Bret “Hitman” Hart – The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be
Bret Hart (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Ricky Steamboat (3/8/86)
This was booked to be on the Wrestlemania II PPV card, but it was bumped off at the last minute. WWF believed Hercules was going to be a bigger star than Hart, so they wanted him on the 2 card. On the other hand, Steamboat believed Bret had a lot of potential and wanted to give him some credibility and exposure. Bret attacks Steamboat when the referee is checking him for weapons. Bret keeps attacking Steamboat, who hasn’t even had time to take his jacket off. Steamboat fights back and takes his jacket off. It’s on! Bret comes back and hits a neckbreaker. Bret punches Steamboat, who spills to the outside. Bret hits a suplex that picks up a two. Steamboat picks him up for a press slam, but Steamboat’s legs cave from under him. That picks up a two for Bret. Bret hits a powerslam for another near-fall. Steamboat fights back with some hard chops and a backdrop suplex that get a two. Bret reverses an Irish Whip, sending Steamboat right into the referee. Bret delivers the Hart Attack, but the referee is still out cold. Bret dodges a clothesline from Steamboat, and hits a crossbody block from the other side. Steamboat rolls through, though, and picks up the victory @ 15:09.
Analysis: Steamboat and Hart’s selling capabilities were exceedingly off the charts. Their reaction time to move was seamlessly on point, and their head movements from selling a punch or strike were great as well. These two just demonstrated why selling is so imperative, and how it can draw in the fans into something in spite of having no importance or build around it. Selling can help make moves more evocative, a babyface garner sympathy from the crowd, a heel acquire more heat, and make it tremendously easier for the fans to become fervently invested into the action. All those things were demonstrated in this.
This was booked in a position where it was not supposed to be much of anything, but the acute components and realistic psychology made this an overachieving exhibition match. This could have been better if Bret Hart were more established and the contest was treated more like a big deal, though. *** ¾
Ted DiBiase (w/Virgil) vs. Bret Hart (3/8/89)
DiBiase was getting the Million Dollar Man gimmick over. Bret was coming off a botched push attempt, although he was still having good matches. No commentary for whatever reason. Ted spends too much time taunting the crowd, allowing Bret to attack him from behind. Bret hits a Russian Legsweep for two. DiBiase goes for a haymaker, but Bret ducks and delivers an atomic drop. Bret follows up with a crossbody. Ted decides to take a breather outside. Back in, Bret tries a reverse rollup, but Ted counters it into a small packaged for two. DiBiase fights back and viciously stomps on Bret’s chest. Ted hits a smashing clothesline and then a suplex that picks up a two. Ted argues with the referee over the pin. Ted goes for a another suplex, but Bret reverses it with a small package for two. Ted attacks Bret before he can get back up, expressing his frustration from his failure to finish him off. Bret catches Ted with a few small package rollups, causing Ted to throw Bret to the outside.
Back in, DiBiase locks in a chinlock. Bret fights back and hits the Hart Attack clothesline. Both men are now knocked out. Ted goes up to the top rope, but Bret catches and slams him. They trade some punches, causing DiBiase to back off and begs for mercy. Bret beats the hell out of him. Bret over-zealously charges the corner. Ted moves out of the way, and it messes up Bret’s knee. DiBiase attacks the knee with a Spinning Toehold. Bret pushes him out of the ring. They keep brawling outside and are finally counted out @ 15:59.
Analysis: DiBiase’s best work came before WWE, but this reveals how excellent he could be in the ring. He dictated the pace in the midst of the heat segments at a superlative level. Even though he methodically worked over Bret for a long time, it never became boring.
That was mostly because he made sure not everything was not about him. After all, the story was not all about him dominating when he was on offense. It was also about Hart enduring a calculating beating, and DiBiase used physical responses to subtly articulate that. For example, he expressed anger when Hart kicked out of his pin-falls, and he did that by pounding the mat, yelling at the referee, and yelling at the crowd. In addition to that, Ted conveyed his anger by grunting about not being able to put Hart away. At last, he made it clear he was becoming tired from using gassed facial expressions, slowing down his movements, and grimacing in pain from using his back too much. The crowd picked it and were eager for Hart’s comeback, because of Ted selling it so effectively.
Unfortunately, Hart’s comeback was only momentary because this had rushed finish attached to it. It didn’t allow Bret to dish out needed comeuppance on DiBiase, causing the story they were developing not culminate properly.
