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Charles (Loss)

[1996-03-31-WWF-Wrestlemania XII] Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels (60-Minute Iron Man)

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Lots worth saying about this one, both good and bad. Without the iron man stip, this would be far more fondly remembered if it happened to be a match that just happened to go 60 minutes, but I think they wanted to use the length of the main event as a selling point for the show. Also, had it taken place in front of a more wrestling-friendly crowd in the Southeast, it would have had more heat. Still, this is a really good wrestling match, and Michaels' entrance and post-match celebration are images that will forever be entrenched in WWF folklore. Bret does have a strong storyline point about the way he lost his title. Since when are world title matches that go to a draw restarted?

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I think this was wildly overrated at the time and doesn't hold up. The matwork really doesn't compare favorably with other old-school-style technical matches, it lacks the compelling "babyface struggling to overcome a deficit" story that most ironman matches have, lots of the work goes nowhere, and they rarely seem to be going for the win as opposed to killing time. It's still ultimately a good match, but there are lots of flaws. If it wasn't a Wrestlemania main event title change...

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One of my favourite parts of this match\was the ending of the match right before the overtime period. Bret Hart was all like "I've seen Michaels in this spot before come up short. He does X (forget exactly what it was) and than he makes a mistake. Than you capatalize on it" That's exactly what happenes when Michaels goes up to the top rope, screws up and than Bret catches him in the sharpshooter. However, Michaels is now too determined and survives his mistake.

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Average match, really, one I have no desire to watch again. They really don't much much in term of build, waste a vast amount of time doing boring stuff, the matwork is pretty laughable coming from a guy who's supposed to be a "technician". And most of all, they really have zero clue how to work the last 15 minutes. It's obvious they weren't on the same page. Of course with these two you get a few really good moments, but it's few and far between. The booking I thought was cheap. The fact that HHH and The Rock had a much better match, granted, with the help of very creative booking, tells a lot about the failure these two had here at working a super long match. And the fact that Nash and Taker had a better match just before tells a lot too. I may be a bit severe, but this match doesn't hold a candle to what was done in other promotions in the same timeframe in term of super long matches, and gets worse with each viewing.

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But Shawn showed growth in not succumbing to the same finish of their Survivors '92 match! Kidding aside, yeah, this is... painfully average. I like the 92 title match as the best example of what Bret's matches would've been as NWA Touring Champ... but you can distill everything you need to see in this match in, I don't know, five minutes worth of highlights including the entrance and celebration.

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The last time I watched this I thought it was better than people make out, but that was a long time ago. It doesn't really matter how good it was, however, since it was supposed to be the match of the 90s and they fucked up the whole approach. I've got to call bollocks on there being better one hour matches, though. All of the one hour matches from around this time are wretched. One hour matches are just a bad idea in general.

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I've got to call bollocks on there being better one hour matches, though. All of the one hour matches from around this time are wretched. One hour matches are just a bad idea in general.

Um, except for the fact that Misawa/Kobashi vs Kawada/Taue went an hour twice in '95 and both ruled, and there were a bunch of great broadways in the '80s, and a couple really good ones in the '00s, soooo...

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I've got to call bollocks on there being better one hour matches, though. All of the one hour matches from around this time are wretched. One hour matches are just a bad idea in general.

Um, except for the fact that Misawa/Kobashi vs Kawada/Taue went an hour twice in '95 and both ruled, and there were a bunch of great broadways in the '80s, and a couple really good ones in the '00s, soooo...

 

Contrarian today, aren't ya? Kidding. There's a Flair/Jumbo match from one of the PWO dvd's (#3, I think) that's pretty fantastic -- and of course, Bock/Curt.

 

I wonder how the Angle/Lesnar iron man holds up?

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Toyota and Inoue had the infamous überworkrate 60 minutes match in 1995. Amazing stuff. The Rock and HHH of all people had an excellent 60 minutes matches. Time doesn't matter. The way it's worked does. I have never seen Angle/brock going 60, but I don't want to see Angle going anywhere near 60 minutes.

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The last time I watched this I thought it was better than people make out, but that was a long time ago. It doesn't really matter how good it was, however, since it was supposed to be the match of the 90s and they fucked up the whole approach. I've got to call bollocks on there being better one hour matches, though. All of the one hour matches from around this time are wretched. One hour matches are just a bad idea in general.

Don't you think the Valentine/Backlund draw from 79 is the best WWF match of all time?

