Bret Hart: The Best There Is, the Best There Was, and the Best There Ever Will Be (Disc Three)
Unfortunately, the disc I was lended didn’t want to play any of the extra features. It kept freezing, and I couldn’t locate the disc anywhere online either. So I guess we’re just going to have to do without it. Click here if you missed part one. Also, after I was done previewing this review, it for whatever reason erased the scheduled time and decided to post itself. So, if you read it for the small amount of time it was up, I guess you got a sneak-peak before anyone else did.
WWF Heavyweight Title: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (9/29/94).
This was from the very first “WWF Action Zone, and it was just after their cage match at SummerSlam ’94. Bret throws Owen into the buckle for two. Owen complains about a hair pull, so Jim Neidhart comes down to find out what’s wrong. Owen screams, “He’s cheating!” Back in, Bret slaps Owen and schoolboys him for two. Bret gets a two off a Crucifix. Neidhart trips up Bret from the outside. Out comes Davey Boy to even things up. Owen starts pulling Bret’s hair. Bret fights back, but he runs into a belly-to-belly suplex. Bret counters with a sunset flip that gets two. Owen attacks him, but Bret kicks him in the gut. Owen reverses a corner whip, sending Bret chest-first into the turnbuckle. Anvil attacks Bret’s leg behind the ref’s back. Owen tries to lock in a side leglock, but Bret fights out. Bret picks up a two off the Hart Attack Clothesline and a small package gets two as well. Bret hits the backbreaker and then the second-rope elbow. Neidhart puts Owen’s foot on the ropes to break up the pin. Bret yells at Neidhart, allowing Owen to roll him up from behind. Bret rolls through for a two count. Bret goes for the Sharpshooter, but Owen counters it with a thumb to the eye. He hits a leg lariat for two. Bret places Owen up on the top for a superplex, but Neidhart holds on to Owen’s leg. Bret falls back into the ring. The ref checks on him, so Davey Boy crotches Owen on the top rope. Bret drags Owen to the center and pins at 14:48.
Analysis: Weak finish aside, this was a very good effort. I could watch these two wrestle every day. Their fluidity, smoothness, and crispness together were on a nonpareil level, to the point where it was like watching poetry in motion. The entire feud was so effective because of how relatable was. There were so many people that could sympathize with Bret for having to deal with an overly jealous brother, and there were others that actually could sympathize with Owen for having to always take a backseat to his older brother. (although it was easier to dislike Owen, because he was so exceptional at being a self-righteous and contemptible heel). Quite frankly, there is nothing better than a feud that possesses well-defined characters who behave in an entirely understandable manner. *** ½
Bret Hart vs. Hakushi (w/Shinja) (5/14/95)
Hakushi goes for a headlock, but Bret pushes it off. Hakushi pulls Bret down by his hair and holds on to a wristlock. Bret fights out and armdrags Hakushi. Hakushi fights back and sends Bret chest-first into the corner. Hakushi hits Vader bomb that gets two. Hakushi chokes Bret in the corner and hits a Bronco Buster. Hakushi hits Bret with the Handspring Elbow Smash and then a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker that gets two. He goes for a springboard splash, but he misses. Bret hits all his five movez of doom and tries to lock in the Sharpshooter. Shinja jumps on the apron to distract Bret. Hakushi tries to take advantage, but Bret picks him up for an inverted atomic drop and then hits a clothesline. Bret’s has enough of Shinja and lays him out with a suicide dive. Back in, Hakushi’s hits Bret with a dropkick for two. They both suplex each other to the floor. Back in, Bret flips out of a suplex. Hakushi fights back, but Bret blocks a German suplex into a rollup for the win @ 14:50
Analysis: Good match, though it doesn’t hold up well. Even when this DVD came out, American fans were becoming more accustomed to a puroresu-esque style (that was because a lot of people, like John Laurinaitis, brought the style over to America). Them being on different wavelengths at times marred this as well. Hakushi was more focused on shoehorning in his trademark spots in, whereas Bret was more focused on trying to narrate a cohesive story. *** 1/4
WWF Heavyweight Title: Big Daddy Cool Diesel (c) vs. Bret Hart (Survivor Series 1995)
This is part three of the Bret vs. Diesel feud. At King of the Ring ’94, Diesel defeated Bret by DQ. At the Royal Rumble, the referee threw out the match because of interference. This time, there must be a winner! Both wrestlers unfasten a top turnbuckle. Bret goes after the leg, but Diesel throws him off and starts pounding on him. Bret takes a break by going to the floor. Diesel comes out and drops Bret throat-first onto the guardrail. Back in, Bret goes after the knee, but Diesel fights back with forearms. Back outside, Diesel tosses Bret into the steps and slams Bret’s back into the ringpost. Diesel picks up a chair and smashes Bret with it. Back in, Diesel tosses Bret from one corner to the other. Diesel tries to go for the Jacknife, but Bret hooks Diesel’s leg. He then proceeds to bite his way out of danger. He figures a way to take Diesel off his feet and goes to work on the knee. Bret locks in the Figure-Four.
