To preface this review, I will let you know that out of all Wrestlemanias, this one drew the smallest PPV buy rate. It also is considered one of the worst cards from top to bottom in Mania history. However, there is one reason why this isn’t the worst Wrestlemania ever. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret “The Hitman” Hart is why. The politics behind the match are laughable. After Bret Hart put over Shawn Michaels in the main event of Wrestlemania XII, they were supposed to build for a rematch at Wrestlemania 13 with Shawn then putting Bret over. Unfortunately, whether you believe that Shawn didn’t want to put Bret over, or that he was injured, that program didn’t happen and thus, Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret “The Hitman” Hart did. Shawn didn’t even wrestle on the card. This match had a lot of significance in branching out Stone Cold’s character. The program did two things perfectly. It established Stone Cold as someone who would never quit and it also helped turn him face, while turning Bret heel at the same time.
The most interesting non-main match on the card was a very snotty Hunter Hearst Helmsley (before he made the DX turn into Triple H) who was seconded in the ring by a very muscular and masculine looking Chyna facing off against Goldust. They actually had a really good match. The kicker was watching Chyna throw around Marlena like a rag doll. That one spot helped make her into a frightening character. She’s still frightening today, but for different reasons.
There was a star driven six man tag match that was also on this card. The Legion Of Doom (or Road Warriors), who were past their prime, teamed up with Ahmed Johnson. If you’ve never heard of Ahmed Johnson, it’s because he was only in the WWF for a couple of years. He was an immediate sensation as a huge and mobile big man, yet he was very sloppy in the ring and people didn’t like working with him because of it. He later tried to make a comeback in WCW years later as Big T, but he was way out of shape and went away very quickly. They took on Crush, Farooq, and Savio Vega in a Chicago Street Fight which is similar to your modern day hardcore match, except the match wasn’t “falls count anywhere”. The match served it’s purpose which was to have LOD, who were always billed from Chicago, get over huge. And putting Ahmed in there with them helped establish him, but also, give the aging tag team some of his rub. However, the match wasn’t anything memorable and it was sloppy at times. But at least the crowd was happy.
Wrestlemania XII was total one trick pony. There are wrestling cards that only promise one great match, but the possibly is there for good matches on the undercard. Here, WWE simply said, “We are going to give you the main event, and it’s going to be an hour long, and we really don’t care what else is on this show.” If you think about it from a time standpoint, you have one match that is going to take a full hour out of your three hour PPV. The rest of the matches and skits will have to be cut into two hours. Basically they cared about the main event and nothing else. I guess they did promise us the Ultimate Warrior again.
The Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart match was a good match, but over the years, it has been called the greatest match in Wrestlemania history by WWE. It’s not. Our own Big D calls it the most overrated match in Wrestlemania history. It was built up on television as “a boyhood dream” for Michaels to win the belt. As the story went, Michaels had been a wrestling fan as a kid and even though he was on the smaller side, he always wanted to win the WWF Heavyweight Title in a league of gargantuan monsters. Since Vince McMahon was giving us two great wrestlers in the main event rather than two slow moving, punching and kicking heavyweights, he made sure that we were going to see pure wrestling. He made it an Iron Man match. The rules of an Iron Man match are simple. There is a clock set with a one hour time limit. The person who scores the most falls in one hour wins. The hardest thing to do in a match like this is to keep the fans entertained at the same time as making sure the wrestlers don’t wear themselves out. Michaels and Hart paced themselves, but it still wasn’t intriguing enough live as many of the fans left before the match was over. Some detractors say that although they were entertained for most of the entire hour, they didn’t like the finish. Neither man won a fall in the entire hour and Bret Hart decided that since it was a draw, he was still champion. WWF President at the time, Gorilla Monsoon came out and said there must be a winner and ruled that the contest must continue and there would be a winner in sudden death. Soon thereafter, Shawn Michaels broke the Hitman’s heart with the sweet chin music and won the match and the title.
For only the second time in Wrestlemania history, the WWF/WWE champion was not in the main event in Wrestlemania XI. You had a former champion in Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Shawn Michaels, the future champion, and neither guy was in the main event. Well just who was in the main event for this Wrestlemania? The first guy was Bam Bam Bigelow. And the second? Old LT himself, Lawrence Taylor. This program was initially supposed to help Bigelow’s career. Even by losing to an NFL superstar, Bigelow was supposed to actually gain from the rub and become a regular main eventer.
