The SmarK Retro Repost for Bret Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be

(Apparently this Bret Hart guy is all the rage right now among the kids, so here’s a repost of the DVD rant from 2004, with some formatting and spelling errors fixed)

The SmarK DVD Rant for Bret Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best There Ever Will Be.

So here’s how this is gonna work — I’ve of course been hit by endless requests for this DVD, but didn’t get the DVD until recently. I managed to watch the documentary portion previously and posted thoughts to the blog, but everyone wanted rants for the matches included, too, and I didn’t really feel like going back to take notes on the documentary portion to do the entire DVD set. So the documentary portion is going to be a guest rant by longtime blog contributor and friend of mine Princess, who covered most of what I would have written about it anyway, and then we’ll hit the matches with fresh rants for stuff I haven’t done before or haven’t done in a long time. For time reasons and for reasons of efficiency, I copied stuff where my opinions haven’t changed or where an updated version wasn’t going to be different enough to warrant a redo.

The Documentary

First I want to thank Scott for giving me space to rant. My better half bought this DVD a couple of weeks ago and while I’ve never been a huge Bret Hart fan (and definitely not at the levels of Scott), I’ve enjoyed his matches over the years and I was interested in hearing his story.

So you won’t get a lot of CANADIAN VIOLENCE~! or insider comments because I admittedly don’t have the knowledge of the backroom politics like Scott does. Instead it’s an honest, completely unbiased opinion on a very entertaining biography…

Already I got my $25 worth with McMahon’s statement. He totally kisses Bret’s ass for being big enough to take part in this story. It’s a "dual" production presented by WWE & Bret Hart.

Gene Okerlund says the Hart family is synonymous with professional wrestling. Roddy Piper says the Harts are basically the Kennedys of pro wrestling. Road Warrior Animal says the Harts and Rougeaus basically ran the Canadian territory. Steve Lombardi talks about the dungeon…

Bret says he was unknowingly expected to be the best wrestler in the family. He says a lot of the Hart kids had a strong wrestling sense.

His first taste of wrestling was just sneaking in the basement and watching the wrestlers there working out.

He wrestled because his felt like Stu expected him to. No one asked. He dedicated himself to wrestling in high school and impressed Stu by his dedication to winning.

Bret relays a great story about him winning the city championship and he was so excited to tell Stu, who was on his way to a show in Edmonton. Bret gets a little choked up talking about that moment and how their relationship took a turn at that point. He was very close with his dad and it really comes through here. Bret says his earlier accomplishments lit a fire in both of them.

Bret continued to rise through the amateur ranks all while sporting a nice ‘fro…very Andre the Giant-esque. He became a collegiate champion and was prepped to go to the Commonwealth games. But Bret was sick of the collegiate way and cutting weight. Stu wanted it bad and the only way for Bret to get on the amateur track was to say he would become a pro wrestler.

He was taught by Mr. Hito and Mr. Saccarata (??) and they would teach him while he would officiate for Stu’s card. The Japanese pair taught him the basics, the execution and he says he owes everything he’s ever done to those two men.

Bret’s first in-ring action was when he was 19 and they were a few guys short. He didn’t want to do it. Of course his first match was against Hito and Saccarata and they predictably beat the shit out of him. He thought they were mad, but they explained to him that he was just an official two matches previous and the fans wouldn’t take them seriously if they didn’t beat the hell out of him.

They show some clips of his first match and yeah…he got FUBAR big time…

Bret’s off to Puerto Rico with his brother Smith…Bruce was supposed to go but gave his spot to Bret so he could experience life in Carlos Colon’s promotion. Bret enjoyed his time there and enjoyed the fans’ passion. It was in Puerto Rico where Bret decided he was going to give this a full-time try….as if he had a choice to begin with..

His first few months Bret basically did what he did well at that point…get beat up…"No one could take a shit kicking like Bret Hart." He was very convincing at selling and really getting his ass kicked. He talked about being cautious and willing to get beat up because he was the promoter’s kid and he didn’t want guys jobbing to him…He felt like that allowed him to be respected as a guy who paid his dues…

AWESOME clips of Jr. Heavyweight matches between Hart and Dynamite Kid…Hart had a tough time keeping up with him IMO…Bret says Kid was the best wrestler he ever saw pound-for-pound….I must agree, Dynamite was quite the shiz-nit…

They show about 3 minutes worth of highlights from their matches and this stuff looks stiff as hell. I mean no wonder Dynamite has been pissing blood for 15 years now.

Clips of Keith and Bret wrestling together….Bret found himself as the tag champion…not because he was great or asked but because numbers forced it and a lot of people were leaving the territory…

More clips of the Hart Brothers, in one they are fighting Dynamite and some fat guy, maybe Makhan Singh?? And some six-man action with Bruce Hart included….Bruce had a very nice dropkick…Bret’s wasn’t so good, kinda low and one footed…The Stampede commentary is great…

As Bret filled out and got bigger he became a singles wrestler…They show clips of him facing Leo Burke for the North American championship and Burke basically anointed him as being the next champion and Bret admits that there really wasn’t another choice because many of the wrestlers were coming and going..

Clips of Bret facing David Schultz for the title in 1981…I believe Schultz held it at this point…

Clips of Bret facing the great Nick Bockwinkel…Ed Whalen is just music to my ears…

A few clips of Bret doing some promos…He struggled there…very babyface though….

Clips of a ladder match between Bret and Bad News Allen in 1982 and I get all tingly inside with the thoughts of watching Allen Coage beat someone’s ass…But they cut to Dynamite knocking Allen off the ladder and out of the ring…Not a holy shit bump, but looked like a brutal match…

Another clip of him beating Allen and winning the North American title again..

Clips of a lumberjack match in 1983 against The Stomper…In virtually all of these clips Bret is busted open…This is like old school WCCW or something…

Clips of Bret and Stu facing Foley and The Stomper…Stu wasn’t exactly Kurt Angle at that stage but he threw a nasty elbow..

Bret talks about the fans believing that he was the champion and he was as good as he pretending to be..

Stu sells out to WWE and Bret goes to Japan where he is fighting Tiger Mask as a Jr. Heavyweight despite being 230 pounds…He gained some notoriety there..

Vince talks about acquiring Stampede and the talent there most notably Bret and the British Bulldogs..

Early clips of Bret(t) Hart in the WWE…Lord Alfred Hayes’ commentary is like bad music to my ears…

Bret talked about losing a lot, which frustrated him because he thought he was a pretty polished talent…

Steve Lombardi says Bret was a big star in Calgary but was still finding himself elsewhere…but he was a great technical talent, one of the best at the time..

Brisco talked about Bret’s early struggles…

Bret wasn’t really connecting with the fans because he didn’t have a great look, a great physique and he wasn’t very flamboyant…and he hated interviews…and he needed a tan (I added the last one)…

He described how much he hated interviews and eventually George Scott had a "great" idea for him…He was going to be "Cowboy" Bret Hart and ride a horse and hand flowers to women…Needless to say other workers, most notably Jim Neidhart gave him endless shit for it…Everyone got excited about it though…and it was something to do..

