Maybe we can finally get the Flair-Hart 60 minute Ironman match from the Boston Garden in January 93, that would be SEX
WWE Championship PPV Matches : 1996
Bret Hart vs The Undertaker RR 96 : *** 1/4
Bret Hart vs Diesel IYH 6 : ***
Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels WM XII : *** 1/4
Shawn Michaels vs Diesel IYH 7 : ****
Shawn Michaels vs The British Bulldog IYH 8 : ***
Shawn Michaels vs The British Bulldog KOTR 96 : *** 3/4
Shawn Michaels vs Vader SS 96 : **** 1/4
Shawn Michaels vs Mankind IYH 10 : **** 3/4
Shawn Michaels vs Sid SS 96 : ****
Sid vs Bret Hart IYH 12 : *** 1/4
I don't know WHAT the fuck was up with Bret in early 96, as he wrestled some pretty good but pretty non BRET-ISH matches. The pace in his match vs The Undertaker at the Royal Rumble, as well as the Steel Cage match vs Diesel, were pretty bad. Despite bad pacing issues, I thought these matches had some great psychology and were generally GOOD contests. The match with Taker is EASILY the worst of their WWE Championship series (we'll get to the classics next year) , while his match with Diesel in the cage was also their worst match together as well. Maybe Bret was just unmotivated, since he knew he was just a placeholder for another babyface and that he was going to be the number 2/3 face of the company now behind Shawn and MAYBE Taker, just my two cents. It seemed as if even though Bret was performing all of his moves crisply and selling very well, he didn't want to put any EMOTION behind his performances, I believe that it hurt the first two.
The Ironman match.... What can I possibly say that hasn't already been said about it ? The wrestling is there, but with bad pacing and psychology that doesn't follow through (a staple in ALL Bret vs Shawn matches for some reason) , this one doesn't have a prayer to go down in my mind as an all time classic. Sure we get the all time great moment, and the last 5-10 minutes of this is awesome, but that doesn't mean that it can justify the first 30-40 minutes of utter bullshit psychology flaws and moves that don't go anywhere. Why can't two of perhaps the greatest wrestlers ever in the North American style work a classic match together ? That always blew my mind. Anyways, not as bad or good as you would think, so I'm choosing the middle ground here when I rate this. The second worst ironman match that I've ever seen (Cena-Orton takes that cake) , but that really isn't an insult in itself.
Now we get to one of my favourite WWF title reigns of all time ; HBK's first go around with the belt. Sure the commentary on his matches with the unwarranted and possibly homoerotic man-love from Vince Mcmahon gets annoying after a while, but Shawn was given a formula and it worked ; put him up against all power guys and have him beat the odds over and over and over. The match with Diesel is one of the most exciting matches of 1996, as these guys just trade big move after big move, as Shawn does something with Diesel that even Bret couldn't do, and that's speed up Diesel's pace by about 140X. Love the MDV cameo, love the big powerbomb through the table, and love the finish. On the REALLLLLYY high end of ****
The Bulldog series were a solid set of matches, with the first one being a basic power vs speed matchup with alot of crisp moves but not a ton of emotion, while the second one took that concept and amplified it full of emotion and excitement. We got more near falls and big time moves in the KOTR matchup as opposed to the IYH match, which was good but seemed a tad too dry for my tastes. For me, Davey Boy needs to matchup with the right opponent to fit his style, and Shawn fits that description fairly well. The worst matches of Shawn's reign, which is ridiculous in itself to say the least.
We now enter into perhaps my favourite match of 1996 ; Summerslam 1996 where HBK took on the man they call Vader. I'm a HUGE Vader fan and I always have been from his time in Japan, to WCW, all the way to the WWF, and to say that this was the perfect example of the power vs speed matchup that we've been getting since the beginning of wrestling would be an understatement. These two completely tore the house down in the main event of Summerslam. The storytelling was fantastic, and Shawn looked like Jake Roberts (NOT on crack-cocaine) with his psychology, as every punch seemed to have meaning in this one. Shawn would then use all of his crazy aerial tactics to try and take the big man down, but Vader wasn't having any of that shit, and proceeded to systematically destroy Shawn. I could gush and gush and gush over this match all day long, but I seriously recommend it if you haven't seen it already. Cornette is awesome, the multiple finishes are awesome, this match is AWESOME.
Mick Foley said it best in his first book : Mind Games 1996 was my finest performance to date. He was 100 percent correct, as not only Foley, but both men were on FIRE at this point, so obviously their meeting would be nothing short of amazing. The story here is simple ; Shawn has beaten some of the most powerful men in the WWF with his high flying tactics and his technical wrestling, but along comes a man that won't respond to that. Mankind is impervious to pain at this point, and Shawn is a fish out of water in this one, he must adapt to Foley's style, or lose the WWF title in the process. The psychology here is spot on, as it's probably the only time you'll ever see an opponent actually work on Foley's HAND so that he can't lock in the mandible claw. The way Shawn works the legs of Mankind, only to have Mankind jab himself with a pen to get the feeling back in his leg is fantastic, and I felt it added to Foley's character. We also had the awesome SPOTZZZ but obviously that's not what makes this match awesome, it's the character development. I love, love, love, love this match with a passion and every wrestling fan should watch this before they die. The ending is MEH, but it was necessary to protect both men.
Okay, let me get this out of the way... From time to time, I mark out for SID. I don't know why, maybe it's because he has one of the greatest entrances in WWF history , and his pyro is the GOAT.....Even though I mark for him, he's very suspect in the ring, but this is no doubt his finest performance in a WWF. Here we have a 1990s version of a hostile John Cena match, with HBK being Cena in this case with the crowd completely turning on him. Another FANTASTIC power vs speed matchup here, as Sid throws HBK all around the place and Shawn just bumps like mad for him. You can see Sid stay relatively tweener-ish during this match, until he makes his full blown AWESOME heel turn at the end. The psychology is clearly there, as Shawn needs to attack the legs to mow SID down, and the story is amazing : Shawn faces another powerhouse, only this time he's not the favourite and he doesn't have the fans behind his back...... How does he respond ? A great performance by both men, and PS : SID is awesome.
Speaking of SID, his title defense against Bret from IYH is pretty damn good for a SID match as well. Bret is more powerful than Shawn, so he does a better job of attacking the base of SID , getting him down to a horizontal base and trying to work the legs and back to hook the sharpshooter. This was billed as the battle of the finishers, and rightfully so, as both men spend a large amount of time trying to set up their respective finishers (SID's powerbomb is awesome
) . In the end, SID prevails in a pretty good match that had me hooked throughout, even though it suffered from some pacing issues as Bret felt he was an afterthought to the arrogant Shawn Michaels once again.