertaker has had a number of classics at WrestleMania, but Diesel represented the first opponent Undertaker had that was still in his prime. The result was a very good match. This turned out to be one of Diesel’s final WWE appearances before left for World Championship Wrestling.

- A very unique match was the Hollywood Backlot Brawl between Roddy Piper and Goldust. For one, the match didn’t start in the ring. It literally started in a backlot where we were treated to the sight of Goldust’s all gold Cadillac. What took place in the backlot was pretty violent comparatively speaking to what WWE was used to presenting at that point. While Extreme Championship Wrestling was hitting its stride in 1996, the “Attitude Era” was at least another year in the future for WWE, so you didn’t see too many people walking around with baseball bats and driving through the streets of Anaheim looking for their opponent. The match was very entertaining despite the visual of seeing Goldust in a thong. That was quite disturbing.

- Speaking of driving through the streets, the footage used of Piper driving after Goldust was used to parody the O.J. Simpson car chase from a couple of years before. In fact, the footage from the actual chase was used for the match.

- Piper was not originally supposed to be Goldust’s opponent at WrestleMania. Originally, the plan was for Razor Ramon to face Goldust as the two had an ongoing angle on television, but Ramon’s pending departure to WCW along with a suspension removed him from the card all together.

- As mentioned earlier, there were a number of notable WrestleMania debuts on the show, but there was also a very notable return. The Ultimate Warrior returned to WWE after a near three-year absence from the company. His return left a little to be desired, as he simply squashed Helmsley in a short amount of time. Even worse was that Helmsley delivered the Pedigree to Warrior and Warrior didn’t sell it even for a second. He got right back up and essentially made Helmsley look like a chump. It’s amazing that Helmsely survived this and the punishment from the infamous “curtain call” to become a surefire Hall of Famer. I didn’t break out the stopwatch, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the entrances were longer than the match itself. Warrior and the WWE had another bad falling out and he left the company again short time later.

- “Wildman” Marc Mero made his WWE debut during an interview segment. His interview was cut because of an angry Helmsley, who was berating his valet Sable, who was married to Mero in real life. Eventually, Mero eventually rescued Sable from the tyrannical Helmsely.

- The Austin-Savio Vega match was enjoyable to watch just because of the physicality the two exhibited while in the ring. It was the WrestleMania debut for both men and they left it all in the ring. They were beating the hell out of each other at certain points of that match.

- This was the first and only time that the WWE placed the WrestleMania logo on the canvas. The WWE eventually cut up the canvas and sold as apart as a collector's item.

- Despite the show emanating from Anaheim, Calif., the WWE didn't have any celebrity cameos during the show.

Vaughn Johnson Sports Producer
About this blog
The Squared Circle is a one-stop shop of pro wrestling news, recaps and observations. You can also enjoy interviews with some of your favorite stars from the world of professional wrestling both nationally and locally. Reach Vaughn at vjohnson@philly.com.

Vaughn Johnson Sports Producer
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