Diesel makes the ropes, but uh-oh, there’s no DQ. Bret releases the hold to go for the Sharpshooter. Diesel claws Bret’s face to avoid it. Bret goes for it again, but Diesel kicks him into the exposed turnbuckle. Bret remains in control. He rolls out and puts Diesel’s knee near the turnbuckle. Bret finds a cord and ties Diesel’s ankle up to the post. Bret runs at Diesel with the chair, but Diesel kicks him back. Diesel tries to get the chair, but Bret steps on his hand and picks it up. Bret slams the chair across Diesel’s back and then jabs the chair onto his knees. Even win Diesel’s ankle still tied up, Bret manages to give him a backbreaker. He tries to come off the top with the chair in hand, but Diesel Bret down. It buys himself enough time to release his ankle. Diesel is in a lot of pain, but he still manages to hit a Side Slam. Diesel throws Bret into the exposed corner chest-first. Diesel cannot run, so he limps over to deliver the Bossman Straddle. He goes for Snake Eyes, but Bret shoves Diesel into the exposed turnbuckle. Bret pounds away and then takes the big man down with a huge clothesline for two. Bret hits a flying bulldog that gets two. The Russian Legsweep gets two. He takes Diesel to the floor with a clothesline. He goes for his pescado, but Diesel moves out of the way. As Bret makes it up to the apron, Diesel runs him off the apron through the Spanish Announce Table. One of my favorite spots of all time. Diesel calls for the Jackknife, but Bret slumps back down on the mat like he’s out cold. Nash picks Bret up off the mat again, but Bret sneaks an inside cradle on him for a pin. @ 22:23.Nash screams into the camera some naughty words. Out of discretion, he gives Hart two Jackknife Powerbombs.
Analysis: This started off rather tedious, but it slowly escalated all the way to an intensified culmination. The main story was about Diesel simply being too gigantic and powerful for Bret to handle, which caused Hart to use “No DQ” stipulation to his benefit by restoring to underhanded tactics. From the way the story was narrated, the fans could fathom why Hart had to use those sorts of tactics, though. His character portrayed a protagonist that was desperate to not only discover a way to weaken the uber-antagonist, but also to protect himself from being seriously injured. They walked a very thin line here between desperation and heel turn with Bret, but they ended up delineating the story in an appropriate and efficacious manner.
