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WWF From The Vault: Sahwn Michaels
Posted by on Jun 3, 2003, 05:08


We get a lot of looks at the Bret and Shawn training vignettes of the time, with the guys on treadmills, climbing rope marine stylee, working with jobbers in practice rings etc.. It’s weird – even the SummerSlam promos where Rocka nd Brock were doing training vignettes, I just couldn’t take them seriously because I just have these mental images of Vince chugging down raw eggs and doing situps with weights on his chest screaming “I hate Austin!”, and then going out into the snow whlie Shane screams at him to “Catch it, catch the chicken!” Shawn harps about how he only would’ve done that kind of match with Bret. To be honest, I can’t think of anyone else on the roster who could’ve gone an hour like they did. Vader can run his mouth all he wants about his one hour matches in Japan and how Misawa was blown up trying to keep up with him, but there’s a difference between throwing forearms for sixty minutes and what these guys did. Fun couple of moments as they include pieces of promos where Bret and Shawn refer to each other as “my friend”. A few clips of Bret pulling off some moves makes me LONG for a Hitman DVD. Fill that bad boy with classic Hart Foundation, Stampede, and the Hart/Benoit classic and put it in a pink Armaray case and it’s on. Anyway, Shawn describes the match as being real, and says that “that was as real as this business will ever be for me.” Um, okay – I guess I really should be grateful he didn’t take such an obvious opportunity to correct himself and namedrop Montreal.

WWF Championship Iron Man Match: Shawn Michaels vs Bret Hart (C) – 3/31/96

From WrestleMania XII. Gorilla Monsoon is introduced as a Hall of Famer and the WWF President, and the crowd cares about none of it. Actually, neither Bret or Shawn’s entrance gets that big of a pop. Then again, these poor fans have just sat through Mania XII, so you can forgive them. HBK’s music hits and there’s a really blatant sign that says SHITMAN being held up in the aisleway. Remember that, it’ll be (semi-)important later. Jose makes the trip down the aisle solo in order to allow Shawn to make his oft-replayed zip-wire entrance from the rafters. You know, Shawn may not have been a huge draw, but the guy sold SHITLOADS of merch – everywhere you look fans are wearing those gay biker hats, fingerless gloves and all the other HBK crap.

Legends of Wrestling

Monsoon remains in the ring as both guys square up and Hebner lays out the rules, which would give the match a big time boxing feel if only the fans weren’t so indifferent. Bret goes to ringside and gives his glasses to Blade (Bret’s son, not the black vampire hunter) which Vince finds terribly amusing, but I’d sure be pissed if my kid was sitting a couple of seats along. Is that Alison Hart too?

Lockup into the corner and Bret breaks clean, and now Vince and The King have caught Hebner’s annoying habit of referring to “falls” as “decisions”, which may be technically correct but sounds really gay. They trade a couple of go-behinds and takedowns, feeling each other out and stuff. Shawn starts getting the upper hand, and goes to work the arm. Holy crap, the ring is LOUD tonight – sounds like someone bouncing a basketball in an empty gym. Bret takes over with a headlock and works it for a couple of minutes as Shawn can’t shake it. Couple of token nearfalls out of the headlock to get the little moves over. Shawn finally breaks free with a whip but gets shoulderblocked and they trade more takedowns, with Bret catching another side headlock to regain control, which draws a nice pop. Shawn powers out and they fight over a top wristlock, but Bret again gets control, this time with a front facelock. He goes back to a headlock, but Shawn works some forearms to the midsection and sends Bret to the ropes. FREEEDOM! Couple of dropdowns, then Shawn lands a couple of nice armdrags and then gets Bret down into an armbar. He works it over as the King starts busting out the Stu Hart material. For some reason, Vince takes offence to Jurassic Park jokes about Stu and Jose, but booked a match between the fucking Nacho Man and the Huckster on the biggest show of the year as a childish, pathetic and mean-spirited way to get back at two guys who made him a bunch of money.