But before too long Bret went to Scott and he didn’t want to do the Cowboy thing…He’s from Calgary and there you better be a real cowboy if you’re gonna be a cowboy….He didn’t like cowboy boots or country music…Real cowboys in Calgary eh? I need to move there…

So he kept losing and eventually blew his top to Scott…He suggested tagging with Neidhart who was already managed by Jimmy Hart…But that was shot down because Scott said he didn’t have the look to make it as a heel…But persistence won out and Scott eventually gave in…

Clips of The Hart Foundation, assorted stuff both old and new…Lots of Hart Attacks…I love that move…Imagine Midnights vs. Harts in their prime…Damn Cornette for not selling out…

Bruce Pritchard says the Hart Foundation was the best tag team he ever saw…I’m torn, they are one of five in my book…Between The Harts, The Bulldogs, The Hollywood Blondes, Demolition and The Midnight Express and 1-5 could change almost daily…Except for the Blondes, they are a solid #3, I loved that roll camera bit…

Bruce continues to say they wrestled as a unit..

Christian comments on the way they complemented each other with the speed and power mixture…

Jim Ross describes Neidhart as "squatty, thick powerhouse"

Jimmy Hart comments on Bret’s no nonsense style…

Bret liked being a heel because he could control the dance and make the other good lok good for a change…He credits Neidhart with carrying the team in the early part and especially in the interviews…He says he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for how much he did…

Bret says that the matches with the Bulldogs were really when they got noticed..He says he and the Bulldogs took the most pride in their matches and they wanted to show the boys in New York how to light up a territory and get the fans excited…

Bret mentions the other great tags during that time (Demolition, Killer Bees, Rougeaus, etc….I’ll add Strike Force and the Rockers to that)…

Clips of the Harts wrestling all those teams and then an interview spot, probably from 1990 when they were faces…Neidhart was very underrated on the mic and during this particular clip (I’m guessing an SNME spot) I fail to see how they kept a straight face at Neidhart’s antics…

Bret enjoyed the variety of teams and felt like the Harts could have a great match with any of them…No arguments there..

Clip of the Harts beating the Bulldogs for the titles in 1987…Jimmy Hart’s reaction is hilarious..

Bret was so much, it was real to him…He felt like they were the best team and deserved the titles…Ross and Vince agreed…

Bret remembers that George Scott told him that they put the team together with no plans and they just became the best team through hard work…

Ross thinks that people began to see Bret as a star through the tag efforts…

Clip of a Bret promo during his run to win the I-C title…His mic work was still a little rough but he didn’t forget to hawk the new hitman shades…

Bret felt like he was ready to go singles, but he loved teaming with Neidhart and missed it…In the end he felt like he deserved a singles run and specifically mentioned Warrior as a guy he felt didn’t deserve the accolades he received…No argument there..

Bret talks about the match with Mr. Perfect at Summerslam 91 and talks about how Perfect’s was in considerable pain due to a back injury but wanted to be there out of respect for Bret. Bret gets a little choked up talking about his matches with Perfect and he respected him greatly for the assist…

Clips of Bret-Perfect…I believe Scott gave it ****1/4 and that’s about right…The heat for that match was incredible…Bret says the backroom story of Perfect being there for him meant more to him than the match…

Clips of Piper-Hart from Wrestlemania VIII, Scott gave this ****, but I liked it a little more, probably in the ****1/2 range because Piper jobbed cleanly and it was great drama with Piper teasing a turn…Piper talks about the match and how it ended a 17-year streak of never being pinned. He loves Bret and thinks he’s a great guy…Not sure if he meant it because Piper always seems to say things with a hint of sarcasm.

Bret says he remembers telling Vince that if he wrestled Davey Boy at Wembley it would be the greatest match of all time…Vince trusted him and put the match on last…Bret feels like his stock rose tenfold after that match and the thought of him being a world champion was a great possibility…

Bret talks a bit about the storyline saying of him introducing Smith to his lying hag sister Diana which according to Bret wasn’t all true but wasn’t all false either….What the fuck does that mean?

Bret admits how nervous he was because of the huge crowd and the expectations…He goes over all the blown spots that Davey fucked up complete with slow motion highlights…Scott gave this match the full monty but I’m more in the ****1/3 range because Davey blew so many spots including a pescado that almost killed Bret because DBS forgot to catch him…

Bret says Davey always thought that match was his defining moment but it was actually Bret’s defining moment…So there!

Bret never believed he could be world champion and never believed the people would accept it and he’d get over as champion but low and behold there he is in Saskatoon on Oct. 12, 1992…

Clips of Flair-Bret….Bret suggests that Flair improvised a lot of the match, but also complimented him by saying he was a great wrestler who cut a good pace and was one of the most physically fit guys he ever stepped in the ring with…Flair unexpectedly kicked out of a figure four and Bret hit the turnbuckle and dislocated his finger…He snaps it back in and Mr. Perfect (Flair’s manager) reacts to the pain on Bret’s face accordingly…

Clip of the end of Flair-Bret and the crowd wasn’t very hot while Bret applied the sharpshooter so you could tell this was a major shock…The crowd exploded once Flair submitted however…

Clip of Bret post-title victory in Canada talking to Vince in a pre-taped spot…

Bret still really couldn’t believe he was deserving of the championship, but he had a good fanbase that supported him….Says he couldn’t follow Hogan’s act so he had to sell wrestling…He wanted to set a new standard in the ring but still be one of the boys outside of the ring.

However when Bret finally felt like he was the star of the company, he had to bow down to Hogan again and he was very angry because he didn’t feel like Hogan deserved it and in the words of Bret…he didn’t last…Meow…

Bret went into King of the Ring wanting to send a message to Hogan that the new generation was here…He said Razor Ramon worked hard with him to have a great match and he and Mr. Perfect had a "beautiful, classy" match that was different from Summerslam but filled with similar drama and he almost blew his knee out on a floor spot…Then he had a completely different match with Bam Bam Bigelow, who he respected as the best big man in the sport and loved working with…He mentions he was able to have three completely different styles of matches in one night and they were all very good…

He had to deal with Vince trying to promote Luger as the next Hogan type and in the long run he was able to overcome all of that and finally have the spotlight to himself at Wrestlemania 10 and he says that even Lex would be the first to admit that Bret was the people’s choice…Bret says when he wn the title at MSG he finally felt like the belt was his and he didn’t have to take a back seat to anyone…He was the King! Long Live Bret!

Mentions that as the champion he wrestled everyone, big, small, brawler, science…Talked about the privilege of giving Bob Backlund his final moment in the sun in a long….brutally boring match I might add.

Bruce Prichard and Chris Benoit say kind words…Benoit says he tried to emulate Bret…

Various clips of Bret through the 1994 year and clips of the World Tour and his fan following…Bret says he always spent time after the matches talking to the fans and giving them thanks for his success..

Bret says to be the best there is he had to wrestle anyone of any style and give them a great match….Benoit says that his matches with Bret are on a pedastal…Vince says the only wrestlers comparable to Bret from a technical and storytelling standpoint were Buddy Rogers and Dusty Rhodes…and I’m lying about one of those but you’ll have to guess which one..

Road Warrior Animal says Bret is #3 or 2 on his list of best technicians he’s ever worked with…Because you know…Billy Gunn is untouchable…

Clips and clips and clips…

Finally we get to the Owen stuff…YEAH!!

Great Owen interview clip…I fucking loved Owen’s jealous brother gimmick…

Bret says Owen was ready to quit and become a firemen or whatever, but he stuck with it and he feels like he was very proud of what he did in the ring and the things they did together…

Bret says he had so many people indentified with the story…people would come up to him with tears in their eyes and say they hadn’t spoken to their brothers in years and I’m totally sorry but I don’t buy that for a second…

Clip of Owen winning their WM 10 match and the post-match clip where he had spit on the side of his mouth…Someone give that man a towel…

Clip of Owen’s pre-match interview before their Summerslam Cage match…Scott gave it *****, I’m more like **** because I loved the wrestling, but hated the bloodless cage matches..

