After his second straight Royal Rumble victory, Shawn Michaels was once again headed into a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. He was unsuccessful in his pursuit of the championship at WrestleMania 11 one year earlier, losing to then WWE champion Diesel.
WrestleMania 12 in 1996 would be a different story.
The main event saw WWE champion and stalwart Bret Hart put the prestigious title on the line against The Heartbreak Kid in a 60-minute iron man match in which the superstar who recorded the most falls would win the match. The atmosphere was special. From Michaels' grand entrance that saw him descend via a zip line from the top of the arena -- which is still the best WrestleMania entrance to this day -- to the buzzing of the crowd as referee Earl Hebner went over the rules with both men in the middle of the ring, the feeling in the air was that we were on the verge of magnificence.
That feeling turned out to be true as these two perennial main event wrestlers put on a clinic filled with perfectly orchestrated sequences, transitioned into one another by smart, psychologically effective wrestling holds. For 60 minutes, both men gave everything they had from both a performance and an endurance standpoint. As the clock ticked down, neither wrestler weas able to record a fall. The final 30 seconds of the hour saw Hart lock Michaels in a sharpshooter, looking for the first and deciding fall, but Michaels held on without submitting as time expired. The match was seemingly over, ending in a draw and it looked as though Michaels would once again be unsuccessful.
As Hart walked up the aisle, championship in hand, commissioner Gorilla Monsoon instructed the official restart the match with sudden death rules. Less than two minutes and two Sweet Chin Music superkicks later, Michaels recorded the first and only fall of this epic encounter.
The words, "The boyhood dream has come true for Shawn Michaels," said by Vince McMahon on commentary as Michaels celebrated, would be etched into the history books as one of the most notable lines spoken at a WrestleMania event.
Since then, Michaels and Hart have had quite the history together ranging from top level matches to the Montreal Screwjob to their eventual reconciliation many years later. However, the chapter that was written on March 31, 1996 stands out as one of the finest.