Bret Hart: scientific wrestler

Bret with a whip, but Shawn comes back with a shoulder. Bret with a dropdown and catches Shawn with a drop toehold, but Shawn rolls through and gets a hammerlock, which he turns into a nice straightjacket modification. Bret gets to his feet and goes all scientific, grabbing Shawn by the chin and backing him to the corner. No clean break this time as he starts wailing on Shawn, who then reverses and lays in some forearms of his own. Bret reverses a whip to the buckle, but gets caught with a headscissors on a blind charge and sent to the outside, as Vince tries to put over Shawn’s Mexican wrestling style. Um, okay. Back in and Shawn goes back to the arm, but Bret powers out and says “fuck this shit, jumping bean” and volleys Shawn over the top rope. Shawn’s all “nah, fuck that rude bwoy” and skins the cat, then blindsides Bret and goes for the arm. Bret gets pissed and whips Shawn, then meets him with a kitchen sink before dropping a VICIOUS headbutt to the… abdomen. Bret reassures Earl that it was indeed the abdomen, and Bret’s word is good enough for him. Of course, used to be that Earl’s word was good enough for Bret, but hey. Nice legdrop by the Hitman, who talks some smack to Jose before going to a reverse chinlock. Shawn turns that into a jawbreaker and lands a legdrop of his own, then goes for a FUJIWARA ARMBAR~! Of course, it’s Vince and Jerry Lawler, so it’s called as “Nicely done – into a bridge, yes indeed!” Oh well, at least it’s not “What a manoeuvre!” Bret slowly works out of it as Shawn fights to keep control of the arm. These guys are just so fucking good – they’re just working off instinct, putting together these mat sequences as they go, just because they can. Bret kips up and reverses back into a headlock, but gets whipped by Shawn. One leapfrog for Shawn, but he gets caught on the second one and Bret plants him with a spinebuster before going for the Sharpshooter, but Shawn makes the ropes. I think Shawn was trying to take an atomic drop bump, because when Bret laid him out for a flat back bump he wasn’t ready and just smacked his head on the mat.

Goodbye Tony.

Shawn staggers to his feet and turns around only to get MURDERED with a clothesline form Bret that sends him over the top and outside. Bret follows and goes for another headlock, but Shawn sends him to the post and he lands in Tony Chimmel’s lap. Shawn goes for Sweet Chin Music but the Hitman moves and Shawn just DESTROYS Chimmel with the superkick. The fans go nuts, and Bret takes over with some shots and gets Shawn back in to work the headlock. Hey look, it’s Lenny/Faith No More Guy! Sure, he looks concerned now, but in a couple of years he’ll be baying for referees’ blood. Double Feature lets us see Chimmel get wiped out again as a stretcher is brought out, and the fans are totally shocked and worried for the guy’s health. See Vince, see? We internet folk might not know anything about “wrestling”, but we know “Sportz Entertainment”, and if you do stretcher jobs every week on RAW people aren’t gonna buy that anything’s legit. Here, every fan is watching Chimmel get wheeled out in disbelief. Dick. Shawn breaks free of the headlock tyranny with a hiptoss variation, then hits a good stiff clothesline before taking the time to sell the neck. Good boy! Back up and Bret reverses a whip, and it’s his turn to nail Shawn with a stiff clothesline. Holy shit, these guys must’ve been watching All Japan tapes or something. Bret goes back to the neck, and we’re 20 minutes in without a fall. Shawn gets back to his feet and breaks free with some shots to the gut, then comes off the ropes and Bret goes for a scoop slam but can’t grab it. Shawn goes behind for a rollup, but Bret grabs the ropes. He turns around and eats an HBK dropkick right in the mush, and Shawn goes straight back to the armbar. Token two count off the hold, and Shawn drops a few knees right across the ribcage, then works a hybrid cross armbreaker, thus starting the Undertaker’s lifelong fascination with the hold. Actually, it looks more like he’s trying to pull the arm out of the socket, and since I can’t think of an official name for that hold, I’m gonna go ahead and Christen it THE CHEWIE. Bret tries a neat reversal by going vertical and putting all his weight back down onto Shawn, but he can’t quite get the leverage and he ends up back on the deck, getting a two count for Shawn. Bret gets a bullet-speed rollthrough and almost secures a headlock, but Shawn manages to turn that into a hammerlock. There’s some serious mat stuff going on here – it’s slow, but cool. If you liked Angle-Benoit, you’ll love this, even though it’s not as fast-paced.