Bret says their cage match told a great story and he doubts anyone else could pul it off like they did…He says working with Owen brought them closer and they loved their matches…His emotion comes through as he talks about how he tried to protect him in that match on a top rope suplex and damn if I’m not crying with him…He takes pride in their professionalism but his eyes had such sadness in them with that segment…

We move to the end of 1995 and his third title run…He felt like he was building up his legacy and people were really believing in his legendary status…But he felt like everything he was doing was being ignored because of Shawn’s push…He mentions he had great matches with Diesel at the Survivor Series and Bulldog at an In Your House but they seemed to go unrecognized…Instead of letting Bret have his time, they were really focusing on Shawn…

Skip to pre WM 12 and Bret talks about training and some vignettes and Bret felt like he looked inept in them…He could barely run on the ice in Calgary, he looked as if he could barely swim and he was getting stretched by Stu while Shawn looked pristine and in perfect condition and Bret didn’t look like he could beat anyone…Bret kinda chuckled though, didn’t seem to mad…

Clips of the Ironman match….Bret felt like the match was designed by Shawn and felt like a lot of cheap shots were made to benefit Shawn…The match in my opinion is like the second or third best match ever in North America behind a couple of Flair-Steamboat matches…

Bret takes nothing away from Shawn athletically and says the match was great because both of them cut an incredible pace and worked hard…Bret said he did all he could to keep up with the ‘little bastard’ and it was a testament to both men to be able to go that hard for 60 minutes..Bret also said Shawn was magnificent and took an incredible beating in the match…It was one of his favorite matches and it was tough…

After the match Bret says Shawn told him to "get the fuck out of the ring and let him have his moment"…Bret was a little hurt and felt like that set the course for his run…In hindsight they deserved to share the ring together…

Bret takes time out and was hoping things could pan out with his film career. He had been on the road for 12 years straight and rarely took a day off…Says no one cut a schedule like he did…

Move to the Steve Austin feud…

Clips of Austin throwing a challenge at Bret Hart…Bret saw Steve coming back in the Hollywood Blond days and suggested Vince sign him even back then…

Clips of their feud before the first match at Survivor Series 96…Austin says anyone that’s been in the ring with Bret knows his talent…Bret says they were both great artists..

Clips of the Survivor Series match and I’m PISSED this match isn’t in the extras…This match was as good as I ever saw that didn’t include Ric Flair or Ricky Steamboat…Bret admired Steve because of the pride he took in his matches…Boy their first match drew incredible heat…Vince said Bret and Steve were made for each other…

Clips of Bret adjusting to the "attitude" era and his "There are no rules in the WWF" promo…

Bret says he doesn’t know of any feud that had the realism of the Austin feud…The promos were filled with intensity and the tension was very high…

Clips of Royal Rumble 1997 and Austin wins as Bret begins to slowly flip out..

Another Bret promo as they prep for the Wrestlemania match…

Clip of Austin promo from the 1997 Slammies..

Clips of the WM 13 match…A classic brawl that is a must-see for any wrestling fan…

Ross says they story an incredible story and thanks to Bret, Austin became a major player that night…Vince concurred and said that anyone who stepped in the ring with Bret left a better man for it…Ross talks about the double turn and Bret says he felt the difference in the fans and he had to go with the flow…Austin had an admirable quality because he liked to fight…I personally thought it was because he said ‘ass’ a lot..

They show a clip of Bret post-WM promo which was the best thing he ever did…Unfortunately it’s not fully included because it was a great promo with he and Shawn…

Bret starts his hate on American fans…and says the fans in the U.S. can kiss his ass…Bret always felt funny about that but on the flip side he was glad to revive the Canadian fans in the territory…He talked about how one day he was loved in London and the next he was booed in Philadelphia…He says wrestling fans in the states wanted to play a role, they wanted to be the bad guys…But the fans in Canada loved Bret…It was the first time to Vince’s knowledge that he had a contingent that was favorable to one nation and not another…

Clips of the new Hart Foundation…Sadly 3/5ths of them are no longer with us…

Clips of the whole USA/Canada thing as Ross and Christian make comments…This was high level stuff that really set the table for the WWF retaking the top spot in the wrestling wars if for no other reason than the elevation for Austin…Bret says it was good for Canadians to see someone stand up to the Americans and Bret says it was all a lot of fun and since there is no real bad blood between countries it’s was no big deal and many times its hard to tell if there’s any real difference between the countries…Ross says he wasn’t sure how comfortable Bret was when it came to being booed by Americans but he went with it and Bret says he’s very proud of his Canadian and American heritage and he’s had a great time in America…The Canadian hero stuff was fun and good for the people of Canada….I totally agree with him…

Bret talked about how much fun touring Canada was in those days and especially the Canadian PPV in Calgary in front of the whole Hart family…Bret says it was a beautiful experience and he was proud of those times..

Skip to the screwjob…we had to come here…

Bret loved the WWF, he respected and took pride in the WWF and he never thought of leaving the company….Vince says he and Bret were close personally and professionally and the only thing that could come between them is Ted Turner’s money…Vince doesn’t exonerate himself from blame, but he feels the money came between the…

Eric Bischoff makes his debut in the bio and says he and Bret had a discreet meeting that he believes only they knew about, but he’s not sure…Ross says the WCW thought they were making the coup of coups by signing Bret but Vince was orchestrating the whole thing…Vince says he made things possible for Bret to negotiate a big money with WCW…Bischoff said the belt wasn’t a factor and he told Bret to close whatever business he had with the WWF and start with a clean slate…He said he would’ve relayed that if he could but no one in the WWF would’ve believed him….hmm I wonder why…

Bret talked about the "time honored tradition" and says he always stood up for what was right in the business and stood up for all the guys and Bret Hart never refused to do anything…He wasn’t rewarded for his trust..

Vince says look at time period and think about the decisions being made and when they were made, not what the situation is now…That’s not a bad point because Vince was a desperate man and he was trailing the WCW in ratings and buyrate..

Clips of Bret and Shawn…Ross says they were two artists, Rembrandt and Van Gogh….

Final the clip of the loss and Bret’s noogie on Vince’s face…that guy has incredible aim…

Bret will always believe that was unnecessary and there was a better way for them to do things…He had given too much and everyone in his family was hurt…especially Owen…Bret says Vince and he had a father-son relationship and he imagined it was tough for Shane to witness what happened between the two in the dressing room after the match…Vince says he isn’t sure if he’d make the same decision today…Bret says there was probably a lack of communication but he always loved the company and he conducted himself in a respectful way…He says you’re either on one side of it or the other and regardless of which side you don’t know the facts and for people to put themselves in their shoes isn’t fair…Bret says Vince probably did what he thought he had to do and Bret stands by what he did…

On to WCW and how they ruined….everything…

Vince was worried about how they would handle Bret and his worries were realized because they should’ve built the franchise around Bret.

Ross says it was tough for Bret because he was such a strong WWF stalwart…Bret will never complain about the money but they never had Vince McMahon’s mind…

Bischoff said that the develop of WCW Thunder was the main reason for signing Bret…They needed more talent…Benoit thought he would make a huge difference there and Bret agreed…

Bischoff feels like the Montreal incident left a scar on Bret that couldn’t be erased…Vince said it was fortunate for his company but sad for Bret personally…

Bret says there weren’t many good moments in WCW, but he liked the spot with Goldberg and the steel plate..He said that one moment was almost worth it…

Skip to May 23, 1999 and the friend we lost in Owen Hart…

Bret wishes he had been there when Owen’s accident happen…He felt a deep sense of loss and agonized over what could’ve happened if he was there…

Clips of Jeff Jarrett speaking on Owen…that’s a tough one to watch…

Clips of Mick Foley speaking on Owen…very kind..