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The last time I watched this I thought it was better than people make out, but that was a long time ago. It doesn't really matter how good it was, however, since it was supposed to be the match of the 90s and they fucked up the whole approach. I've got to call bollocks on there being better one hour matches, though. All of the one hour matches from around this time are wretched. One hour matches are just a bad idea in general.

Don't you think the Valentine/Backlund draw from 79 is the best WWF match of all time?

 

That doesn't mean they're not a bad idea in general. I think strap matches are a bad idea too, but that didn't stop me from putting Vader/Sting number one on the WCW poll. I really don't think the one hour All Japan and All Japan women matches from this time were good and I don't see how anyone would want to see them go an hour in those styles. In fact, I would argue that they were part of the reason both companies went downhill.

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The biggest problem with this match is that unlike just about every Iron Man match, these two didn't trade falls.

 

Rock-Trip traded a ton of them. Probably too many for Bret and Shawn to have used, but in turn probably the right amount given the work style of 2000 and shorter attention spans.

 

Bret-Owen and Bret-Flair traded them. In a shorter setting, Rude-Steamer traded them.

 

It's part of what makes an Iron Man "work" for fans: they get to see the match broken into shorter segments ending with high points of falls.

 

If Bret-Shawn simply did a 2-2 finish before going to overtime, they could have broken up the match into six sections building to high points:

 

Fall #1: 1-0 Wrestler X

Fall #2: 1-1

Fall #3: 2-1 Wrestler X

Fall #4: 2-2

Fall #5: furious work towards the time limit

Fall #6: overtime with Shawn winning 3-2

 

60/5 = 12 average segments in the original time limit

 

Not saying that you do all at 12 minutes, but it gives an idea of how you can break up the "laying around". I probably would have avoided doing quick finishes / short falls because it mean you then have to take it down for a longer period. I probably would have had Fall #4 end no later than 55 minutes, and probably closer to 50-52 to allow for developing another movement with some back & forth (which isn't hard to stretch out by selling the length of the match / being tired).

 

You break up the match, have falls, mix in finishers being used as finishers, the pops of the crowd, and the overtime finish... and the match is a lot better. It wouldn't have taken much more effort.

 

That's before we even get to what the storyline of the match would be.

 

It's just not that hard of a match to block out.

 

The problem is that the two already hated each other, and this wasn't going to be a happy title change. If someone like Patterson tried to sit down and block this out, it's not clear either would have given a shit.

 

At the time, in the building, what I morbidly enjoyed about the match is that Bret mostly forced Shawn to work Bret's match "If you're going to beat me, we're working my match even if it doesn't look flashy and shit." It's one of those at the moment reactions to the match that made me enjoy it. Not in a MOTYC way, though. It wouldn't have cracked the top 10 of matches I saw live that year.

 

In hindsight, I don't think it was terribly good. I'm not sure if Bret even cared a ton about have a great match. Blame both ways, and to whoever allowed them to screw with the standard formating of Iron Man matches.

 

I do think that the 10/95 Kawada & Taue vs Misawa & Kobashi match worked to a strong degree. They went with what at a time was an interesting way of breaking up the 60 minutes: different segements of 2-1 while one of the wrestlers was knocked for a loop. As it's going along, and if you didn't know it was going 60, most of those segements looked like they might be the one what someone gets beat. Perhaps by the 4th you pick up the patern, but the match does stay rather heated until very late when the fans get it's going 60, and the workers don't really have a strong near fall in the 58-59 minute range. In a way, it might have been better if it went 58 minutes with a finish, especially having already done three 60 minute draws ealier in the year in configurations of these four.

 

60 minute draw became tougher in one fall settings. While a 1-1 60 minute time limit has it's own obviousness that it's going long and might be a draw, at least the match is broken up. One fall going long takes a lot of work by the wrestlers to stay connected, and reconnect.

 

I do think Backlund-Valentine was a great match. Inoki-Backlund, Destroyer-Baba... there are some great ones out there on tape.

 

John

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I absolutely agree that they would have been better off using falls to create momentum shifts and plot twists. They spent too much of the time going nowhere in particular.

 

In general, I agree with OJ that 60-minute matches aren't a good idea. It's odd that they've been fetishized over the years. But I did just watch the 10/18/96 draw between Kobashi and Kawada and found it neither tedious nor over-the-top ridiculous with the big moves. Would it have been better as a 40-minute match with a finish? Probably. Was it a top-10 All Japan match for the year? Maybe, maybe not. But Kawada was so good at layered selling and crafting nifty transition spots, and Kobashi brought such a deep well of offense that it never went off the rails.