Hart could seriously adapt to just about anyone he worked with and refashions his style in order for the psychology and story to become more believable. This was not a carry-job, though. Nash was effectual in his role, as he sold the knee impeccably, exhibited great in-ring characterizations, and wrestled precisely how an uber-big man should. **** 1/4
WWF Heavyweight Title: Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith (In Your House V)
Leading up to this, Davey Boy Smith kept bringing up his victory at SummerSlam 1992 to play mind games with Bret. Bret takes Davey down with an armbar. Davey tries to maneuver his way out, but he cannot break out of the hold. Davey is able to break out and hits Bret with the kitchen sink. He hangs him up in the tree of woe and then gives him a mudhole stomping. Davey locks in a chinlock. Bret fights out, but Davey whips him in the corner chest-first. Davey goes back to the chinlock. Bret breaks out of it and sends Davey flying with a monkey flip. Bret delivers an inverted atomic drop and then a running bulldog for two. Bret delivers a piledriver for another two. He hits the Russian legsweep and then the vertical flying elbow drop for two again. Hart goes for a superplex, but Davey blocks it. He crotches Bret on the top rope and sends him to the floor. Bret hits the stairs and starts bleeding from the forehead. Davey slams Bret’s back into the ringpost and throws him back inside. Davey hits a Piledriver for two. He hits a suplex for another two. He even hits the Press Slam, but that can only get a two. Davey delivers a flying headbutt to Bret’s lower back. Bret fights back and goes for the Sharpshooter, but Davey wiggles out of it. Davey knocks Bret out to the floor and beats him up on the apron. Bret reverses a suplex and hits a bridging German suplex for two. Bret backdrops Davey all the way to the floor. Bret hits the pescado. Davey Boy fights back and hits the Running Powerslam on the floor. He goes for a suplex, but Bret counters and drops him crotch-first on the guardrail. Back in, Bret nails a backbreaker and superplex for both two Bret rolls through Davey’s O’Connor roll attempt for two. Davey Boy runs into a boot in the corner, and Bret cradles him for the win @ 21:20.
Analysis: This was hard-hitting, physical and heated. Bulldog bumped around like a fish out of water. This was just as good as their Summerslam contest. The only differences were it didn’t quite have the amount of importance or the breathtaking atmosphere. ****
Submission Match: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin (Wrestlemania XIII)
These two were both incredibly gifted wrestlers who clicked with each other. On an otherwise uninspiring WrestleMania card, both of these ring magicians defined the suspension of disbelief. This had nuclear heat, giving off a notion that they sincerely wanted to annihilate each other. Right off the bat, this turns into a vehement brawl. Bret hits Austin with a swinging neckbreaker. Bret tries to lock in the Sharpshooter, but Austin fights it off and gets back on his feet. Austin hits Bret with a Stone Cold Stunner. Austin cannot capitalize, though, so Bret kicks him in the leg and then debuts the Ringpost Figure-Four Lock. Bret goes to work on Austin’s leg, although Austin fights back and crushes Bret with a chair shot. Austin hits a suplex and then hits the Vertical Flying Elbow. Austin hits a Russian legsweep and then locks in the Koji Clutch. Bret tries to fight out, causing Austin to lock in a Boston Crab instead. Bret makes it to the ropes, though. Austin tries to lock in the Sharpshooter, but Bret rakes his eyes. Bret tries to mount a comeback, but Austin tosses him to the outside.
Outside, Bret reverses an Irish whip and it sends Austin over the timekeeper’s table. Austin is bleeding from hitting his head on the guardrail. Bret smashes his face off everything around ringside, causing Austin to bleed like a stuck pig. Back inside, Bret hits a backbreaker and then the Vertical Elbow drop. He grabs a chair and goes to work on Austin’s knee. Hart tries to lock in the Sharpshooter, but Austin kicks him in the nuts. Austin starts stomping a mudhole into Hart. He hits a superplex and then goes outside to grab an extension cord from ringside. He tries to lynch Bret on the apron, but Bret knocks Austin in the face with the ringbell. Awesome, stiff spot that came out of nowhere. Bret locks in the Sharpshooter. Austin will not quit, though, but he ends up passing out because of the pain @ 22:05. Afterwards, Hart keeps attacking Austin, causing Shamrock to pick Bret up and slam him to get him to stop.
Analysis: This had everything you could want in a brawl: intensity, abhorrence, psychology, storytelling, lots of color, conceivable selling, facial expressions that helped articulate the narrative, an incredible atmosphere, and some truly elegant booking. They pulled off exactly what McMahon wanted them to do: a double-turn. Hart turned into a narcissist heel that only was concerned about winning, and Austin turned into a venerated babyface.