I get that they needed to protect both wrestlers, but the finish was way too lazy and cut off the entire “boom- boom-boom” portion of the match. Nonetheless, this had some of the best “pusillanimous/arrogant heel vs. the resilient/sympathetic babyface” work that I have ever seen. **** ¼
The Hart Foundation vs. The Rockers (4/28/90)
This was a number one contender’s match for Summerslam. At this point, both teams were over. The Harts had more main event credibility, though. Bret and Marty have a few fantastic sequences together. Shawn tags in and hits a crossbody on Bret for two. The Rockers double team Bret. Anvil comes and clotheslines the hell out of both of them. HBK goes for a bodyslam, but Anvil counters it. Anvil tries to pick up HBK, but Shawn dropkicks him in the face. Both Shawn and Bret are the legal men. Bret hits Shawn with an atomic drop and then a clothesline. The Hart Foundation corner Shawn and go to work on him.
Anvil hits shoulderblock on Shawn that gets a two. Shawn hits a sunset flip on Bret for two. The Demolition comes down to watch. Bret yells at Demolition, allowing Shawn to dropkick him over the top rope. Back from commercial, Bret is working over Shawn. Bret goes for an elbow, but he misses. Shawn is able to make the tag to a fired up Janetty, who comes and nails Bret with a reverse elbow and then powerslams him. Marty hits the Superkick, but it only gets a two. Bret counter an Irish whip, but Marty sunset flips him for two. Bret fights back with a neckbreaker Anvil comes in and shoulderblock Shawn, sending him flying in the air. Anvil throws Shawn to the outside; the Demolition tries to help him back in. Marty doesn’t like that, so he starts a fight with them. This triggers a three-team brawl, causing a disqualification @ 9:17.
Analysis: This had an accelerating pace to it, in addition to some fluently executed back-and-forth exchanges and sequences. They were on the same page throughout and did not miss a beat while doing some really athletic and onerous sequences. Above all, they stayed true to their characters and did not sacrifice psychology or stop selling in order to have a rapid-fired pace. It is refreshing to see a match where you do not have the slightest clue of what is going to happen next. The wrestlers involved made sure they would give the fans their money’s worth regardless only having a condensed amount of time and an undeceive finish. *** ¾
IC Championship: Mr. Perfect (c) vs. Bret Hart (Summerslam ’91)
After about three years of stop-and-go pushes, the WWF finally gave Bret the push he deserved. Mr. Perfect was in poor shape here. His back was bothering him, and it caused him took an entire year off after this match. Bret delivers a crucifix for two. Bret delivers a sunset flip for two and then yanks Perfect down with a headlock. Bret catches Perfect’s leg and then stomps him in the midsection. They trade some moves, ending with Bret clotheslining Perfect over the top. Perfect tries to run away, but Bret chases him and rips his tights in half. Perfect takes over with a forearm and kicks Bret in the midsection, sending him to the outside. Outside, Perfect throws Bret into the railing. Perfect brings him back in and tosses him into the corner. They fight on the turnbuckle. Bret falls into the ring and then Perfect falls on top of him for two count. Perfect throws Bret across the ring by his hair. Bret fights out of a sleeper hold. Bret goes for a suplex, but Perfect counters it with a Samoan Drop for two. Bret takes his vintage bump in the corner. Perfect hits a Perfect Plex, but Bret kicks out just in time! Bret delivers Perfect a few atomic drops and hits a Vertical Suplex that gets two. He small packages Perfect, but it only picks up a two. Bret hit a Russian Legsweep for two. Bret hits the second-rope elbowdrop for another two. Bret and the ref argue about the count, allowing Perfect to execute a reverse rollup for two. Perfect starts dropping some legdrops to Bret’s midsection. Bret catches one of them and reverses to the Sharpshooter for the submission victory @ 18:02.
Analysis: This started with an interesting “anything you can do, I can do better” story, and it allowed them to show off their technical proficiencies. Hart, as a babyface should, came off looking superior in the exchanges, which caused Perfect to resort to using cheap maneuvers to gain the advantage. The story continued to escalate because of their usage of transitions.