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As a big fan of Michaels and Bret back in the day and someone who was closely following the product, I KNEW and felt in my heart it was going to be 0 vs 0 and that there would be an overtime period with Michaels probably winning. To me, that was the only way the match could've gone given their personalities, the storyline and the timing of the Ironman stipulation coinciding with their careers. I would not have bought have a match where each got falls on each with perhaps the exception of roll ups (Scratch that, I wouldn't buy roll up pins either). It would contradict what and who they were -- even the heart of the Ironman match itself as once you start having lots of falls in an Ironman match the idea behind the Ironman (Helps show the fans these guys are the toughest wrestlers alive) gets diluted some. We can argue on wether have multiple falls equals more stars in a wrestling match but than the specialness of this match contradicts everything and gets lost.

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This is from Bret's interview with the Score, via some website called Wrestling Inc.

 

On the 1-0 final at WrestleMania XII and if there were ever any other plans for his match with Shawn Michaels: "That was what was presented to me. I always liked the idea of two or three falls. I had a different idea. In the end, the one fall had it's appeal, too. That's what they wanted, so that's what they got.

 

"I have no problem with it now. Looking back on it, I can see it. I can see why it was one fall. It stands out now for that reason, maybe. But, if it had been three or four falls, it might have been a more exciting match. We would have had more rest spots in there, anyway. [Laughs.] That was for sure the hardest match I ever had."

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I've seen this match many times but I haven't seen it in a very long time but I just chimed it up on youtube to get a the feeling back. Theres a lot of waistlock to headlock to armbar to wristlock to headlock work in the first ten minutes or so and it feels like it SHOULD have taken about three. Bret hits an ok spinebuster and teases the sharpshooter about fifteen minutes in and it quickly goes back into restholds. The crowd is so dead during most of this except for when Michaels skins the cat or pulls off one of those "fancy Mexican maneuvers that Jose Lithario taught him", as McMahon said during commentary.

 

Theres a finish tease approximately every fifteen minutes or so which usually leads to a delightful Michaels highspot; However, the most entertaining parts of the match are when they potato eachother. Call me cynical, but knowing that these guys genuinely didn't like eachother makes this a little bit more entertaining to watch now than I thought it would. Its no excuse for the sloppy wrestling and all but the inside knowledge (which is pretty much common knowledge now) makes for an interesting watch.

 

There are a series of nearfalls about 30 to 35 minutes in that include Bret reversing a cross body and small package spots that would have been perfect for a few falls to happen. Specifically if Bret had reversed the top rop cross body and gotten the pin with Michaels getting one of the small packages almost immediately after to create some "look at how they know eachothers moves so well" kind of intrigue. It probably would've popped up the crowd a bit.

 

I really like the top rope work from Micahels towards the end of the hour. The moonsault is passable and actually connects perfectly with the pinfall. The jump into the sharpshooter is a good spot.

 

I always wish Bret would've held onto the sharpshooter for a few seconds after the match rather than dropping the hold at the bell but I guess it plays into the exaustion storyline.

 

The ending falls flat for me because Michaels had to repeat the superkick spot to "get all of it" as McMahon points out. Everything about the celebration is comical from Lithario getting into and then out of the ring almost immediately because Michaels wants to celebrate alone to Brets son singing along with Sexy Boy.

 

I didn't watch the whole thing through but the match holds up for me. It was one of my favorites from back then but then again I was a mark for both Bret and Shawn at age 9. I remember telling all of the pissed off kids watching Survivor Series 1992 at my house the the main event match would probably be better than the cancelled appearance by the Warrior would've ever been anyway. Nobody really listened at the time... haha. That being said, I like that match from 1992 and their matches they did for Coloseium (one is a gem of a ladder match) a lot better than this. Their willingness to work together back then makes for better matches, I guess. I'd even rank their Montreal match higher than the Ironman based on crowd heat and the fact that I like a good aisle brawl every now and then.

 

On a side note, where can I get these yearbooks you speak of?

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Finally saw this. This has been one of my admitted blind spots for a while, and I'm glad I've checked this off my bucket list. I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. Most of the first half is spent on the mat. A few of Shawn's attempts to work the mat are pretty ugly, particularly his headlock takedowns. Overall, though, they do a good job of working basic holds and periodically picking up the pace to keep from losing the crowd. The second half is worked more like a typical WWF match. What surprised me was how one-sided it was, with Bret in almost complete control. That wasn't a problem, though, since he did a good job of keeping things interesting while on top. And Shawn held up his end with some impressive bumps. Overtime was what it was. I'd be fine never seeing this match again, but it was a pleasant enough way to spend an hour.