Clips of Edge speaking on Owen…boy Edge looked like a tool in 1999…

Clips of the Owen Hart tribute match…Benoit vs. Hart and it’s on the extras…Bret says that match in Kansas City was as important as any night he’s ever had…Bret says it was a match for one person…Benoit said it was a tough match and he cried for a while after all and he misses Owen…Bret says Stu was particularly touched by the match and he says Owen would’ve been very proud…

Clips of Hart-Benoit at WCW Mayhem for the WCW title…Benoit says it was a great experience to be in the ring with his fellow Canadian in Toronto…

Clips of the Goldberg match and the fateful Starrcade injury…Bret says its a shame that a guy as good hearted as Goldberg ended his career…Things were just starting to look up for Bret what this happened…

Bret talks about his stroke in 2002 and how he’s in a wheelchair reflecting on his life and he feels like he’s more clued in to what’s important…He doesn’t know if everything is forgiven or perfect, but it’s a start…Vince says he doesn’t know if all will be good but it was important for him to relay his story to his fans and his contributions will never be forgotten and hopefully he can still contribute…

Ross, Animal and Okerlund make comments…Ross said you always knew you’d get quality from Bret Hart once the bell ring…

Bret wouldn’t give up the experiences for anything…He talks about his new wife and his new lease on life…He still wants to do a lot of positive things…He had a wonderful career…And it ends with Vince saying you now know you’ve seen arguably the best.

Ends with a great highlight package of Bret moments…

Overall this puppy is a little over two hours and worth every second…It’s obviously perfect for Bret fans but for people like me, who aren’t as big a fan of his, it’s still a great story and I really believe how much pride he took in the business and always putting on an entertaining match for the fans…I come out of this liking him a lot more…

The Extras:

Disc One

The Hart Foundation v. The British Bulldogs.

From MSG, 7/13/85. Real old-school Hart Foundation tights here, with a pudgy Bret and black trunks. As Bulldog-Harts matches go, this series doesn’t really match up to the peak of their feud in 1987, but it’s an interesting match from the development perspective. Dynamite Kid controls Bret with armdrags to start, and Bret bails. Anvil time, as he overpowers the Kid, but Davey Boy comes in for the double-team. Anvil opts for the test of strength, but Davey rolls over him and dropkicks him in a nice spot. Over to Bret, who drops Davey on his nads to take over, and sets up a Harts double-team in the corner. They get the Demolition elbow, showing pretty definitively where that move got swiped from, and Neidhart holds Smith in place for Bret’s dropkick. Harts keep switching off, and Bret slickly cuts off a tag attempt. Pair of backbreakers gets two. Davey snaps off a crucifix for two, but Bret takes him down with an atomic drop. Sadly, the Harts do a telegraphed miscommunication spot, and it’s hot tag Dynamite. Headbutts for everyone! Bret debuts the turnbuckle bump to a big reaction from the crowd, and Dynamite one-ups him with the missile dropkick. Smith swoops in with the running powerslam, but Anvil saves. This kind of big-bumping, fast-paced stuff was pretty much unheard of in 1985 in the WWF. Small package gets two for Smith. Rollup is blocked by Bret, and Davey ends up on the floor and in trouble. Bret and Jim switch off on a Boston Crab, and DK punches them in the face each time to break, in a funny spot. So Anvil gets a quick chinlock and it’s more double-teaming in the heel corner. Bret and Davey do a triple-rollup sequence, but Bret cuts off the tag. Davey pops up with a dropkick, but again it’s the Harts cutting off the ring. This is textbook stuff, but sadly the bell rings for curfew before it go any further. Draw at 13:15. ***1/4

The Hart Foundation v. The Killer Bees.

From MSG, 2/17/86. Anvil starts with Brunzell, and easily overpowers him, so Brunzell goes with a takedown instead. He works on the leg, and B. Brian Blair continues that, evading Anvil’s offense and double-teaming him with Brunzell. Brunzell rolls him up for two and they cut off a tag to Bret by maintaining the leg punishment. Blair gets a figure-four, but Bret breaks it up and pounds on him. We get some quality cheating in the corner, and Bret hits the chinlock. Backbreaker, but the second-rope elbow misses and it’s lukewarm tag to Brunzell. He’s the house of fire, but a knee to the back ends that rally in a hurry. Anvil gets two off that. We hit the chinlock again, and Brunzell’s escape is foiled by a trip to the corner, where the Demolition elbow gets two. Bret gives Jim some abuse in the corner and Anvil tosses him for fun, which draws Blair over for an ill-advised brawl. Of course that allows more damage on the floor by Bret. Back in, Brunzell gets a sunset flip for two, but he can’t escape the Harts corner. The Harts do their trademark double-whip into Brunzell and Anvil tees him up for Bret’s dropkick. That gets two. However, Brunzell returns fire with his own dropkick, and Blair gets drawn in too soon, allowing Bret to get a two-count anyway. The Harts cut off the ring again with the old facelock spot, and it’s a false tag as a result. Another double whip misses, giving Bret a chance to work in the turnbuckle bump, and it’s hot tag Blair. Bret sells all over the place for him, and Blair cradles Neidhart for two. The heels collide and Blair gets two, setting up the dreaded abdominal stretch, with the crowd absolutely going nuts. Anvil breaks and it’s BONZO GONZO, as Blair gets two on Bret. Rollup gets two. Brunzell gets the dropkick, but it’s a 20:00 draw at 18:48. Gorilla demands a one-hour time limit next time. ***1/2

Disc Two

Bret Hart v. Ricky Steamboat.

From the Boston Garden, 3/8/86. I did a quickie version of this one for a Coliseum video rant ages ago, but I’ve always felt it deserved a full recap. Bret attacks to start, but gets whipped into the corner for his troubles. Steamboat fires away in the corner and grabs an armbar. He works on that with some really nasty stuff. Bret tries a comeback, but Dragon counters him with the patented slide-under-the-legs evasion tactic and goes back to the arm. Bret tries to hiptoss out, but Steamboat counters him with the sequence later made famous by Owen. Bret tries an atomic drop to break, but Steamer flips out of it, so Bret follows with a neckbreaker and legdrop to take over. Bret gives him a punch to the gut and Steamboat sells it like a gunshot wound, falling out of the ring in melodramatic fashion. Bret suplexes him back in for two, and grabs a headlock. Steamboat tries to slam out of it, but Bret counters for two. Another one succeeds, but he tries following with a splash and hits Bret’s knees. Has Steamboat EVER splashed anyone successfully? To the floor we go, where Steamboat gets slammed and Jimmy Hart is very proud of Bret for doing so. Back in, Bret uses a rare running powerslam for two. Wonder why that one never got worked into the routine? Backbreaker and second rope elbow misses. Interesting how that move was originally designed to be a comeback spot for a babyface, but turned into one of Bret’s signature moves later on. Steamboat comes back and chops him down for two. Backdrop suplex gets two. Another chop gets two. Steamer works him over in the corner, and the ref is bumped, and Bret gets the lariat for a visual pinfall. That’s a pretty big compliment from Steamboat. Another one is rolled through, however, and Steamboat gets the skin-of-his-teeth pinfall at 15:08. This nearly became the show-stealing classic of Wrestlemania 2, but they gave Bret’s spot to Hercules at the last minute, feeling he had better long-term potential. I can’t make this stuff up if I tried. ***3/4 Great selling from Steamboat here, needless to say.

Bret Hart v. Ted Dibiase.

