Free for All pre-show included on the Tagged Classic DVD (no idea if it was on the Anthology one), and we actually get to see a match too. I think it was WM X where they SHOWED that a match was going on but showed some video packages over it instead haha. Match ain’t worth talking about though. Nacho Man Vs The Hukster is definitely a match worth watching though! I loved those skits lol.
Match 1 – Vader, Owen Hart & The British Bulldog Vs Yokozuna, Jake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson – If the good guys win, then Yoko gets 5 minutes alone with Cornette! Wish this was just Vader Vs Yoko tbh lol, they look great pummelling the shit out of each other at the start of this. Ahmed flies over the ropes! Shame he doesn’t stay out of the ring the entire time. Fun seeing Owen and Yoko go at it, since last year they won the tag titles together at this very event! Yoko was of course managed by Cornette for a couple of years, but once Vader showed up at the RR a couple of months back, he and Yoko got into it and Cornette ended up siding with Vader, so Yoko wants to get his hands on Cornette. Good tag team action, with each face taking turns at being the FIP for a little while, but Jake is the last to do so and he takes the most punishment since he’s the older of the 3, and doesn’t have the mass and power of the likes of Ahmed and Yoko that make it harder to keep them down. Wish Jake had managed to stay sober during this time, him during the AE would have been pretty awesome. His dark character would have fitted right in as a manager that could wrestle every now and then too. Hot tag to Yoko, who does awesome in that role just steamrolling over everyone. But in the end Jake tags back in, hits a DDT… and the ref is too distracted by everyone on the outside fighting. Cornette comes in to use the racket, then Vader hits a Vader Bomb in the corner to pin the Snake and win the match, saving Cornette! This was good! ***.
Match 2 – Rowdy Roddy Piper Vs Goldust – Crazy Hollywood Back Lot Brawl! Was originally supposed to be Razor Vs Goldust, but Razor wasn’t comfortable with the Goldust gimmick. Match starts with Piper and a baseball bat, with Goldust trying to run over Piper. Yeah, this is truly a crazy match! Awesomely crazy too. They really go to town on each other to make sure everything looks real and shit. So much so that Goldust ends up taking a shot to the head with the bat and Piper gets RUN OVER for real. And just think, this isn’t even the most brutal match involving fighting out back with cars in 1996 (Finlay Vs Regal in WCW)!!! They also originally wanted something involving OJ Simpson… but uhhh… well that would have just been in horrible taste… so instead they just re-enact a chase scene that really took place lol. The chase takes place in between other matches, before they both finally make it back to the arena, and eventually in the ring. They brawl a little, then Piper strips Goldust and reveals he wears a thong and bra lol, then Piper beats him. Crazy and unique match. But it’s great fun and really brutal and shit. I like it. **1/2.
Match 3 – Steve Austin Vs Savio Vega – Austin is still the Ring Master and has DiBiase as his manager. I always liked the Ring Master gimmick tbh. Was never that high on his Stone Cold character from 98 and 99. This version of Austin reminds me of a lighter version of the 01 Austin; he has a nice mix of wrestling and brawling, only he doesn’t have the crazy gimmick and the charisma isn’t shining through as much. This one starts off strong, Savio wants to beat the hell out of Austin, and Austin will beat the hell out of Savio to defend himself. Then it slows down as Austin begins to work over the arm, but I guess it doesn’t matter too much because they keep taking calls from Piper as he’s chasing Goldust anyway lol, so the attention isn’t fully on this one. They even do a split screen to show video footage of the chase scene with Piper lol. Ref bump, shot with the Million Dollar Title belt, Million Dollar Dream applied. DiBiase keeps trying to wake up the ref, resorts to throwing water in his face. He finally wakes up, and Austin wins. Match is… fundamentally sound and shit… but not very engaging. Kinda dull to sit through. They have a much better match at an IYH PPV later on (STRAP MATCH). *.
Match 4 – Hunter Heart Helmsley Vs The Ultimate Warrior – The master of the burial gets BURIED in seconds on the biggest show of them all by a returning Ultimate Warrior… who sticks around for a few months before sodding off again lol. Warrior no sells the Pedigree completely. LOL. DUD.