Even though Austin wasn’t a conventional babyface, this ended up revealing some of his inner face-like qualities, like his resiliency and perseverance. The finish exemplified those two exact things, since he refused to tap out to the Sharpshooter, causing him to pass out from the pain. This was significant, historical, and just flat-out tremendous. I cannot think of a match that was better than this one in WWE’s history. *****
World Heavyweight Title: Bret Hart (c) vs. Undertaker (One Night Only ’97)
After their controversial Summerslam match, these two locked up again in the United Kingdom. Bret immediately tears off a turnbuckle pad, but this one doesn’t stay in the ring too long. Outside, Taker smashes Bret into the ringpost. They brawl up the aisle and then back into the ring. Bret delivers a DDT. He tries to whip Taker into the exposed corner, but Taker sends Bret in chest-first into the turnbuckle. Taker works over the chest. Taker pulls back on the arms to get a quick pinfall on Bret. Bret fights back and kicks at the knee to get out of the corner, but Taker throat punches him down and goes to work on Bret’s back. Taker charges the corner, but Bret ducks and Taker hits his knee on the top turnbuckle. Bret goes to work on the knee. Bret locks in the ringpost Figure-Four and then applies the Figure-Four in the center of the ring. Taker fights out, but his knee is still hurting him. Bret kicks and attacks at the knee, then delivers a Russian Legsweep for two. Bret delivers a snappy suplex that gets two. Bret delivers the backbreaker and goes up for the flying elbow, but Taker gets a boot up. Taker hits Bret with a couple legdrops between the legs, but Bret catches one of the legdrops and turns him over into the Sharpshooter.
Taker manages to break out and punches Bret when he tries to lock in the Sharpshooter again. Taker goes for the Chokeslam, but Bret attacks the bad knee. On his knees, Taker lands the some quick body punches. Taker hits a big boot and the legdrop that picks up a two. Bret brings the ring bell into the ring. Taker takes it away from him, but the referee takes it away from Taker. Off the distraction, Bret clips his leg from behind. Outside, Taker throws Bret into the steps. Back inside, Taker goes for Old School, but Bret yanks him off the ropes. Taker fights back and goes for the Tombstone, but Bret O’Connor rolls him for two. Bret goes for the Tombstone, but Taker reverses it. Bret holds onto the ropes, but he ends up landing on the apron with his head caught in between the ropes. Since Taker is pounding on a defenseless Bret, the referee calls for the bell for the DQ @ 28:30. Taker gives the referee a Chokeslam. Both Gerald Brisco and Owen Hart come out to help Bret get out of the ropes. Taker chokeslams Brisco, as Bret and Owen run away.
Analysis: Bret attempted to trade strikes against the Undertaker until he quickly realized that it was an asinine idea to trade blows with the “Best Pure Striker in the WWE” (thank you, Cole). He then started to be more opportunistic, which triggered Taker into a mistake that ended up making his knee a vulnerable target.
Hart exhibited some of the most intense and calculating limb work I’ve ever seen, although one of the main reasons it was so excellent was because of the Undertaker’s consistent and believable selling. He moved around like he could hardly put any pressure on his leg, he adjusted to the injury by avoiding doing moves that put a lot of duress on it, and he displayed some immensely agonized-looking facial expressions. Just some awesome, awesome limb psychology.
They paced this in a way wherein every moment felt important and maximized the significance of each spot by executing moves with force behind them and selling them in a spectacular manner. Everything was very fundamentally sound, as just about every spot was tremendously crisp and polished. This also told a handful of compelling stories and had transitions that smoothly shifted one story to the other.