From a Wrestling Challenge taping in Odessa, TX, 3/8/89. Kind of odd in that we’re totally skipping over the prime years of the Hart Foundation, when you’d think the Harts v. Bulldogs match at Wrestlemania III would have been a no-brainer for inclusion, or at least the awesome 2/3 falls match from SNME. For whatever reason, there was either no commentary taped for this, or they just deleted it. The result is interesting, as the ring is heavily miked and you can clearly hear Dibiase and Bret calling spots at various points. Bret was in the last stages of his initial babyface singles push before reuniting with Jim Neidhart again in 1990 for another run with the tag titles, and the differences between early singles Bret and his later self were already beginning to become evident. Bret attacks to start and gets the legsweep for two, and a crossbody for two. Dibiase bails and stalls, and catches Bret with a knee back in the ring. He blocks a rollup, but another one gets two for Bret. Back to the floor for some un-Christian language by Ted. He stops to gab at the fans, allowing Bret to slingshot him in, but a charge misses and Bret hurts his little Hitman. Ted lays the QUALITY badmouth on him in the corner, which is the kind of stuff you miss with commentators yakking over everything, and we get some choking. He follows with a clothesline and elbow for two. Middle rope elbow and suplex get two. Another one is reversed by Bret, but a backdrop suplex gets two for Dibiase. Bret takes his patented trip to the corner and a backbreaker gets two for Dibiase. Bret comes back with a small package for two, and another, as Dibiase gets frustrated and tosses him. Back in, the fistdrop gets two. We hit the chinlock, which Dibiase maintains with some hair-pulling. Man, I wouldn’t touch that stuff. Bret comes back with the lariat, but he’s still out, so Dibiase decides to go up. But that sneaky Bret was playing possum, and a slam off the top results. He makes the comeback with a series of elbows for two, and the backbreaker/elbow combo gets two. Blind charge misses and Bret takes a bigtime knee-first bump into the corner, which gives Dibiase what looks like the finish via a spinning toehold. These days it probably would have been the finish given the shift in attitudes by fans and bookers, but in 1989 Bret kicks him off and Ted goes out. Bret follows with a pescado and they brawl for the double countout at 15:07, as Bret was being heavily protected by then. Rock solid stuff, sadly lacking in finish. ***1/2

The Hart Foundation v. The Rockers.

From SNME, 4/29/90. Bret and Jannetty exchange takedowns to start, and the Rockers double-team him until Anvil comes in and overpowers Marty. Shawn comes in and can’t slam Anvil, but a dropkick works. Anvil has no such trouble slamming Shawn, allowing Bret to come in (along with a moment of FORBIDDEN COMMENTARY from Jesse Ventura!) and the Harts do the quick tags and work Shawn over. The theme is "pounding the back" and the double-whip gets two. Shawn comes back with a sunset flip for two, as Demolition comes out to scout. Bret stops to yell at them, and we’re clipped for an ad break. Back with Bret pounding on Shawn in the corner, but missing an elbowdrop. Hot tag Jannetty, who superkicks Bret for two. Sunset flip gets two. Bret comes back with a neckbreaker, but slingshots Anvil in and misses with that. Back to Shawn, who promptly runs into Anvil and takes a two-count as a result. High cross body gets two, however, and Demolition runs in for the double DQ at 9:02. Seen better, but this was fun enough. **3/4

World tag titles: The Hart Foundation v. The Nasty Boys.

From Wrestlemania VII, although my Coliseum video version is clipped down to 8:55, so you get the full version for the first time here. Bret gets slugged down by Sags right away, but gets the Thesz Press and fights off both Nasties. He slingshots Sags in and starts on the arm, prompting Sags to tag out to Knobs. So Anvil comes in to match and pounds him in the corner, then hiptosses him over the top to clean house. Back in, he goes to the arm, but goes to the wrong corner. He quickly recovers and gets Bret in in for some punishment on Sags in the corner. Russian legsweep and elbow get two. However, he goes after Knobs and turns his back, which opens him up to getting clobbered from behind with a clothesline, and thus he’s the face-in-peril. Bret was also clearly the breakout star of the team at this point, and seemed bigger than the match. So Bret goes to the corner and Sags follows with a backbreaker for two. He gets a rear chinlock and Knobs stays on the back with the same. Back to Sags, who adds a neckbreaker for two. Back to the chinlock, but Bret escapes with his own neckbreaker. Knobs comes in and stays on the back, however, forcing Bret to power out. The Nasties try the Harts’ own double-whip, but Bret moves and it’s the false tag. Heel miscommunication gives us the real hot tag, however, and Anvil clotheslines everyone and gets two on Knobs. Powerslam gets two. Nasties collide again and the Hart Attack results, but Sags hits Anvil with the helmet and Knobs gets the pin and the titles at 12:01. Probably one of the best matches ever for the Nasties, although I still think a match against Money Inc. on a Coliseum video was better. This was more about Bret’s coming out party than elevating the Nasties in any meaningful way, and that’s fine. ***1/2

Intercontinental title: Mr. Perfect v. Bret Hart.

From Summerslam 91, and the original rant is pretty outdated, so let’s hit it again. Bret hiptosses him out of the ring to start, and grabs a headlock. Crucifix gets two and he maintains a headlock with some well-timed hair-pulling. Crossbody gets two, as does a sunset flip, and he goes back to the headlock. Hennig tries some cheating to turn the tide, but Bret takes him down and stomps him. They trade slams in a nice counter wrestling sequence. Hennig bails off a punch and regroups, but Bret pulls him back in, ripping the tights in the process. A cheapshot puts Perfect in control, however, and a pair of kicks puts Bret on the floor. Hennig steps on his back to get back into the ring, a nice touch. Bret fights back to the apron, so Hennig snaps him into the railing for the Pillman bump. Back in, Bret rolls him up out of the corner for a one-count. Perfect pounds him down again and sends him into the corner for two. Necksnap and rollup get two. Dropkick puts Bret on the floor, and they brawl out there. They fight up to the top and Bret down first, with Perfect falling on top of him for two in a weird spot. Still not sure what happened there. Perfect hairtosses him and grabs a sleeper, but Bret fights out easily. Bret tries another crucifix, but Perfect is onto him now and counters with a samoan drop for two. He sends Bret to the corner for two. Perfectplex gets two, and Bret comes back. Atomic drop both ways and Bret returns the hairtoss, so Perfect takes a great sliding bump into the post. Suplex gets two. Small package gets two. Russian legsweep gets two. Backbreaker and elbow get two. A desperate Perfect rolls him up for two in a hot near-fall, but Bret kicks him out of the ring. Bret starts kicking the crap out of the leg to set up for the Sharpshooter, and Perfect is flipping around like a gymnast to sell it. Bret goes after Coach and gets crotched as a result, and Perfect starts going low in desperation. A legdrop is caught by Bret, however, and he turns it into the Sharpshooter, with Earl Hebner ringing the bell, ringing the fucking bell, very early at 18:05 to win the title. Still holds up, except for the botched finish. ****1/4 This was all about Mr. Perfect bringing Bret up to his level and turning him into a legitimate star.

Intercontinental title: Bret Hart v. The British Bulldog.

From Summerslam 92, of course. My re-rant attempt came out basically like the original, so here’s the original to save me 10 minutes of typing. 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.

Bret Hart v. Bam Bam Bigelow.

