This would be like choosing between my children, if I had any.
5. Bret Hart v. Davey Boy Smith – SummerSlam Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ92 (8/29/92 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ IC Match). Okay, the Davey Boy Smith rule pretty much applies here, as generally speaking a great match with Smith will involve a Hart brother carrying him there. So this is an easy choice for #5. In the Bret Hart shoot video, he in fact reveals that Smith was blown up 2 minutes into the match and the remaining 30 were done almost single-handedly by Bret. Now THERE’S a performance. This was also a last-ditch effort on the WWF’s part to make a star out of Davey Boy back in ’92, although to this day Bret claims he’s just as popular as Smith is in England. Sure, Bret. From my review
Main event, Intercontinental title: Bret Hart v. The British Bulldog. DBS brings Lennox Lewis with him to suck up to the crowd, just in case any of them didn’t know who the babyface was. Shoving match to start. Bret takes a bump to the floor off a shoulderblock. Back in and they trade side headlock takedowns, and Bret flips out of a slam to roll him up for two. Small package gets two, and Bret goes back to the side headlock. Into a wristlock, and Bulldog flips out and goes into the armbar. Bret comes off the ropes, but gets caught with a slingshot into the corner, and Bulldog goes back to move #929 (ARM-bar). Crucifix gets two, and Bulldog takes him down with a hammerlock. Shots of Diana Hart-Smith are cut in. She was cute in 92, but got really ugly from about 96 on. I’m just saying. Bret escapes and knees DBS in the gut coming off the ropes to take control. He goes into Heel Bastard Mode, dropping a leg and taunting the fans. DBS fights out of a chinlock, but eats an elbow coming off the ropes. Inverse atomic drop is called a “reverse piledriver” by Vince. DBS goes for another crucifix but gets dropped on his back for two. They do a criss-cross sequence and Bulldog hits a monkey-flip to take control, then a pair of cross-corner whips on Bret. He runs into Bret’s foot on the second, however. Bulldog (a nasty one, too) from Bret. How ironic. See, he’s the Bulldog, and he got…oh, never mind. Bret goes to the top, but gets slammed off. DBS tries it, but Bret moves. Bulldog tries a quick rollup, but Bret ducks down and Bulldog goes flying to the floor. Bret hits an ugly looking pescado. Ouch, he better buy Bulldog a round of drinks after that one. He rams him into the post for good measure. Back in the ring for more punishment, with a series of forearms and a dropkick. I’ve never liked Bret’s dropkick. Bulldog takes an awkward-looking bump on his knee off a backdrop, and Bret goes back to the chinlock. Bret gets the snap suplex for two. Bulldog blocks a forearm with a backslide for two. Bret decks him and hits the elbow off the second rope for two. I like how Bret is actually varying the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM here. Bret hair-tosses DBS, pissing off the crowd. Bret gets a sleeper, and Vince declares the match over. Sure. Smith fights out and presses Bret, but drops him crotch-first on the top rope. He clotheslines him three times for a two count. Military press gets two. The delayed suplex gets a big pop, and a two count. Cross-corner whip gets two. The running powerslam gets two. Davey Boy is perplexed. Bret is dead. Smith shoves him out of the ring, then suplexes him in, but Bret reverses to a german suplex for two. Bret tries a suplex, but Bulldog blocks and superplexes him for two. Whip, reverse, and double-KO spot. Bret maneuvers into position and applies the Sharpshooter, however, drawing screams of horror from the crowd. Bulldog makes the ropes. Bulldog whips and puts his head down, Bret sunset flips him, and Bulldog hooks Bret’s legs for leverage and gets the pin and the Intercontinental title at 25:10. Crowd goes NUTS. Davey’s best match, post-Stampede era. ***** Smith and Hart reunite the family after the match, despite Bret teasing walking out a couple of times.