Shawn really synches the hold, but Bret somehow gets to his feet and staggers Shawn back to the corner and lands some stiff reverse elbows to the face, breaking the hold. Series of stiff reverse uppercuts, and Shawn is mad pissed. He reverses a whip attempt and Bret thinks he’s going to the buckle, but Shawn kitchen sinks him out of nowhere, then sends his pink and black ass into the corner post shoulder-first. Shawn heads out onto the apron and wraps Bret’s arm around the post, before telling the camera to “Get the fuck out of the way.” Back in and he hits a nice shoulderbreaker, then heads up and comes off the second turnbuckle with an axehandle to the shoulder. He sets up a rare hammerlock bodyslam but loses the arm halfway through. Still, the effort is appreciated. Bret gets sent to the turnbuckles shoulder-first, as Vince brings up the Slammys for the sixth or seventh time this match. Shawn goes for the arm but Bret fights back and hits the ropes, but Shawn counters with one of those bizarre single-arm DDT things that Jeff Jarrett always uses and is one of my least favourite moves.

Shawn does his best Iggy Pop impersonation.

He stomps some arm, then goes for a cross-arm breaker proper. Bret manages to turn him and gets enough leverage to wipe his boot on Shawn’s face and break the hold. He takes a breather in the corner, but Shawn recovers and nails him with a shoulder and some stiff elbows, and takes him down for another armbar. Bret fights back and manages to take Shawn out with a stungun across the middle rope, then slingshots him into the ringpost. BOTH GUYS ARE DOWN! Bret crawls for Shawn’s carcass. 1… 2… no! Our first real nearfall of the night, and we’re just under 30 minutes in. Lenny flashes the New Jack sign to the hard camera for some unexplained reason. Bret tries to shake some feeling back into the arm and takes Shawn to the corner, but it’s Bret who eats a few mouthfuls of turnbuckle. Shawn with a Stinger Splash but Bret’s playing possum and ducks, leaving Shawn draped across the top rope to receive some nice kicks to the abs. Inverted atomic drop is your FIRST MOVE OF DOOM~! followed by a stiff clothesline that gets a two count. Nice running bulldog gets a two count for Bret, but he’s… going to the top rope? Shawn tries the Flair Air counter but Bret grabs the hair and goes for the ultra-vicious Wisowski Drop, but they fuck that up and a weak ref bump follows.


Shawn reverses a whip and hits a good powerslam for a two count, and the fans are starting to bite on the near falls. Bret gets whipped but counters a body drop with a boot to the gut (well, the kick actually missed, but whatever) with a piledriver, which gets the King really wet. Two count gets half of the fans on their feet, half of them booing at the false finish. Indeed, Jerry’s all “Now how can you kick out of a piledriver?” I have to agree – there’s two points right there where you could have had a quick fall for each guy to make it 1-1 within the space of a couple of minutes and without either guy having to look weak, but WWF politics and all. Bret drops another swank legdrop and Lawler makes some inside comments about Shawn and Syracuse. Bret goes back to the top rope and finally channels Ric Flair, getting tossed across the ring. Shawn charges in and hits a beautiful rana into mounted punches that should’ve been another quick fall, but he pulls up instead of going for a pin. Shawn whips Bret and tries an elbow but the two miscommunicate and Bret holds on to the ropes leaving Shawn standing there like a dummy losing the match’s momentum, and he’s not happy about it. He goes over to Bret and blatantly calls some spots, then hits a backbreaker for two. Another whip and Shawn REPEATS THE SPOT (losing himself a million credibility points with Scott Keith) hitting an elbow, then goes for Sweet Chin Music but Bret bails to the outside. He takes a powder walking around ringside, so Shawn heads up and comes off with an insane bodypress to the outside. Dude, it’s no wander your back’s screwed.


Bret’s lying dead outside, but Shawn goes out to retrieve him instead of taking a fall by countout. The lack of falls is really starting to hurt this match. Shawn goes up for another bodypress, but Bret rolls through for a really hot two count. Shawn reverses a whip and goes for a hiptoss, but Bret counters and they fight for a backslide. Shawn backflips over and through into a small package for another hot two count. Back up and Shawn locks in a PerfectPlex (called as such) for ANOTHER two count. JESUS CHRIST YOU STUPID PRICKS JUST PIN EACH OTHER! IT’S AN IRON MAN MATCH – IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE MORE THAN ONE FALL! IT’S A FAKE SPORT AND WINNING AND LOSING DOESN’T MATTER! Oy. Shawn grabs a standing sleeper, but Bret gets free, so Shawn grabs another that takes the Hitman down to the mat. Earl drops the arm twice, but not a third, and Bret gets back to his feet, but can’t hit anything as Shawn throws his ass back into the turnbuckles, then grabs the sleeper again. Bret tries a belly-to-back to escape, but Shawn backflips through and nails him with an elbow and a hard double-mule kick out of the corner. Bret goes back to the buckle but Shawn’s blind charge sees him take his Superman bump via a backdrop from Bret right over the corner post. That’s fucking nuts. But this is such an obvious place for a fall to take place and STILL they won’t do it, as Bret goes out to retrieve Shawn as the ref counts eight. This booking is just retarded. Bret backbreakers Shawn into the post, then rolls him back in and works the back with a headbutt and some hard elbows. Shawn gets whipped and again they blow a spot as Shawn was supposed to get caught going for a crossbody, but Bret recovers by going for a regular backbreaker.