Both wrestlers also kept tricking the fans by using cliché moments to their advantage. For example, they’d do a spot where a babyface typically makes a full-comeback, but they instead had the heel cut-off the comeback and remain in control. Hart portrayed a nice display of psychology on offense, as every big move he delivered was done to weaken Perfect’s back for the Sharpshooter. And most of all, he did them at realistic times. (in contrast to so many wrestlers who shoehorn them in, no matter the situation). This could have been better with a more dramatic finish, but all in all, this is some great stuff. **** 1/4
WWF Tag Team Championship: Hart Foundation (c) vs. Nasty Boys (w/ Jimmy Hart) (Wrestlemania 7)
The Nasties were feuding with the Steiners over in the NWA for the US tag straps. Six months later, and they are in a big WWF tag title match at WrestleMania. Jimmy Hart is wearing a motorcycle helmet out to the ring. Bret and Sags kick things off. Sags gets in a cheap shot in the corner, but Bret comes back with a Thesz press and punches. Bret goes to town on Knobs and then stomps Sags in the abdominal area. Both men tag out. Neidhart sends Knobs to the floor with a shoulderblock. Back in, Neidhart locks in an armbar, but he gets attacked in the Nasties corner. Bret tags in and hits some ten-count corner punches followed by a Russian legsweep. He delivers a flying vertical elbow drop for two. Knobs sneaks in and attacks Bret from behind. Sags clotheslines him out to the floor. Neidhart runs after Jimmy Hart around the ring. Knobs sends Bret into the guardrail. Back in, the Nasties take turns working over Bret’s back. Bret tries to escape, but Knobs stops the tag to Neidhart. The Nasties go for a double-swing splash into the corner. Bret avoids and clotheslines Sags. Bret makes a tag to Neidhart, but the referee doesn’t see it. Jimmy Hart throws in his megaphone, but Sags ends up taking the megaphone to the face. Bret gets the hot tag to Neidhart, who nails the Nasties with clotheslines and delivers the Standing Powerslam on Knobs for two. They hit the Hart Attack on Knobs. Neidhart goes for the cover, but the ref is trying to get Bret out of the ring. Jimmy Hart throws in the motorcycle helmet. Sags nails Neidhart with it and Knobs rolls over on top for the win. New tag championship @ 12:05
Analysis: This was one of the better Nasty Boy non-gimmick matches. They kept it simple by using the standard tag-team formula. They also threw in some curve balls along the way, which was enough to bump this to ***.
IC Championship: Bret Hart (c) vs. Davey Boy Smith (Summerslam ’92)
This was the hardest recap I’ve ever done. There were too many tears in my eyes, making it hard to see the action. Davey Boy Smith smoked a lot crack before this, and he didn’t even remember this match the next day. They get into a shoving match, ending with Davey winning the exchange. Bret puts Davey in a headlock. Davey sends him into the ropes, but Bret slips out of a slam and rolls him up for two. Davey escapes into a hammerlock, but Bret elbows out and locks in a wristlock. Davey Boy cartwheels out and locks in an armbar. Davey Boy catches Bret off a leapfrog and then tosses him into the corner. Davey goes back to the armbar and then hits Bret with a crucifix. DBS locks in armbar again, but Bret throws him off into the ropes and delivers a knee into the gut. That crowd boos Bret. Bret stomps his mid-section and then delivers a legdrop. Bret puts back in a chinlock. Davey elbows his way out, but he runs into a right elbow from Bret. Bret nails an inverted atomic drop and throws Davey into the ropes. Davey tries the crucifix, but Bret slams him to the mat for two. Bret goes back to the chinlock. Davey shoves him off and delivers a monkey-flip. Smith throw Bret from corner-to-corner, but he runs into a boot. Bret hits the running bulldog on the Bulldog. Bret goes up top, but Davey slams him off the canvas. Davey heads up top for a diving headbutt, but Bret moves out of the way. DBS fights out of a slam. He goes to roll Bret up off the ropes, but Bret ducks and it sends DBS flying out to the floor.
Bret does a pescado to the outside. Davey is in the wrong place, so Bret just snaps him down by the head. Bret posts Davey and brings him back in the ring. Bret hits a Russian Legsweep that picks up a two. Bret hit some European uppercuts and then follows up with a backdrop for two. Bret locks in the chinlock again. Davey tries to stand up, but Bret maneuvers over into a front headlock to set up for a suplex. He then goes back to the chinlock. Psychology! Davey fights up again and gets a backslide for two. Bret fights back with the backbreaker and the vertical elbow drop for two. He locks in the sleeper, but Davey Boy fights to get to the ropes. Bret throws him into the ropes and reapplies the hold. Davey stands up out of it and sends Bret into the corner for a rope break. Bret is right back on top of him with the sleeper, though. Davey backs Bret into the corner and mounts a comeback. He lifts Bret up for a press slam, but ends dropping him awkwardly in the ropes. Davey looks like he is out to lunch. Davey delivers a few clotheslines that all pick up a two. He hits a Press Slam for another two. He nails a stalling suplex, but only gets a two! Davey Boy throws Bret into the corner for a chest-first bump for another near-fall. He delivers the Running Powerslam. New champion. No, Bret kicks out at two!