4. Steve Austin v. Bret Hart – Survivor Series Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ96 (11/17/96). Justification of this position is that the rematch was better, so obviously it has to be below it. Stop and think for a minute: They had THIS match, and then an EVEN BETTER one. That’s why Steve Austin became an icon. From my review
– Bret Hart v. Steve Austin. Austin gets all in Bret’s face, and a slugfest erupts. They trade hammerlocks, and Austin gains the advantage with power moves. Bret rallies, but gets caught with a stungun. Austin works the neck, and another slugfest develops. Bret comes back with an inverted atomic drop and a rollup for two. Russian legsweep gets two. Bulldog is countered by Austin, but Bret manages a top rope elbow for two. They fight outside, and Austin rams him into the post. Bret gets pissed and they fight into the crowd. Austin catapults Bret onto the spanish table and pounds him. He drops an elbow from the apron for good measure. Back in the ring, Austin continues punishing the neck. He uses that good ol’ heel standby: The rope-assisted abdominal stretch. Bret breaks and gets a stungun on Austin in a neat bit of irony. Rolling cradle gets two. To the top, but Austin gets a superplex. Bret pulls a Dynamite Kid and cradles Austin on the mat, however, for a two count. Austin manages the Stunner out of nowhere, but takes half a second too long to cover and only gets two. He keeps covering and gets two more two counts. You NEVER see that anymore. I can understand the kickout, since Austin didn’t kick him in the gut and flip him the bird first. Austin tries a Texas Cloverleaf, and I’m thinking Vince must be going nuts trying not to jump up and yell “RING THE BELL” from ringside. Austin sends Bret crashing to the post, but Bret reverses a bow-and-arrow into the Sharpshooter. Austin makes the ropes. Bret gets a sleeper, Austin breaks, and hooks the Million Dollar Dream. Bret walks the ropes and flips over for the pin at 28:34 to end an INCREDIBLE match, possibly the last, best match in North America before the Great Changeover to the Austin era in 1997. *****
3. Bret Hart v. Owen Hart – WrestleMania X (3/20/94). I’m probably gonna catch hell for only having this at #3, but while it was an awesome, amazing match it didn’t really affect anything from then on. Owen didn’t get the expected boost to the next level, and Bret himself was a non-factor by the end of the year. Still, it holds the distinction of being the best opening match ever, and made Wrestlemania X possibly the best PPV ever. From my review
Opening match: Bret Hart v. Owen Hart. This was not only a great match, and one of the three matches generally considered the greatest opener of all time (alongside Pillman/Liger and Mysterio/Psycosis), but it was also the match that turned Owen Hart from mid-card joke to main event threat. It also marked the debut of Owen’s current choice of tights. The heat for this match is unreal, as the fans are firmly behind Bret Hart’s side of the story. Owen gives Bret the big stink-eye, which makes Bret distinctly uncomfortable.
And now, the match:
They lockup, and Owen pushes Bret off, then celebrates. Cheap heat, but hey, you take what you can get. Owen gets the best of a wrestling sequence and celebrates. Bret retaliates by sending Owen to the floor, which pisses him off and he slaps Bret upon returning to the ring. Bret takes control, working on the arm. Bret gets two off a cradle, then goes back to the arm. After another terrific wrestling sequence, Owen ends up getting tossed to the floor again, and now Bret celebrates. Crowd is much more appreciative of this. Owen has another fit and a shoving match results, off which Bret gets a rollup for two. Bret back to work on the arm. Bret gets a crucifix for two, then back to the arm. Good psychology here. Owen takes control with his SWANK~! leg lariat and sends Bret to the floor. He rams Bret’s back into the ringpost, establishing the back injury for Bret. Owen gives Bret a cross-corner whip (first time I’ve seen Bret sell it back-first, actually) and hits a backbreaker. FIVE MOVES OF…oh, wait, wrong brother. Owen slaps on a camel clutch while trash-talking his brother. Bret escapes, but gets caught with a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Sweet sassy molassy, I love that belly to belly. Another cross-corner whip, reversed by Bret, and Owen comes off the ropes with a bodypress, which is reversed by Bret for a two count. Owen goes back to the back. Resthold from Owen, thus dropping it from *****. Owen tries to slam Bret, but Bret falls back for a two count. Owen’s kickout sends Bret to the floor. Beautiful sequence