Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart, WrestleMania XII, 3/31/1996

The main event at WWF WrestleMania XII was built on two goal from two different wrestlers: Bret Hart, the then-WWF Champion, aimed at wanting to retain the WWF Championship, and the challenger Shawn Michaels, who had suffered a number of setbacks over the course of the previous year (losing a title match at WrestleMania XI, forfeiting the Intercontinental Championship, suffering a concussion, and getting betrayed by Diesel, a.k.a. Kevin Nash).  To add to the build up of this event, the match between Hart and Michaels would be the first-televised, sixty-minute Iron Man Match, in which whomever scored the most decisions in a one-hour period (pinfall, submission, countout or disqualification) would win the match, and the WWF Championship.

For the sake of the history of the  “Iron Man Match” type in WWE, the match first originated in the World Wrestling Federation back in 1992, and in the next three years Bret Hart wrestled both Ric Flair and Owen Hart in Iron Man matches at untaped and untelevised house shows (as proven through handheld camera footage recorded by fans in attendance at said shows).

Thought the time limit for the match was set for 60 minutes, neither Michaels nor Hart was able to score a decision as time expired. Hart slapped on the Sharpshooter in the final minute, but Michaels was able to gut it out until the time ran out. Since neither man scored a fall in the first 60 minutes, then-WWF President Gorilla Monsoon ordered the match to continue under a one-fall-to-the-finish, sudden death rules.  In the end, Shawn Michaels hit Bret Hart with his Sweet Chin Music superkick and scored the pinfall 2 minutes into the overtime period to win the WWF Championship, finally realizing his “boyhood dream.” Out of the three times Shawn Michaels held the WWE Championship, it was in his first reign that became his most successful.  During that eight-month period, Michaels successfully defended the title against many of the top names in the business, including Diesel, the British Bulldog, Vader and Mankind (in which THAT match was the first wrestling match I covered on this blog).

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