Davey knocks Bret outside and then tries to give him a suplex back in. Bret flips out, though, and hits a German suplex for only a two! Bret goes for a suplex, but Davey blocks it. He places Bret up in the corner and hits the Top-Rope Superplex, but Bret kicks out! They do a double knock clothesline spot, but Bret still manages to apply the Sharpshooter! The crowd is begging for Davey to reach the ropes. Davey fights through and makes it to the ropes. Davey reverses an Irish Whip. Davey ducks under a clothesline. Bret attempts a sunset flip, but Davey Boy sits down and hooks Bret’s legs for the win @ 25:14! The crowd goes crazy. Diana comes into the ring to celebrate with her husband. Bret looks like he is going to turn heel, but he instead hugs Davey Boy. They all celebrate in the ring.
Analysis: Bret used his technical aptitudes to try and win, but Bulldog fought back by using his power game. Hart also teased a heel turn, as he resorted to cheap and uncharacteristic tactics. Hart’s execution and positioning were incredibly on point, although Davey botched a few spots and was out of position a couple of times.
If Davey Boy was not drugged out of his mind here, this could have been even better. That’s scary to think about. The genuine emotion in this created intense drama and had all 80,000 fans in the arena on the edge of their seats throughout. In fact, this was one of the most monumental atmospheres ever. It was also one of the biggest feel-good moments as well. **** ¾
Bret Hart vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (4/24/93)
This is from the WWF’s European Tour. Bigelow slugs away onto Bret, but Bret locks in an armbar. Bam Bam tries to press slam him, but Bret falls on top for two. Bret throws an elbow that sends him to the outside. He tries to jump on Bam Bam, but Bam Bam smashes him into the ringpost. Back in, Bigelow works over Bret’s back. He hits a backdrop suplex that gets two. Bigelow keeps headbutting. Bret fights back and hits a backdrop suplex. Bigelow fights back and hits a Butterfly Backbreaker. Bigelow goes for the Diving Headbutt, but Bret moves out of the way. Bret goes for the Sharpshooter, but Bigelow pushes him away and locks in a bearhug. Bret attempts to backdrop suplex him, but Bigelow shifts his weight and lands on top. Bret blocks a charge and pins Bigelow’s shoulders with a Victory Roll @ 11:55.
Analysis: That was really fun. Hart was a master at adjusting his style based on who he was wrestling. Here, he played an opportunist, using his speed and agility to counter Bam Bam’s power game. Bam Bam was one of the better big wrestlers ever. I wish he had more opportunities to show it. *** 1/4
Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart (King of the Ring 1993)
Bret is selling an injury done earlier by Razor, as his left hand is taped up. This one picks up quickly after Perfect escapes a headlock. They trade some slams and then Bret hits Perfect with a crucifix for two. Perfect foreshadows a heel turn by placing a knee in Bret’s gut to break away from the headlock. Perfect hits a standing dropkick, sending Bret to the floor. Perfect holds the ropes to help Bret back in, but he kicks the ropes and the ropes hit Bret where the sun doesn’t shine. Perfect delivers a knee lift that gets a two. Perfect throws Bret out to ringside. Bret makes it on the apron, but Perfect shoves him off into the guardrail. Ouch. Perfect hits another knee lift and then hits a missile dropkick. Perfect tosses Bret into the corner for the chest-first bump for a two. Perfect heads up to the top rope, but Bret superplexes him for two. Bret kicks Perfect in the back of the knee, causing him to flip all over the ropes. Hart locks in the figure-four, but Perfect makes the ropes. Perfect fights back and throws Bret in the corner. He tosses Bret across the ring by his hair and then locks in the sleeper.
Bret makes it the ropes, but Perfect holds on the hold just until before five. He reapplies the sleeper in the middle of the ring and uses the ropes for leverage. Bret escapes by throwing Perfect’s face into the turnbuckle. Bret deliver a European forearm that almost takes Perfect’s head off. Bret throws Perfect across the ring by his hair. Bret hits an atomic drop and then Russian legsweep for two. He hits a backbreaker and then hits the vertical elbow drop connects for another two. Bret goes for the Sharpshooter, but Perfect grabs and twists the taped up hand to counter it. Perfect goes for the Perfectplex, but Bret counters by giving Perfect a suplex over the top rope to the floor. They just make it back in before the countout. Perfect cradles Bret, but Bret reverses it for the one-two-three @ 19:05.