as Owen suplexes Bret from the apron, and Bret reverses to a waistlock, which Owen reverses again for a German suplex for two. Just gorgeous wrestling. Legdrop from Owen for two. He goes for a suplex, but Bret cradles for two. He goes for a backbreaker, but Owen flips through and tombstones Bret. Nasty one, too. Flying headbutt misses. Inverted atomic drop and clothesline from Bret for two. Wait for it…wait for it….FIVE MOVES OF DOOM! Owen hits an enzuigiri to break it up, then goes for the Sharpshooter. Bret counters. He goes for his own, and Owen counters. Owen cradles for two, but gets kicked out of the ring. Pescado from Bret, but he f*cks up his knee. Owen circles in like a vulture, working on the knee and mocking his brother. What a jerk. Dragon screw legwhip (called “Look at that!” by the ever-astute Mr. McMahon) and a submission move of some sort follows. Another dragon screw, then a figure four, which gets a two count. Bret reverses to break the hold. Owen goes back to work on the knee. Another dragon screw legwhip attempt, but Bret counters with an enzuigiri. Crosscorner whip and legdrop gets two. Bulldog for two. Piledriver for two. Superplex, and both men are out. Bret revives long enough to get a two count. Both get up and Bret hits a sleeper. Owen breaks with a Flair uppercut (Where? Down there…) and Bret drops like a rock. Sharpshooter! Bret powers out and applies his own, but Owen makes the ropes. Bret with a cross corner whip, Owen reverses. Owen eats foot coming into the corner, and Bret goes for a victory roll, but Owen reverses the momentum and lies down on top for the pin! The crowd is in SHOCK. ****3/4…oh, hell, who am I kidding? This is the one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. *****, just because Bret continued selling the leg injury to the end of the show.
2. Steve Austin v. Bret Hart – WrestleMania XIII (3/23/97 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Submission Match). When this one started, Bret Hart was a face on the verge of becoming a heel, and Austin was a heel with a cult following. When it was over, Austin was a bloody mess and #1 babyface in the company, while Hart was a hated heel and on his way on a downslide that would eventually end his career. You can’t beat that kind of historical power. It’s also the greatest brawl I’ve ever seen in the WWF, MAYBE second only to the HHH-Foley one from Royal Rumble 2000. Austin’s bloodied face at the end is a symbol for his character recognized the world over, and his performance (and eventual loss in the face of an inesapable submission move) set the tone for dozens of finishes in that same vein that would follow for years to come. It also saved the show in spades and set up the programs over the summer of 1997, which in turn saved the entire WWF. Now THAT’S a great match.
From my review
Submission match: Bret Hart v. Steve Austin. Ken Shamrock is the guest referee. Brawl outside the ring to start, with Austin crotching Hart on the STEEL railing and clotheslining him to the floor. They brawl into the crowd, with Austin ramming Bret into the boards and pounding on him. Hitman comes back and they brawl up the stairs. Back to the ring, and Hart takes a MAN-SIZED bump to the stairs. Austin clotheslines him off the apron. Austin tries to use the steel steps but Bret kicks them out of his hands. Austin rams Bret to the post. We actually go the ring. Austin stomps on Bret, but Bret pulls out a neckbreaker and an elbow off the second rope. Vince starts badmouthing Bret, nothing that he’ll probably have an excuse if he loses. Wow, I mean, WOW, this shit is brilliant in retrospect. I stand in awe of Vincent K. McMahon. Bret works on Austin’s knee viciously. Austin suddenly hits the stunner out of nowhere, but can’t capitilize fast enough. Big Austin chant. Bret goes back to the knee. The ringpost figure-four makes it’s PPV debut to a monster pop. Bret grabs the bell and a chair, and opts to try the Brian Pillman Maneuver on Austin, to a big pop. Austin gets loose and WHACKS Hart with the chair, to a big pop. Another monster shot and a monster pop. Crowd is INTO Austin, big time. Austin with a slam, cross-corner whip and a suplex. Elbow off the second rope. Austin hits a russian legsweep and applies an odd cross-armbreaker. Crowd is 50/50. Boston crab from Austin to a big pop. Bret makes the ropes, so Austin goes for a Sharpshooter instead. Jerry: “Wouldn’t that have been incredible, to have to submit to the Sharpshooter?” Vince: “Hey, it could happen.” No shit. Bret escapes and Austin tosses him to the floor. Whip reversal sends Austin crashing into the timekeeper. Austin rips open a huge gash on his