An obscure match from Spain in 1993. Odd choice to say the least, but it’s Bret’s DVD. Bammer overpowers him to start, and Bret takes five. Bam Bam pounds the back, but Bret comes back and works the arm. Bammer goes back to the back, but Bret gets a crossbody for two. Bret wins a slugfest and elbows him out, but follows with a dive off the apron and gets caught. Bret, post, post, Bret. Perhaps not satisfied with the quality of the original introduction, Bigelow does it again. Back in, Bret gets sent into the corner and Bigelow goes to the back, leading to a bearhug. Bret reverses to a headlock, so Bigelow backdrops out of it. He adds headbutts to the back, and into a body vice. Bret reverses out of that and gets a backdrop suplex of his own, but Bam Bam hits him with the double-underhook backbreaker. Flying headbutt misses and Bret pummels him in the corner to come back. Legsweep gets two. Clothesline gets two. Bulldog sets up the Sharpshooter, but Bam Bam fights up with another bearhug. Bret tries another backdrop, but Bam Bam falls on top for two. Bret comes back with the victory roll for the pin at 11:56. Not much different than the King of the Ring finals, actually. ***

King of the Ring Semifinal match: Bret Hart v. Mr. Perfect.

Bret starts with a headlock and Hennig counters, they exchange slams, and Bret goes back to the headlock again. Good fast-paced start. Bret gets a crucifix for two, back to the headlock. He gets put out, but sunset flips back in for two. Back to the headlock, but now Hennig goes low to go heel. Standing dropkick and Bret bails as the crowd starts to turn on Perfect, right on cue. He decks Bret on the way in after holding the ropes, and lays down some smack in the corner. Kneelift gets two. Brawl outside, where Perfect dominates. Bret crawls onto the apron, and Perfect snaps the ropes and sends him crashing into the railing. Bret would modify that spot at Survivor Series 95 with Diesel, putting himself through a table instead. Bret makes it back in and gets kneelifted for two, as the Curt Hennig I know and love re-emerges from the wimpy exterior that his face turn had put on him. Missile dropkick gets two. Now Perfect gets downright vicious, whipping Bret into the corner with GUSTO and sneering while he does it. He goes up again, but gets crotched again and superplexed for two. Bret kicks his leg out from under his leg and goes to a figure-four as the crowd gets more and more into it. Perfect makes the ropes, and Bret works the knee. Perfect goes to the eyes and uses a hairtoss, a definite heel move. Sleeper, but Bret makes the ropes. Perfect continues selling the knee as he releases, but he manages to go back to the move and use the ropes to boot. CHEAT TO WIN~! Bret breaks on the top rope and makes the comeback by going tit-for-tat and hairtossing Perfect right back. We get another variant of the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM, this time they’re atomic drop, legsweep, legdrop, backbreaker and 2nd rope elbow. Sharpshooter is blocked by Perfect as he grabs the bad hand of Bret (something established by JR’s commentary early in the match), but Bret blocks the Perfectplex and suplexes both of them to the floor. Back in, Perfect fakes him out with his “knee injury” and cradles for two, but Bret reverses for the pin at 18:49. MORE, MORE, I WANT MORE! Man, there was more psychology than Sigmund Freud v. Carl Jung in a submissive match. ****1/2 Yup, I liked this one more than their Summerslam 91 classic, mainly because Hennig wasn’t crippled here. They make up after the match like good babyfaces, although I would have had infinitely more respect for Curt if he’d decked Bret and gone full heel again.

Bret Hart v. Owen Hart.

From Wrestlemania X, of course. They trade takedowns to start and Owen whines about it while making the ropes. Owen gets his takedown and Bret puts him out of the ring, so Owen comes back with a bitchslap and hides in the corner. Bret had a good point about this match in an interview, where he talked about walking a fine line between a heel getting his comeuppance from his brother and big brother outright beating up on his own little brother. They trade wristlocks and Owen takes him down, but Bret reverses and works the arm, then rolls Owen up for two. Back to the arm, but Owen escapes with a cheapshot and they criss-cross into a monkey-flip from Bret before a clothesline puts Owen on the floor again. Back in, they shove it out and Bret rolls him up for two and goes back to the armbar. I like the little undertone here of Bret fighting the temptation to revert to teenaged squabbling while Owen does everything to push big brother’s buttons and piss him off. Bret goes to the arm again and they criss-cross again, and this time Owen hits the leg lariat to put him down. He tosses Bret and they head back in, where Owen gets a backbreaker and goes to a camel clutch to work on the back. He gets two, but Bret whips him into the corner and Owen comes out with a bodypress, reversed by Bret for two. Owen takes him down with a chinlock, but tries a slam and Bret reverses for two. Owen dumps him and Bret tries to sneak in with a rollup, but Owen reverses to a bridged german suplex for two. NICE. Legdrop gets two.

Bret reverses a suplex with a small package for two, but Owen reverses a piledriver attempt into his own tombstone. He goes up and misses a flying splash. Bret comes back with a clothesline for two. Legsweep gets two. Owen takes him down for a Sharpshooter, but Bret counters to his own and Owen goes to the eyes to break. Owen with a rollup for two. Another great theme here: Two guys who know each other so well that they can reverse anything the other can throw out. They head out and Bret hurts his knee on the way out, and Owen is all over that. He goes right for it and Vince is shocked that someone wouldn’t exhibit fair play. Yeah, we know Vince McMahon is all about a fair fight. Owen wraps the knee around the post and heads back in for more punishment, taking him down with a legdrag and pounding on the knee. This leads to the figure-four, but Bret reverses and Owen has to make the ropes. Owen goes back to the leg, but Bret hits him with an enzuigiri and pounds away in the corner. Owen gets sent into the turnbuckles and Bret drops a leg for two and even remembers to sell the pain of using the bad leg! Bulldog gets two. Piledriver gets two. Superplex gets two. Bret pounds him with forearms and grabs a sleeper, but Owen goes low to break and gets the Sharpshooter. Bret quickly reverses, but Owen falls into the ropes. Owen charges and hits boot and Bret tries the victory roll, but Owen blocks for the pin at 20:19 and the Garden is in SHOCK. Without a doubt, the best opening match in company history. ***** It’s got a nuanced backstory, amazing work, the perfect finish and solid psychology from both guys, and not just the usual selling of injury type.

Disc Three

Bret Hart v. Owen Hart.

From The Action Zone’s first episode, 9/29/94. This is announced as Owen Hart’s final title shot. Vince wonders if this will be a "romp ’em stomp ’em affair" or not. I’m guessing not. They fight over a lockup to start and get into a shoving match, which of course prompts Owen to run away and hide. And then crow about it later. Bret and Owen trade hammerlocks and Bret starts to work on the arm, then dodges a dropkick and slingshots Owen into the corner for two. Bret goes back to the arm and hiptosses him, so Owen bails again and gets some advice from Jim Neidhart. Back in, Bret rolls him up for two and goes back to the arm. Crucifix gets two. Neidhart trips up Bret, and Owen takes over, but British Bulldog comes out to even things up on the floor, and we’re clipped for an ad break, returning with Owen holding a rear chinlock. Owen shifts to a headlock and pulls hair to maintain it, while Todd Pettingill makes incredibly dated references. Bret tries to reverse to a wristlock, but Owen pulls the hair to take him down again. The endless chinlock continues until Bret fights up, so Owen takes him down with a belly-to-belly for two. And back to the chinlock again, but Bret quickly escapes with a sunset flip for two. Bret slugs away in the corner, but Owen reverses him into the turnbuckles for the trademark bump, and Owen follows with a missile dropkick. The ref admonishing Davey Boy allows Neidhart to work on Bret’s knee on the outside, and Owen wraps Bret’s knee around the rope and works it over. Bret fights out, so Owen snaps the leg over to hobble Bret, and stomps away on the knee in the corner. Dragon-screw legwhip and Owen wishbones the leg and works it over on the ropes. Good work from Owen here. He goes to a figure-four, but Bret reverses, and we’re clipped for another ad break. Back with Bret making the comeback with an atomic drop and clothesline for two. Legsweep gets two. Small package gets two. Backbreaker and elbow get two. Owen uses Anvil interference to get a rollup for two, and Bret reverses for two. He tries the Sharpshooter, but Owen goes to the eyes to break and follows with a leg lariat for two. Owen stomps him down and they fight to the top, but Neidhart and Bulldog alternate interference, as Bret goes down first and then Bulldog crotches Owen, which allows Bret to get the pin at 14:48. I think I remember this setting up a really awesome tag match between these teams on another episode of Action Zone, too. ***1/4

Bret Hart v. Hakushi.