Analysis: This was a classical and competitive scientific match. The main story that was being told was Bret Hart was the better in-ring technician, but in order to try to win, Mr. Perfect had to stoop down to an unheroic level by cheating. This whole match was extremely crisp and smooth. All of the moves, holds, spots, and sequences were flawlessly executed. Last, but not least, they performed all of the moves in logical places, and that made this feel very realistic and a believable contest. This also coherently integrated and told an extremely lucid story about them trying to find strategic ways to win. These two were just the masters of in-ring psychology. **** ½
Brother vs. Brother: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (Wrestlemania 10)
Bret Hart wrestled twice this night; he faced Owen Hart in the opener and then Yokozuna for the WWF Championship in the main event. Owen gets out of a head scissors and brags about it. Bret tries a waistlock takedown, but Owen gets to the ropes. Owen grabs a waistlock, but Bret sends Owen flying to the floor. Owen climbs back in the ring and slaps Bret. Bret doesn’t do anything, but Owen sneaks under the ropes. They exchange some hammerlocks. Owen pulls Bret down by his hair. Bret flips over Owen and rolls him up for two. Bret goes to work on the arm. Owen fights out of a hammerlock, but runs into a monkey flip. Bret clotheslines him to the floor. They push each other, and then Bret slaps Owen and rolls him up for two. Bret goes back to work on the arm. Owen breaks out of the hold and hits a spinning heel kick. Owen pushes him out to the floor and throws Bret’s back into the ringpost. They head back into the ring. Owen throws Bret into the corner. Owen delivers a backbreaker and locks in a camel clutch. Bret elbows out, but runs right into a Belly-to-Belly Suplex for two. Owen hits a crossbody from the corner, but Bret rolls through for two. Owen tries a slam, but Bret falls on him for two. Bret gets out of a suplex, but Owen hits a bridging German suplex for two. Bret reverses a suplex into a small package for two. Owen delivers the Tombstone Piledriver. He heads up top for the Swandive Headbutt, but he misses. Bret fights back with an inverted atomic drop and a clothesline for two. He hits the Legsweep for two. He delivers the Backbreaker and flying elbow drop that gets a two. Owen fights back with an enziguri and tries to lock in the Sharpshooter. Bret stops him from locking in the hold. Bret tries to lock it in, but Owen just rolls him away. Owen picks up a two off a rollup.
The momentum from the kick-out puts Owen on the floor, though. Bret hits the pescado and jams his knee on the floor. Back in, Owen kicks away at the injured knee. Owen locks in the Indian deathlock. Owen delivers a dragon screw leg whip and that sets up the figure-four. Bret counters the hold by getting to the ropes. Owen goes after Bret in the corner, but Bret hits Owen with an enziguri. Bret throws Owen chest-first into the corner. Bret delivers a legdrop that gets two. Bret nails a running bulldog for two. Bret hits a piledriver, but Owen kicks out. Bret locks in a sleeper, but Owen walks over to the ropes and low-blows Bret. Owen applies the Sharpshooter, but Bret gets out of it. Owen charges into Bret’s right boot in the corner. Bret goes for a victory roll, but Owen puts on the counters and picks up the huge upset victory @ 20:05.
Analysis: This was a technical masterpiece and arguably the best ever. The timing of the spots, the smooth transitions, the unparalleled chemistry, and both wrestlers being able to progressively build the match all the way to its crescendo solidifies this as the blueprint on how to correctly carry out a wrestling magnum opus.
On top of that, the match told a great story. Owen Hart was fed up being overshadowed by his older brother, so in order to exercise his demons, he decided to prove once and for all that he was better than big brother Bret. The contest illustrated that Bret was definitely the superior wrestler, as he was always one step ahead of his young brother. But Owen cheated and was able to pull off a key reversal that allowed him to pull off a major upset. Owen treated his fluky win as though it had been a dominant performance, which helped him develop into an even more exaggerated, overemotional heel.
And after Bret Hart finally conquered his long-lasting quest to become WWF Champion, Owen came out with a look on his face that said, “Did you forget something? You didn’t beat me.” What was supposed to be a beautiful moment for Bret ended up as a bittersweet moment, because Bret knew that even though he finally won the title, his loss to Owen earlier in the night cast a shadow over what should have been the biggest night of his career. Like I said, there is a case for this match as the greatest of all time, thanks to phenomenal booking and superb work rate. *****
Final Thoughts on Disc Two: This was an awesome disc from top to bottom. Aside from his Flair and HBK matches, everything that should be on here is. I’ll talk about everything more on the next review, where I look at disc three and both the extras and extra matches, in the final analysis. Thumbs Way Up for Disc Two.