head. Now that’s some high-quality blading. Austin gets rammed to the stairs and the ringpost. Austin is literally dripping blood on the ring. Hart drops an elbow and stomps away. Crowd doesn’t feel so good about Bret now. He grabs a chair and smashes it into Austin’s knee. You can almost feel the crowd changing sides. Bret goes for the Sharpshooter but Austin blocks. Bret pounds Austin in the corner, but Steve counters with a greco-roman ballshot. Austin whips Bret to the corner, then does some stomping of his own. Austin with a superplex. Austin’s face is literally covered in blood. Austin grabs a cable from ringside and chokes out Bret, but Bret grabs the bell that he brought in 10 minutes earlier and rings it on Austin’s head. Sharpshooter. We get the famous shot of Austin bleeding all over the ring and screaming in pain. Austin fights the pain and powers out…but Bret hangs on. He reapplies the move and moves to the center of the ring. Austin passes out and Shamrock stops the match. Crowd is less than thrilled. Austin is DEAD. Bret soaks in some cheers, then goes back to pounding on Austin. Shamrock takes him down and gets a big pop. Hart leaves to huge boos. Austin leaves to the crowd chanting his name. Hogan and Flair WISH they could pull this off. This would set off the Steve Austin v. Hart Foundation war that carried the WWF through all of 1997, and was supposed to culminate in Bret returning the job to Austin at Wrestlemania XIV, but, well, you know…shit happens. *****
And finally, what else COULD the greatest WWF match of the 90s be but ?
1. Shawn Michaels v. Razor Ramon – WrestleMania X (3/20/94 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Ladder Match, IC Title). This is the one that MADE Michaels, resuscitated Ramon’s career, defined the ladder match for future suicidal main events to come, and sealed Wrestlemania X’s place in history as the best Wrestlemania of all. From the review oh wait, my original review kinda skipped this one. Well, it’s a special occasion, so let’s do one now!
Intercontinental title, ladder match: Razor Ramon v. Shawn Michaels. Shawn and Razor exchange hammerlocks and a hiptoss to start, but Razor gets a chokeslam. Shawn follows with a neckbreaker and stomps away. Ramon gets dumped out, and Diesel sneaks out and lays him out. Hebner objects him over Diesel’s objections that he didn’t see anything. Ramon nails Shawn and sends him upside-down in the corner, then dumps him. Brawl on the floor, where Ramon stops to pull up the padding before heading back in. He goes for the Razor’s Edge early, but Shawn backdrops him out of the ring, and onto the exposed concrete. Sick Bump #1. Shawn grabs the ladder, and Ramon steals it so Shawn heads into the ring and baseball slides it into Ramon’s face. Sick Bump #2. That also draws the first “OoooooohÃ¢â‚¬Â from the crowd, of many. Shawn puts the ladder into the ring and nails Razor with it, then pistons it into his ribs from a standing position. He drops it on Ramon’s back, then waits for him to stand up and casually tosses it at Ramon’s back. Sick Bump #3. Shawn makes the first climb, but gets his tights pulled down. He shoves Ramon down and drops an elbow off the ladder. He sets it up in the corner and hits a flying splash off the top, another famous visual. He climbs, but Ramon pushes him over to stop him. They do a headlock/crisscross sequence for a double-KO. Shawn sets the ladder up in the corner, but gets whipped into it and goes to the floor. Ramon follows and makes a Shawn sandwich, with the ladder and the post as bread. Sick Bump #4. Ramon puts the ladder against the apron and catapults Shawn into it. Back in, he puts the butt-end of the ladder right into Shawn’s jaw and Shawn bails. Sick Bump #5. He climbs, but Shawn comes back in via the top rope and knocks him off. The ladder crashes on top of him in the process. Both guys climb and slug it out, leading to Shawn getting suplexed off the ladder. Ramon falls off and climbs back up, but Shawn dropkicks the ladder and Ramon crashes off. Shawn pushes the ladder onto him for good measure. Superkick puts Ramon down, and a piledriver follows. He climbs a folded ladder in the corner and rides it down onto Ramon. Sick Bump #6. Shawn puts the ladder in the middle with Ramon laying underneath it, just to be a jerk, but it backfires when Ramon recovers and pushes the ladder over, tying Shawn in the ropes in the process. Razor climbs unhindered and claims both the real and bogus I-C titles to become the undisputed champion at 18:47. ***** One of the best and most influential matches of the modern era.
And there you have it. See you in another nine years for the 00’s version.