Bret continues to work the back in the corner with a Banzai Drop to the spine. Shawn gets whipped to the corner and does a Flair Flip into an crotched position facing the crowd, and Bret follows him up with a Scott Hall backdrop suplex off the second rope. Two count and the fans are starting to get really pissed. Bret locks in a Camel Clutch as the King channels Hulk Hogan’s carny huckster wrestling bullshit chi and declares that Shawn fell 15 feet on the previous suplex. What is it with annoncers and “15 feet”? It sounds stupid when Jesse Ventura declares that it’s 15 feet from the top of the cage to the mat, it sounds stupid when Roddy Piper says it’s 15 feet from the top rope to the ringside area, and it sounds totally fucking ridiculous when Jerry Lawler claims that the second turnbuckle to the mat is 15 feet. Shawn powers up and gets free, then comes off the ropes with a sunset flip for a two count. Bret crotches Shawn back on the top rope, but Shawn battles back and tries a double axehandle, but then Bret catches him with a shot to the gut. He follows with the SECOND MOVE OF DOOM~!, a Russian legsweep that gets two and a pop.

Excellence of execution

Shawn get swhipped to the buckle and takes the Clique bump over and out, nailing Jose as he lands. Bret looks to the crowd and gets a great pop for that. He follows out and whips Shawn into the steps, catching Jose again, much to Bret’s amusement. Back in and Bret connects with a clean belly-to-belly hiplock years before Ken Shamrock made it fashionable, yet it only gets… you guessed it. Back up and they start brawling Foxy Boxing style, but Bret goes straight for the back to gain the advantage. Some stiff reverse uppercuts in the corner and Bret goes for the suplex, but Shawn floats through and gets a rollup for two before getting ejected through the middle ropes. Shawn staggers to his feet outside, allowing Bret to come off the ropes and hit a tope, busting Shawn’s lip hardway. Bret heads back in to try and get a countout fall, but Shawn manages to beat the count. He gets back onto the ring apron and Bret tries to suplex him back in, but Shawn floats through and goes for another rollup. Bret reverses and hits a gorgeous bridged German suplex for a nearfall that pops the crowd. Bret is up and beating on Shawn, who’s trying to fight back from his knees. He tells Bret to bring it, so he does… with some KICKS RIGHT IN THE FACE. Headbutt puts Shawn right down, and Bret goes back for the Camel Clutch as we’re down to…



And not ONE, SINGLE, SOLITARY FALL. Shawn grabs some hair to get up to his knees, but Bret switches up into a reverse chinlock. More hairpulling gets Shawn vertical, and he breaks free with some elbows but both guys are totally blown up and doubled over. Shawn comes off the ropes and a double clothesline spot allows them both a quick breather. They slog it out, but Bret gets the better of it and hits a huge superplex off the top. That was fucking big given how tired these guys must be. Bret’s up first and goes for the Sharpshooter, but Shawn fights him off with some kicks to the face and scrambles desperately for the ropes. Bret still has one of Shawn’s legs, and goes for a Figure Four but switches to a single leg crab instead (since he’s supposed to be working the back). Shawn makes the ropes, but Bret makes use of his five count and draws a smattering of boos from the crowd. Pendulum backbreaker is your THIRD MOVE OF DOOM~! and Bret heads up for the elbow drop but channels Arn Anderson and gets caught with a boot to the face from Shawn.

Anderson Drop.


Out of absolutely nowhere, Shawn pulls out a dropkick that would make Randy Orton blush, then whips Bret into the corner for one of his patented stiff chest-first bumps.