Hakushi was actually quite the breath of fresh air in 1995, getting over without speaking English or wrestling WWF Main Event Style. This of course was far too threatening to those on top and he was crushed by the Clique as a result. He was managed by “Shinja”, who was former Orient Express member Akio Sato in white-face makeup. Hakushi grabs a headlock to start and they do a stalemate sequence. Hakushi uses the hair to take Bret down and they exchange wristlocks before Hakushi gets a shoulderblock for two. To the armbar and they work off that for a bit before messing something up on a criss-cross, so Bret improvises with a hiptoss and armdrags to send Hakushi to the outside. He sneaks back in and attacks Bret from behind, but Bret pounds him in the corner. Bret gets reversed with his turnbuckle bump and Hakushi gets a pump splash for two. He stomps a mudhole and actually gets an early form of the Broncobuster, without the obvious gay undertones like with Sean Waltman. Bret tries a rollup, but gets reversed to the floor and attacked by Shinja. Back in, Hakushi pounds away with nothing of consequence and chokes him out in the corner. He starts chopping and gets a handspring elbow and more choking. There’s just too much dead space in between moves. They slug it out and Hakushi uses the good ol’ thumb to the eye and gets a backbreaker for two. To the top and a beautiful diving headbutt gets two. He heads to the apron and springboards in with a splash, but misses, and Bret makes the comeback. Wait for it…wait for it…FIVE MOVES OF DOOM! Russian legsweep, bulldog, backbreaker, second-rope elbow and Sharpshooter in this case. He gets distracted by Shinja, but manages an atomic drop and clothesline (with a great 0.8 Jannetty sell by Hakushi) to keep Hakushi down. Bret hammers away on the ropes, but gets tripped up by Shinja and stops to hit him with a tope suicida. Back in, Hakushi dropkicks him coming in for two. “Not this way!” cries Vince. Not with a dropkick? Is there something inherently bad about dropkicks? Bret reverses a suplex and they do an INSANE double bump over the top and to the floor. I mean, they barely even touched the apron on the way down. Bret goes after Shinja again, and Hakushi hits him with an Asai moonsault that gets nearly 3 seconds of hangtime. The crowd actually starts chanting for HAKUSHI. Bret fights his way back to the apron and reverses a suplex in, and they reverse off that into a reverse rollup by Bret for the pin at 14:41. Hakushi’s offense was a bit plodding in the middle, but there was some CRAZY stuff in here that you didn’t see at the time and Bret gave his usual 110% PPV effort. ***3/4 Bret, however, with another match later against Jerry Lawler, twists his ankle leaving the ring and may be hurt.

WWF World title match: Diesel v. Bret Hart.

From Survivor Series 1995. Hart v. Michaels was already pencilled in for WM12, so it’s not like the result here was a secret of national security or anything. Diesel and Bret both pull off turnbuckle pads to reinforce that it’s no-DQ. Diesel pounds Bret in the corner, so Bret bails. They fight outside for a bit as Bret uncharacteristically runs like a chicken. Back in the ring for a slugfest, which Bret loses. He bails again, so Diesel rams him backfirst into the post. He grabs a chair and nails him for good measure. Back in the ring and he goes for the powerbomb early, but Bret blocks it and comes back. Lots of cheap stuff from Bret, then he starts working on the knees of the champ. Figure-four wears him down further, then Bret grabs a cable in an amazingly dickish move and hogties Diesel’s ankles around the post. He takes the chair and demolishes his knee with it, actually drawing boos. Diesel finally looses himself and slams Bret off the top rope, then chokes him out with the cable. Side slam gets a two count. Nash is doing an amazing job of selling the injury at this point, the best I’ve ever seen him do. He manages Snake Eyes, but Bret reverses a second attempt and comes back. FIVE MOVES OF DOOM! Bret sends Diesel to the floor, but the pescado misses. Bret crawls onto the apron, and it’s HISTORY TIME! The biggest running gag in WWF’s history begins here, as Diesel shoves Bret off the apron, right through the Spanish announce table. Bret is acting like he’s on his deathbed. Diesel tosses him back in for the kill, but when he goes for the powerbomb Bret simply collapses. The ref wants to stop the match, but Diesel shoves him aside and tries it again…and Bret small packages him out of nowhere for the pin and the title at 24:50. Diesel clearly mouths a very naughty phrase at the camera which rhymes with “Another trucking skit”, then powerbombs Bret twice and takes out a bunch of refs, yelling “I’M BACK!” at the camera. He started pissing off the Undertaker soon after, and got jobbed out, leading to him joining WCW in 1996. Wonder whatever happened to him? This would be Nash’s second-best match ever, only eclipsed by the one he had with Michaels in 1996. ****1/4

WWF World title match: Bret Hart v. British Bulldog.

From In Your House V. Mat wrestling to start, as they trade wristlocks. Bret slides in and out of the ring and hits an atomic drop, but Bulldog catches him coming off the ropes with a knee to the midsection and hangs him in the tree of woe. Odd moment as Davey seems to nail Hebner legit on the backswing by accident, and then he HELPS HIM UP?!? What self-respecting heel would do that? Smack him around now, say sorry later. Bulldog counters a crucifix and drops a leg for two. Cornette delivers a Santa-themed racket shot. Lots of resting here. Bret’s corner bump gives Bulldog a two count. Back body drop (or as Vince would say, “BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK bodydrop”) gets two. Bulldog holds a side headlock. Criss-cross leads to a monkey flip and Bret takes over. Bulldog to the Bulldog gets two. Piledriver gets two. Superplex is blocked and Davey bounces Bret crotch-first on the top rope, and the poor guy goes about three feet in the air on the upswing. Ouch. Bret gets tossed to the stairs and blades. Bret and the WWF have since feigned innocence, but it was such an obvious spot, and Bret did the “blading position” for a minute afterwards, and it was to the forehead (really, now, when do you EVER see someone bleed from the FOREHEAD by accident in real life?) so I’m thinking someone was telling a fib here. Bret stands up and there’s a HUGE pool of his blood on the mats. Man, that’s just ugly. ECW’s trained seals chant “He’s Hardcore!” right on cue for that one. Back in, Bulldog gets a piledriver for two. Hanging suplex gets two. Military press gets two. Diving headbutt gets two. He goes for a bow-and-arrow, but Bret reverses to the Sharpshooter, and Davey Boy escapes. Bret bails, and comes back in with a quick german suplex for two. The mat is literally covered in Bret’s blood, although the cut is hard to see because the camera is zoomed out. Oh, and Bulldog’s white tights are now pink. Pleasant, huh? Bret backdrops him out and hits a pescado, then tries what I think was going to be a quebrada (!), but gets caught and powerslammed on the floor. Bulldog pulls up the mats, but Bret blocks a suplex and crotches him on the railing. Back in, a superplex gets two for Bret. Bulldog eats foot on a blind charge. Majastral cradle gets the pin for Bret at 21:09. Well, that was a pretty underwhelming finish. Good match, though. **** I can’t give the bladejob more than 0.3 Muta in good conscience, because the actual cut was small and he wasn’t wearing the crimson mask.