 

With all that said, put me in the camp that thinks that 60 minute matches are almost never good, even the All Japan ones. Hell, especially the All Japan ones. 60 minutes is just way too long for that style.

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After watching this match at least three or four times over the years, I keep changing my mind about whether or not I like it or not.

 

I'm also in the "60 minute matches are almost never good" camp, but for a while I enjoyed this one - I think reading in Bret's autobiography about Shawn's whole attitude after it had finished made me hate it.

 

Should probably give it another watch to see if I like it again or not!

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Decided to re-watch this yesterday and ended up liking it quite a bit. Thought it held up better than I expected. The arm work not going anywhere didn’t bother me at all because it felt like Shawn had tried everything in his arsenal to get a submission out of it. He wasn’t really in a position to go after the arm again until gaining control for the last 5 minutes of the match. At that point you could say Bret had recovered with his arm (the arm work occurred roughly 30 min earlier) and it made more sense for Shawn to go with his familiar/signature offense with the clock winding down.

 

I liked that they wrestled this to correspond to the build-up, with Bret pounding down and punishing Shawn and Michaels using his speed and quickness to gain the advantage (Vince and King also set this out on commentary to start the match). The surprise was that Michaels was good enough technically to hang with, and even get the better of, a “skilled technician” like Hart on the mat. Thought it was a decent story and a nice way to put over Shawn as more than just a high flyer for his run as champ.

 

As far as the work, for the most part they always had something interesting going on, and they would intersperse enough highspots to keep things exciting. I loved the piledriver spot, for example. Overall, this was a really good, and possibly even great match. Don’t really feel like I’ll want to watch it again for the foreseeable future but I would say that about any match going an hour.

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It had been many years since I last viewed this and going in I wasn't filled with optimism. I'm not a big fan of broadways. There's never been a singles bout that's needed over 45m if you ask me. Plus I feel much the same way about Michaels as Bret Hart did, albeit a lot less passionately. So it was pleasing to see that it was Bret's style of match all the way.

 

Despite being face vs face there was never any Mr Nice Guy or mutual respect. The dislike was tangible. In the early going they certainly paced themselves. That was necessary as they were quite rightly spent afterwards. At times it got turgid with the chinlocks. Still, it was pleasing how they maintained a technical focus and kept it inside the ring. Having falls would've brought advantages as people have discussed. Yet having none at all was a crucial part of it's future aura so I wouldn't change that. I liked the closing stages a lot with the Sharpshooter at the end of normal time. They got that just right. The overtime period worked well and even a non-fan of HBK like myself got a bit emotional at the finish. His entrance and postmatch celebration are burned in all our memories I think through years of highlight reels.

 

It's a very hard one to rate with the long duration, highs and lows. I enjoyed it a lot more than I was expecting so I'll say VG range. For better or for worse it was one of the defining matches of the era.

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Oh, answering my own question, I guess the narrator is Josh Matthews or someone. Presumably it was originally Pettingill and there was music they had to remove and his voice went with it.

 

At times I wonder if this wouldn't have been better off if they'd worked a straight 60-minute draw, and then gone to overtime. There are various problems with that (with regard to promoting the show with only 6 matches, or starting the match at 8:30pm or so). This match isn't an all-time technical classic, but it's been kicked around so much in retrospect that I don't think it can really qualify as "overrated" anymore either. It's just a good, solid match, that probably comes off better because it's so anomalous in a WWF setting: the Pure Sports Build stuff, right up to Earl Hebner going over the rules, the oddball spots involving the referee and timekeeper, the new offense, Vince skirting the line between '90s Carnival Barker and 1970's broadcaster--it's definitely something different from this company. The opening matwork is only okay and tends to drag, but Bret nicely keeps his focus on Shawn's back even if he blows off the work Shawn did on his arm. And I have to credit Shawn for busting out some new moves here--a good stiff clothesline, a Perfect-Plex, and a Doctor Bomb, among others--in-between some suicidal bumps. He really could have been a better offensive wrestler than he tended to be. This isn't really a match to go back and revisit over and over, but I'd like to see it remembered as a good, strong effort rather than an overrated failed epic.

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