Shawn whips Bret who reverses, but Shawn comes back with the flying forearm and a kip up, followed by a Guerrero stomp. The Shane O Mac spinning elbow and a scoop slam buy Shawn time to head up top for a... spinning double axe handle? Whatever, it gets a limp two count and we’re down to


Shawn hits an almost snap suplex and follows it with the God’s Gift (elbow drop with the left hand – it’ll make sense later on the DVD) for another two count. AAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!! More pin falls = more drama = better match = more ***s. Shawn kicks Bret in the gut and hits a sweet DOCTORBOMB~! Man, this match would be awesome if anybody ever got pinned.


Shawn heads up and hits a beautiful moonsault straight into a pin attempt that gets two as the crowd is into it again. Shawn gets whipped to the buckle but Bret comes in with a blind charge and eats what is nearly a Yakuza kick. He heads up to the second rope and comes off with a sloppy rana that he recovers admirably into a pinfall for two. Scoop slam plants Bret right in the middle of the ring and Shawn heads up with…


The crowd is getting antsy as Shawn comes off the top rope with a Jeff Hardy front dropkick, but Bret catches his legs in midair and turns it into a sharpshooter and the crowd goes crazy. 0:00:33 to go and Shawn is locked in the Sharpshooter, but he won’t submit. The crowd counts down “3, 2, 1…” and the bell rings as the crowd is confused. Unlike Montreal, however, Vince is insisting that “I don’t think Bret gave up!” Earl presents Bret with the strap and he heads for the back, and the crowd is divided between those cheering the Hitman’s title defence, and those booing the shit out of a non-finish. Gorilla is in the ring and having words with Hebner and Finkel, who announces that the match MUST CONTINUE under sudden death rules. “There MUST be a winner!” Bret is seriously pissed and heads back to the ring to find out what the shit is going on. Gorilla’s on the outside with Bret hanging across the top ropes talking down to him and I swear this shit is a prototype of Montreal. Gorilla explains “Hey, them’s the rules you Canadian bastard, and I’m Gorilla Monsoon, so this match goes on, right?” and Bret’s all “Yeah? Well I’m Bret fuckin’ Hart and I’m a bad mother fucker, and Stu’ll beat me if I don’t win, so make like a McMahon and ring that fucking bell yo” and the match goes into…


"Don't spit on me, I'm not Vince!"

Shawn is still flat out on the mat selling the Sharpshooter, so Bret lays in some stomps and punches to the lower back before kindly dropping some knees acorss it. Shawn takes one of his big time backdrops and eats another pendulum backbreaker OF DOOM~! He whips Shawn to the corner but misses a blind charge and Shawn nails him with some SWEET CHINNY CHIN CHIN MUSIC. He didn’t get all of it, as both guys are trying to get back to their feet. Luckily, Shawn ends up in a corner where he can tune up the band properly and lands another clean superkick, knocking Bret on his ass and allowing Shawn to get the three count and his first World Title. Bizarrely, when panning the crowd for HBK signs, the camera holds on one particular sign but it is censored. What, it was okay to show a sign that says "SHITMAN" at the beginning of the match?

**** I mean, it was a good match and all – four stars is good, right? My problem with this match is the fact that, for whatever reasons, there were no pins, countouts, submissions, DQs… no frigging falls for the entire match. Which wouldn’t typically be a problem, but this is an IRON MAN MATCH. It’s sold on the principal that there will be a lot of falls – the premise of the damn match is “the most falls in an hour” – and there were none. If this were simply a Championship match that went broadway, that would be fine, but this was a match that was supposed to be filled with back-and-forth pins and submissions, with an exciting build over who would get the decisive fall. Instead, we got complete overkill of nearfalls and two counts, to the point where it was hurting the match in the middle and fans were booing. I look at it like the newer Hell In A Cell matches that don’t have the crazy bumps and highspots – I don’t mind matches without crazy bumps and highspots, but when you sell a match based on the fact that dudes are gonna jump off the damn Cell and instead give us basic cage match brawls, people are gonna get pissed. So there you go – wacky booking (and, to a lesser extent, the anticlimactic overtime portion) make this a great match, rather than a classic one.

Match goes an extra 1:52 of pointless overtime as Shawn hits two superkicks to put Bret down in anticlimactic fashion. Funny to see Blade Hart singing along to Sexy Boy as his dad stands around the ring looking pissed off. Hey look, they’re censoring fan signs in home releases now. Fucking Nazis.


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