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. *****

WWF title match: Bret Hart v. The Undertaker.

This is the rematch from Summerslam 97 where Bret won the title. It’s astonishing that wrestling would probably be totally different today if Vince had just decided to keep the title on Undertaker there and move it to Shawn at Badd Blood instead. The crowd is violently divided here on the whole Bret Hart issue. Hart pounds away, Undertaker follows. Taker chokes him out, but Bret pulls off a turnbuckle for later use. Taker hits foot on a charge and Bret pounds away, but Taker clotheslines him for two. Bret clotheslines him back and hammers away, then dumps him. Baseball slide out of nowhere sends UT crashing into the table. Bret tries to follow with a pescado, but gets caught and posted. They brawl up the ramp and Bret scurries back to the ring. Back in, Taker stomps away, but gets DDT’d. Legdrop and elbowdrop keep Taker down for the moment, but he sits up. Bret chokes him down, but gets whipped into his own exposed turnbuckle by the cruel hand of irony, just like rain on your wedding day. Bret’s chest is hurting, so UT makes my jaw drop by pulling the HEART PUNCH OF DEATH out of his bag of tricks. Wow, psychology and obscure moves in the same match. Taker drops some elbows for two. Into a surfboard, and he turns it into a pinning combo for two. Bret suddenly starts kicking the knee in desperation, but Taker swats him away. Backbreaker gets two. Bret takes the knee again, but a charge misses. Taker gets two. He tries his own charge, but Bret moves and Taker’s knee slams into the top turnbuckle and Bret goes all Flair on it, destroying it with mechanical precision. Note to all you mindless sheep out there who keep e-mailing me to say that “Undertaker didn’t sell back when he was a zombie”, what he’s doing now is SELLING. So try using an argument that requires some thought next time. Bret wraps UT’s knee around the post and locks on the ringpost figure-four, nearly giving JR a heart attack in the process. Back in, Bret keeps on it and goes for the figure-four, getting some near-falls in the process. Taker counters the move, but Bret makes the ropes. Taker pounds him to come back, but Bret calmly ducks under the big boot and NAILS the bad knee (which Taker is supporting himself on while sticking his other foot in the air for the big boot) to take over again. That is why Bret is TRULY the “cerebral assassin” rather than HHH. Bret goes back to the knee, then works on the back to set up the Sharpshooter. Legsweep gets two, suplex gets two, second-rope elbow…misses? Taker & Bret clothesline each other, but UT sits up. Legdrop gets two. Another legdrop low, but Bret grabs the leg ala Summerslam 91 and reverses to the Sharpshooter. Taker appears to be screwed quite zestily, but instead of fighting for the ropes he simply uses his energy to power out. Bret tries again, but gets caught in a chokeslam attempt. Bret kicks his knee again to break, but Taker pounds him and legdrops him for two. Bret bails and grabs the bell, but Taker uses the big boot to knock it away. He grabs it himself, but the ref puts a stop to the shenanigans and Bret clips him. Taker shoves him over the top while they’re in the corner, and Bret takes out the cameraman in the process. Bret meets the stairs, and they head back in, where Taker whips Bret into the corner and into the post by extension. ROPEWALK OF DOOM, but Bret simply armdrags him down and rolls him up for two. Bret tries a tombstone, but Taker reverses, and they tumble to the ropes where Bret gets tied up headfirst. UT keeps pounding him, and the ref calls for the DQ at 28:35. That finish was CRIMINAL after the buildup. Given a pinfall or submission that’s a MOTYC, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered given the low exposure and Hell in a Cell a month later. ****1/2 It was also Bret’s last truly great match (not involving Chris Benoit), although he had some pretty good ones in WCW.

Chris Benoit v. Bret Hart.

This is the Owen Hart tribute match, from Kansas City in 1999, during one of WCW’s greatest eras, when they had no one in charge and they were just throwing shows out there with great wrestling on them, in the days before Vince Russo took over. Now, here’s a weird one: They overdub Bret’s WCW music with a generic music, instead of his WWF music, which they OWN. Lockup to start and Benoit grabs a headlock, which turns into a wristlock battle. Bret overpowers him and fakes Benoit out on a criss-cross. They start again and Benoit does the bridge off the test of strength, then takes Bret down with a straightjacket hold and turns it into a hammerlock takedown. He goes into a surfboard, which Bret reverses, so Benoit mulekicks him into the corner and grabs an armbar. Bret counters with a Russian legsweep and grabs a chinlock, but Benoit fights out, only to run into a knee. Bret drops a leg and pounds on him in the corner, but Benoit fires back with a chop, so Bret DDTs him. Bret gets an elbow from the middle and travels nearly 3/4 of the way across the ring to do so. Nice. Bret tries the knee again, but Benoit rolls through this time and gets a crazy variation on the Liontamer, until Bret makes the ropes. Benoit backdrops him for two. Backbreaker gets two. They take an ad break and return with Benoit dropping an elbow for two. Another one misses and now Bret does the headbutt to the abs and suplexes him. That gets two. He goes back to the chinlock and then hits him with a backbreaker, taking him to the floor and working on the back. Back in, Bret keeps stomping and throws forearms, but Benoit reveres a tilt-a-whirl into a tombstone for two. That was Owen’s thing, of course. Northern lights suplex gets two. Benoit gets his own knee to the gut for two. Benoit misses a dropkick, so Bret drops an elbow and then gets a vicious backdrop suplex for two. I wonder if Benoit just enjoys taking that bump or something. Bret hammers him against the ropes and charges, but runs into the ropes and knocks himself silly in the process. Benoit puts him out and follows with a tope suicida. Another ad break and we return with Bret hammering him on the apron and suplexing him into the ring. Benoit counters into a rollup, however, and Bret counters that for two. He goes for the direct approach, choking Benoit down and throwing a forearm, but Benoit backslides him for two. Bret works on the back, but Benoit cradles for two out of nowhere. Bret goes right back to the back and pulls out a swinging neckbreaker for two. He whips Benoit into the corner, and then catches him on the rebound with an inverted atomic drop, then puts him on top. Great transitions there. Benoit tries to catch him napping by coming off the top, but Bret crotches him into a superplex. Both are out, but Bret recovers and goes for the Sharpshooter, which Benoit reverses to the crossface! Awesome. I think he did that a couple of times in the WWE, too. Bret makes the ropes, however. Benoit pulls out Eddie’s rolling verticals and goes up, hitting the flying headbutt. Another nice thing about Benoit: You never know if he’s hitting or missing the headbutt. That only gets two. He returns the backdrop suplex favor from earlier, and drives an elbow into him. The crowd cheers for Bret, so Benoit gets upset and walks into an elbow. Piledriver gets two for Bret, but Benoit makes the ropes. Bret sends him into the corner again, but Benoit flips out of it and chops Bret into oblivion. He goes for a dragon suplex, but then opts for the rolling germans instead. Bret fights out of a fourth one by pounding on the back, but Benoit fights for the crossface, so Bret blocks it like a pro. Bret takes him down to the mat, still blocking, and then fights for the Sharpshooter, getting the move for the submission at 23:02. Benoit should have went over, but that’s minor, because the match was a classic for all the right reasons. And really, arguing star ratings on something like this is about as gay as you can get. *****

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