Match 5 – The Undertaker Vs Diesel – Once again, The Undertaker faces a big guy at WrestleMania. This time, however, his opponent isn’t a foot taller than him, or at least 100lbs heavier than him. Instead, The Undertaker matches Diesel in height and weight (roughly). Also, Diesel is way beyond the likes of Gonzalez and Bundy when it comes to in ring work. He might not be a great wrestler, but up to this point Diesel actually has more “great” matches under his belt than The Undertaker! Of course, Diesel had the opportunity to wrestle with guys like Razor, Shawn, Bret and others, while The Undertaker was stuck wrestling talentless nobodies for the most part. So for the first time in The Undertaker’s WrestleMania career, BOTH men are evenly matched. Plus, 1996 was the beginning of The Undertaker really stepping up his game and becoming a tremendous wrestler (it helped that 1996 was the year where he started getting decent opponents too lol). The build for this match was based mainly around the WWF Title, to begin with. Diesel had been WWF Champion for nearly a full year, before losing to Bret Hart at the Survivor Series in 1995. At the next PPV a month later, The British Bulldog got a title shot. The following month, at the Royal Rumble, The Undertaker for a title shot. Diesel was obviously not pleased with this, as he felt he deserved a rematch against Bret. But he carried on, and entered the Royal Rumble. Diesel was the last man to be eliminated, as his own best friend Shawn Michaels superkicked him over the ropes! Diesel seemed angry at first, but high fived Shawn as he celebrated his win. Diesel remained in the ring, and only started to leave when The Undertaker was coming out for the WWF Title match. Diesel got in The Undertaker’s face, and a brawl started out. Referees broke it up, and the WWF Title match got underway. The Undertaker hit the Tombstone on Bret, but before the referee could count to 3, Diesel showed up and got The Undertaker disqualified! Diesel did get his rematch at the next PPV against Bret, inside a steel cage! Unfortunately, The Undertaker promised Diesel earlier in the night that he would not leave as champion. So what did The Undertaker do? He ripped his way up through the ring, and dragged Diesel down to hell! Bret retained, and The Undertaker gained a measure of revenge on Diesel. The feud was no longer about the title, it was now personal. Diesel officially turned heel, and became the bad ass he used to be at the beginning of his WWF career. The Undertaker played his usual mind games, including sending out a casket to the ring for Diesel. When he opened it, a life-like dummy of Diesel was inside! The Undertaker was giving Diesel a glimpse into the future… Before I get into the match, I just wanted to share a line of commentary from The King during this match that makes me laugh every time: “Paul Bearer would look ok if it wasn’t for his face” :p. One of the main things in their feud leading up to this match was the fact that Diesel claimed he was not afraid of The Undertaker. Diesel seems to want to prove this during their match, and he does a pretty good job of it IMO. He starts off by charging into the ring and going toe to toe with The Undertaker to start things off; showing that he isn’t intimidated and he will take the fight right to The Undertaker! More great storytelling from Diesel in this match, as he continues to show no fear, fighting the Dead Man head on, and dominating him! He isn’t trying to end this match quickly so he can get the hell out of there, no, he is slowly dissecting The Undertaker, and playing to the crowd why he is doing it. I love the sequence during the match where The Undertaker tries to make a comeback. He starts punching Diesel in the face, but Diesel also wants to land a right hand, and they end up punching each other at the same time! They stagger back, then charge forward and land Big Boots to the face at the same time too! This was the first match I ever saw that spot happen, and I still love seeing it to this day. The Undertaker begins to get desperate in the match, so he takes a risk by climbing to the top rope, and comes flying off with a huge clothesline! Diesel is resilient though, and quickly gets up and lands a Jackknife Powerbomb! Diesel isn’t finished yet though, and waits for The Undertaker to get back up, and lands ANOTHER Jackknife! Diesel again doesn’t want to finish things just yet, as he plays to the crowd once again, then goes to pummel the Dead Man. The Undertaker grabs him by the throat though, and tried to get back up, only to be sent back down to the mat by Diesel. Diesel’s cocky attitude and seeming desperation to prove he isn’t afraid of The Undertaker comes back to bite him in the arse, as he keeps giving The Undertaker time to rest, allowing the Dead Man to get up and drop Nash to the mat with a Chokeslam! A Tombstone follows, and The Undertaker picks up the win! Both men are favourites of mine, so I always liked this match more than the majority of people, based on that fact alone. However, over the years, and again on this watch, I love this match based on the action and storytelling. Diesel is an awesome heel, and really plays up the whole “not afraid of The Undertaker” story throughout the match. This is also one of the better “big man vs big man” matches around, and so far is The Undertaker’s greatest WrestleMania match! ***3/4
Match 6 – Bret Hart Vs Shawn Michaels – WWF Title on the line here in a 60 minute Iron Man match. I really, really really really really REALLY wanna skip this and just say NO, but it’s a WM main event and a WWF Title match so like I’ve said before, I kinda feel like I have to watch a big match like this. No matter how boring and long and dull and shit it is. So, let me sum up the first THIRTY MINUTES of this match. Bret uses a headlock… and Shawn works over the arm. That’s pretty much it. For half an hour. Shawn controls most of it with the arm work too. Ok, so it’s an hour match, and them taking it to the mat and slowing the pace down MAKES SENSE, but guess what? This isn’t a real sport. It’s entertainment. And unfortunately the first half of this match is DULL AS SHIT. Then once they get to the second part of the match (almost literally, it’s around the 29 minute mark where they do it)… they seems to decide “well, we can’t go all out for an hour… but we CAN for half an hour… so let’s do it”. And from here Bret COMPLETELY IGNORES THE ARM WORK which was the BULK of the FIRST HALF of this match, and they now both decide they can bring out the big guns. High flying moves, Piledrivers etc. Once they get to that half way point, the literally just render the first half of this match utterly pointless. It was there to fill time and NOTHING more. And honestly that pisses me off. If I’m going to watch a long match, I don’t want them to make half of it pointless. Yeah, I don’t expect them to go all out for the entire time, but guess what? There are way more interesting ways to keep the pace slow and “fill” time. Almost every other Iron Man match in WWE history has managed it. In fact, not almost… they ALL have. Even Cena/Orton kept the action going the entire time even if that wasn’t exactly a classic (was originally tied as the worst Iron Man match ever for me… but I’m already thinking it’s gonna end up ahead of this match once I’m through with it). The action for the next 20 minutes is ok, nothing amazing or anything, but watchable. Last 10 minutes slow down again, not just because they are selling the fatigue or shit, because damn, Bret goes back to the headlock and sits there for a bit. Shawn gets locked in the Sharpshooter and survives for 40 seconds or so, and then the time runs out. So Bret retains right? Nah, OVERTIME! Superkick. 123. Shawn wins the title. Boyhood dream comes true. Cool moment, but the 60+ minutes to get there were pretty bad. This is NOT a good match at all, and I absolutely do not like it. **.