WM Top 25: #9 – Bret Hart’s coming out party, WrestleMania X

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In a post-Hulk Hogan world of the WWF the company needed a new hero. They tried with “Made in the U.S.A.” Lex Luger, an All-American powerhouse in the mold of Hogan himself, but he couldn’t re-create the magic. At WrestleMania X they finally turned to the guy who was under their nose the entire time, Bret “Hit Man” Hart.

Hart had been with the company for over eight years at this point and had numerous stalled singles runs. But on March 20, 1994, at WrestleMania X in Madison Square Garden Bret Hart finally arrived when he won his second WWF World Championship. It all started at the Royal Rumble in January when he and Luger were declared co-winners of the Royal Rumble after both tumbled out of the ring at the same time. Every year the winner of the Royal Rumble earns the right to challenge the WWF Champion at WrestleMania, but considering that Luger and Hart were both considered the winners they would both earn separate championship matches at WrestleMania. This was in the days before triple threat matches and three way dances were a regular fixture in professional wrestling.

As per the results of a coin toss, Luger would challenge WWF Champion Yokozuna first that night in WrestleMania. The winner would then meet Hart for the Title in the night’s main event. But in order to make sure Hart did not have unfair stamina advantage he would also compete in another match that night as well. So in the opening match Bret would meet his little brother Owen Hart, who had become increasingly jealous of his big brother’s success. Owen and Bret proceeded to go out and put on a five-star clinic to open the show. The two battled for over twenty minutes until Owen caught Bret with a victory roll and pinned his big brother clean as a whistle. The match instantly made Owen a huge star. With a win over his much more established big brother Owen instantly became a credible main event-level threat.

Later on that evening Bret stepped into the main event to challenge Yokozuna, who had beaten Luger earlier that night. After a ten-minute contest Hart evaded a second rope splash from the 500 pounder and covered him for the three count. Yokozuna had beaten Hart for the WWF Championship a year earlier at WrestleMania IX so this a little poetic revenge from a year previous. The good guy locker room emptied and came to the ring to celebrate Hart’s victory, including Luger himself. They hoisted Hart on their shoulders and paraded him around the ring. Unfortunately the celebration was temporarily ruined when little brother Owen came out to the aisle way to give his brother the proverbial “thousand yard stare.”

The match and that night was the coming out party for Bret Hart. He earned his second World Championship that night and the on-screen leader of the company, the flag bearer for the WWF’s New Generation campaign. Hart’s in-ring celebration was a “thank you” from the company for all the hard work he’s put in over the years. His first World Championship was given to him on a spontaneous whim, but this second run was a validation. With Hulk Hogan out of the picture the company needed a new hero and a new company direction. Bret filled in that role of hero and gave the company a guaranteed good match on the top of the card. Not only was Bret cemented as the top guy, but thanks to the opening match his brother Owen was turned into a star as well. Thanks to his victory just hours before Bret won the Title, Owen could rightfully claim to be the number one contender for the WWF Championship. The two brothers battled all spring and summer over the WWF Title and showed the fans a new style of WWF main event match.

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