And we're LIVE from Anaheim, California on March 31, 1996. The hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler.
I thought I'd note that in the Free For All "pregame" show, the Huckster vs. Nacho Man parody feud was "settled" by both men collapsing of oxygen deprivation on the way to the ring. This whole thing was an increasingly desperate attempt by the WWF to sling mud at their bitter rival, World Championship Wrestling—for months prior to this, the WWF had been airing "Billionaire Ted's Wrasslin' Warroom" sketches lambasting Ted Turner and WCW. Two of the parody characters the WWF introduced during those skits, the Huckster (parody of Hulk Hogan) and the Nacho Man (parody of Randy Savage) challenged each other to a match at Wrestlemania. So, they both collapse on the way to the ring. Because they're OLD and BAD and so is WCW. Get it?
Match 1: Yokozuna, Jake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson v. Vader, Owen Hart & British Bulldog. I guess they were going for quantity over quality in this match. Vader hits the Vaderbomb
on Jake for the pin.
Match 2: Goldust v. Rowdy Roddy Piper in a "Hollywood Back Alley Brawl". Razor Ramon was originally supposed to be in here against Goldust, but he was in rehab at the time for his drug/alcohol problems and Piper was inserted in his place. This is clearly pre-taped. Goldust escapes by driving off in his gold Cadillac, and Piper chases him out of the arena in a Ford Bronco. A white Ford Bronco, I might add.
Match 3: Stone Cold Steve Austin v. Savio Vega. This would be two months prior to Austin winning the King of the Ring, coining his Austin 3:16 catchphrase, and never looking back. Here, he's just some midcard heel with a bad attitude and a shaved head being managed by Ted DiBiase. He gets no reaction, and neither does Vega. This was pre-neck injury for Austin, so he's in prime form and carries Vega kicking and screaming to a great match. Oh, and here's the split-screen footage of Piper's white Ford Bronco being chased by police down the Los Angeles Freeway—really the footage of the OJ Simpson low-speed chase. It was supposed to be funny, I guess. Austin wins by cheating outrageously while the referee was unconscious.
Match 4: Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. The Ultimate Warrior. This is the Warrior's "triumphant" return to the WWF after being hyped for weeks. He'd disappear in under four months. HHH is not The Game, not a member of Degeneration X, he's just some highbrow snob from Connecticut. Warrior wins with his usual 1990 squash material in under 2 minutes.
Match 5: Diesel v. The Undertaker. Wow, the first match on the card with any buildup to it! And we're only 90 minutes in. This was the first real time these two had met each other on a Pay-Per-View. Both men brought their A-game with them, which is roughly equivalent to
Chris Benoit bringing his C-game and wrestling with a hernia and a broken leg at the same time. So, the resulting match is watchable and mediocre, which is really all you can ask for out of these two.
Undertaker wins cleanly with a chokeslam and the tombstone piledriver.
Match 2, continued: Oh, here's Piper and Goldust again. They fight all the way to the ring, and then Piper rips off Goldust's wrestling attire to reveal S&M gear underneath. Ooooooookay.
Match 6: Bret Hart v. Shawn Michaels in an Iron Man Match for the WWF Championship. The match lasts for 60 minutes, and the man with the most pinfalls won at the end of the hour is declared the victor and the WWF Champion. I have to digress slightly at this point by mentioning that Bret and Shawn do not like each other very much in real life, and this was the match that caused the mutual dislike to turn into mutual hate. Neither man wanted to lose face by being pinned during
the match—more Bret than Shawn—and so NO falls occur for the ENTIRE HOUR, absolutely killing the crowd and slowing down the match immensely. It's still a great match from a technical perspective, but it just isn't interesting to watch because it's so slow-paced and practically nothing
happens for blocks of ten minutes at a time.
So, just take my word for the fact that nothing important happens for 59 minutes. In the final minute, Shawn goes to the top rope but gets caught in the Sharpshooter. He manages to hang in without submitting until time expires. Hart assumes that he's still champion since the match ended in a draw, 0-0. He walks all the way back to the entrance ramp until Gorilla Monsoon, WWF Commissioner, declares that there must be a definitive winner, and so a very pissed off Bret Hart walks back to the ring and the overtime begins. Shawn hits his finisher (the Sweet Chin Music) after only a minute, but he can't capitalize. He hits another one shortly thereafter and gets the pinfall and capture his first WWF Championship with 1:47 elapsed in the overtime period.
It's a great match to watch once, but you probably won't ever want to sit through it again just to get to the ending. Much like the rest of the card.