It was one of the least inspired Wrestlemania cards at least as far as ring work was concerned. Usually there is one “showstopper” match that carries the rest of the card. Sometimes, there’s more than one. But this year, there wasn’t one quality wrestling match. The one expected to at least be half decent was the Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund “I Quit/Submission” grudge match. Roddy Piper was announced as the surprise guest referee. Here’s where this match went wrong. Originally announced as a submission match where the only way you can win is to submit your opponent, Piper, on the fly, turned the match into an “I Quit” match. Hart wouldn’t even have Backlund in a submission hold and Piper would yell, “Whaddya say?” and you’d hear a pissed off Backlund yell, “no!” as if to say, “If you understood the rules, you wouldn’t be asking me this question.” It was a garbled mess and one of the few matches in his career where it seemed Bret Hart didn’t really have control. There’s another more famous match where he didn’t have control, but we won’t go there. The match ended with Hart finally submitting Backlund in his own chicken wing submission finisher, but to the audience, you couldn’t really tell if Backlund submitted or not. It was just an awful match.
After the huge main event at Wrestlemania VI where The Ultimate Warrior beat Hulk Hogan for the World Heavyweight Championship, it was pretty much etched in stone that they would have a rematch at Wrestlemania VII. And after selling a ton of tickets at the Skydome in Toronto for Wrestlemania VI, Vince was going to try to do it one better. Actually he was going to try and do better than Wrestlemania III at the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit where they claim to have put 93,000 butts in the seats. Wrestlemania VII with the Hogan vs. Warrior rematch was going to take place at the LA Coliseum, which can hold over 100,000 people. If you’ve ever seen Wrestlemania VII, you’ll know that Hogan vs. Warrior part two never happened, and it wasn’t held in the outdoor stadium in Los Angeles. Wrestlemania VII was held in the LA Sports Arena which barely holds 15% percent of what the LA Coliseum did, and it was main evented by Sgt. Slaughter as the champ and Hulk Hogan as the All American belt chaser.
How did we get there? Well, after Hogan was beaten by Warrior, the WWF struggled without Hogan. House show business was down and people weren’t really paying to see Warrior like they were Hogan. Let’s face it. Warrior was fun to watch jump up and down while shaking the ropes, but he wasn’t going to be the man. He was horrendous on interviews, couldn’t wrestle for long periods of time despite his awesome physique, which tells you a little bit of how he got that physique, and simply didn’t draw as well as Hogan did as a champion. Also, the Persian Gulf War was going on at the time, and Vince McMahon decided it would be topical if the main WWF storyline carried the same timeliness. Enter Sgt. Slaughter. But not as you’d think. This time the Sarge was as an Iraqi supporter with General Adnan and later, Col. Mustaffa, who is most well known as the Iron Sheik, in his corner. It’s a horrible storyline if you think about it. It was a fake sentiment created by a storyline that took advantage of a war situation. Typical classy wrestling.
Since there was no way the WWF was going to sell anywhere near the number of tickets needed for the LA Coliseum, they opted for the smaller LA Arena, but used the excuse that because the Iraqi supporting Slaughter was so hated, they were worried things could get out of control in an outdoor stadium and thus had to move indoors. But they never answered the question as to how they would fit all those fans who bought tickets into the smaller arena. It’s because they never sold enough tickets.
I have a feeling my kids are going to want this game badly, even if they’re too young to have watched many of these guys wrestle.
Here’s the list of wrestlers and managers in the game according to IGN.com.
Andre The Giant
Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka
Junk Yard Dog
Bam Bam Bigelow
King Kong Bundy
Koko B. Ware
Big John Studd
Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake
Ravishing Rick Rude
Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
Rowdy Roddy Piper
Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Honky Tonk Man
Stone Cold Steve Austin
The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase
Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Jake The Snake
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was watching Saturday Night’s Main Event where the big angle for this Wrestlemania started. The main event was scheduled for Hulk Hogan vs. The Magnificent Muraco and instead of Muraco’s regular manager Mr. Fuji by his side, Bobby Heenan was in his corner. They said that Fuji had the flu, which was an angle alert. However, I was only nine so I didn’t know about angle alerts. During the match, Hogan went after Heenan and King Kong Bundy came in to attack Hogan and “pearl harbor” him as Vince McMahon would say. It was a sneak attack that left Hogan laying in the ring, taking big splash after big splash. As a young Hulkamaniac, I was devastated. I had just been turned on to wrestling the year before by my best friend at the time, and I bit hook, line, and sinker. There I was, up at midnight, watching my hero take the beating of his life. Bundy was played up huge. He was a mountain of a man. He actually resembled the letter “O” with his short but fat torso and lack of neck. He used to be called a condominium with legs. As Hogan lay lifeless in the ring, I was upset at this guy with the bald head and wrinkled forehead. But I was smart enough to know my guy was going to get revenge. The storyline was that Hogan was in the hospital suffering from rib injuries and you could write the Hulkster to wish him well. I wasn’t that gullible, but I know other young kids were. They even had Mean Gene Okerlund talk to the doctor and they showed x-rays of Hogan to sell the angle. They would meet again in the main event of Wrestlemania 2 and in a steel cage.