Back in March of 1996, a young Paul Levesque, better known to wrestling fans as Triple H, went one-on-one with the returning Ultimate Warrior, who was returning to WWE after a four-year hiatus.
While WrestleMania 12 has always been remembered for the 60 minute Iron Man match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, which is regarded as one of the greatest matches in WWE history, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer stated on the Lapsed Fan podcast that the fans in attendance didn’t come to see the main event, and that the main attraction at the event was Ultimate Warrior’s return.
“The reaction to (Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart) was terrible, people were leaving early… The people in the building, honest to god, were there to see Ultimate Warrior’s comeback. They were not that hot for Bret vs. Shawn.”
WrestleMania 12 was the first of many WrestleManias for the now WWE COO Triple H, and it was probably the worst match that he’s ever had at the event.
Triple H vs. Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania 12 ended up lasting a little over a minute and a half, and the ending saw Triple H hit his finishing move — the Pedigree — on the Warrior, who didn’t sell the move at all. Warrior then got back up to his feet, and hit Triple H with his finish and ended the match.
Throughout the years, there have been many, including Ultimate Warrior himself, who have said that Triple H believed the Warrior’s actions at WrestleMania 12 were completely unprofessional. While that may have been the case at one time, in an interview with American Way Magazine, Triple H had nothing but positive things to say about the Warrior and their short one-on-one encounter back in the spring of ’96.
— Triple H (@TripleH) February 1, 2016
“A lot of people bring it up to me as if it was a sore spot in my career. It’s not. It’s actually something I’m really proud of. Who can say that, in their first WrestleMania ever, they got to step in the ring with one of the biggest icons in the business?”
Ultimate Warrior was released by WWE just a few months after WrestleMania 12, when he began to no-show at several live events, claiming that his father had passed away and that he needed time off to grieve with his family. Of course, WWE chairman Vince McMahon didn’t believe Warrior, saying that he hadn’t spoken to his father in many years, which is why his contract ended up being terminated in the summer of 1996.
WrestleMania 12 would be Warrior’s last appearance at the event for nearly two decades. He returned to WWE in 2014 to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. During Warrior’s time away, both himself and WWE fired a lot of shots at each other, with the biggest one being WWE releasing a DVD called The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior, which basically downplayed Warrior’s impact on the business.
It’s no secret that WWE had been trying to get Warrior back for the Hall of Fame for several years before they did, but Warrior was unwilling to come back until WWE agreed to “tell the right story.” He wanted them to actually acknowledge all of the positive things he did for the business, which they ended up doing.
Triple H reportedly had a lot to do with bringing Warrior back into the WWE family, as he was the guy who negotiated with Warrior on WWE’s behalf.
Since taking over as WWE’s head of talent relations, Triple H has done his best to repair broken relationships between WWEand ex-performers whom many believed deserved a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame. Someone like Bruno Sammartino is an example of someone who many thought would never return to the WWE family; however, Triple H was able to bring back “The Living Legend.”
[Image via WWE]