So, what is this missing from receiving the full monty? A smartly booked non-finish. I understood why they protected Undertaker here. He was involved in a heated feud with Shawn Michaels and the pay-off was the first ever Hell in the Cell match, so they had to make him look as strong as possible heading towards it. Be that as it may, they could have still done a better non-finish. I am a fan of finishes where a heel does some thing so degrading that sends the monster heel over the edge and causes him to get DQ. For that reason, I think a finish like that would have been perfect for this. I obviously still vehemently recommend this match, particularly to those who prefer substance over style. **** 1/2
Owen Tribute: Chris Benoit vs. Bret Hart (10/04/99)
This was one of the greatest moments in Nitro history. Bret counters an armbar into a Russian legsweep. Bret hits him with a knee lift. Bret nails Benoit with some forearms in the corner. Bret goes for a kneelift, but Benoit reverses it with a schoolboy. Bret locks in a Boston Crab, but Benoit makes it to the ropes. Benoit misses an elbow, so Bret delivers a headbutt to the gut. Bret hits a vertical suplex for two and then a backbreaker. They go outside and brawl for a bit. Bret tries for another backbreaker inside, but Benoit counters into a Tombstone Piledriver. Benoit hits Northern Light suplex with a bridge for two. Benoit delivers a knee to the gut and lights Bret up with a chop. Hart dodges a dropkick and elbows Benoit in the face. Hart hits backdrop suplex for two. Benoit ducks out of the way, causing Bret to clothesline himself on the ropes. Benoit jumps on him with a tope. Bret tries to suplex him in, but Benoit counters with a reverse rollup. Benoit hits a forearm uppercut for two. Bret goes for a vertical suplex, but Benoit counters with a small package for two. Bret hits a big superplex. He goes for the Sharpshooter, but it’s countered to a Crippler Crossface. Bret makes it to the ropes. Benoit delivers the Triple Verticals. He comes off and delivers the flying headbutt for two. Bret fights back and hits a back elbow off an Irish Whip. Bret nails a piledriver, but Benoit is too close to the ropes. Benoit attacks Bret, but Bret gets a boot up to counter. Benoit ducks under a haymaker and then delivers Rolling German suplexes. Benoit goes up for a Northern Light suplex, but Bret counters by pounding the lower back. Benoit reverses a suplex to the Crippler Crossface, but Bret counters it into the Sharpshooter. Benoit submits at 23:05.
Analysis: This was proof that the little psychology things can all add up to one big thing. In fact, those little things can actually make a vast difference between something that is good or bad or something that looks real or fake. Both wrestlers made this look a real as possible by augmenting in little psychology things, such as the way they put a ton of snap behind their punches, the way they moved their head when selling a punch, the way they fought for a submission hold because their opponent was trying to stop it, and the way how a move or counter realistically and naturally fitted into each part of the match.
These two also never got away from what a wrestler’s ultimate (kayfabe) purpose was supposed to be: trying to find a way or ways to win, and that is how fans rally behind wrestlers and become emotionally invested into what they do in the ring. Surely, back-and-forth match with a fast pace and tons of crazy high spots can be some good popcorn entertainment and can receive some “This is Awesome” chants. When winning, however, is not the essential reason behind the match, the high spots and sheer craziness are likely what is getting over with the crowd. Not the wrestlers themselves.
This was almost purely unadulterated, as the only real thing that marred it were the commercial breaks. It just had superb psychology, crisp moves, ultra-realistic chain/mat-wrestling and incomparable emotion. This was definitely the greatest Nitro match ever. **** 1/2
Final Verdict: Disc 3 picks up right where Disc 2 left off. There are so many important, historical, and flat-out awesome matches on both discs. There is no doubt about it: Bret Hart was one of the finest in-ring workers of all time. If I were going to wrestle someone in their prime, Bret would be on the very top of that list. He never injured anyone in his career, yet he could make everything look extremely real. He was a firm believer in the philosophy of give-and-take. Meaning: he always wanted to make someone else look credible, even if they were booked to lose. He was someone who always could adjust to the wrestler’s style he was working with by changing up his, and he was one of those wrestlers who could envision things in his mind that would work and then execute them exactly how he schemed it out. There weren’t many – if any – wrestlers better than Hart at telling a compelling story in the ring, either. Concisely, Hart’s in-ring career was an elegant representation of art. From all the DVDs I’ve seen, this had the greatest collection of matches up to this point.