411’s Top 30 WrestleMania Matches of All Time: #24 - Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart (WM 8)
Posted by Larry Csonka on 03.13.2014
411 continues its look at the top 30 matches in the history of WrestleMania with the Intercontinental Title match between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Bret Hart at WrestleMania 8!
Welcome back to 411Mania, and welcome to 411's official countdown to WrestleMania 30! Every year, the 411 staff comes together in some way to bring you, the fine readers of our site, a special countdown to WrestleMania. In past years we have done special countdown columns, ranking the shows, rating them overall, discussing special aspects of the big event, and even columns that have served as odes to the matches and moments that are etched into our minds.
To some fans, WrestleMania is the biggest show of the year, and the way that WWE has transformed the event into a near weeklong party, it may as well be a holiday to the fans that love our special brand of entertainment. Call it sport or call it a specially designed male soap opera, we love it and we love to talk about what makes things special. WrestleMania is an institution, and this year, as the WWE gets prepared to put on their 30th WrestleMania event, we decided to go big. Starting on March 7th, and running all the way to April 5th, 411 will present the top 30 matches in WrestleMania history.
Each writer on the 411 staff was given the opportunity to nominate 30 matches of their choosing. #1 on their list received 30 points, #2 received 29 points, and so on and so forth. Writers were asked to base their lists on both match quality and historical significance to create their nominations. The final list was created, and there was a ton of competition for the top spot. In fact, the voting was so tight that the top FOUR matches were separated by a mere 16-points.
Each day we will present a match from the list, which will include a full recap of the match from the 411 archives (from Scott Slimmer, JD Dunn, and Robert Leighty Jr.) as well as thoughts from the writers. Thank you for reading, and we hope that you enjoy our presentation…
#24. From WrestleMania 8 - Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart
An injured Bret lost the title to the Mountie on a fluke. Piper made the save and won the title at the Royal Rumble. When Bret got better, he decided to challenge his friend for the belt. Big stare down to start. Piper arm drags him down. Bret gets his own. Piper amateur rides him down, but Bret uses his own momentum to send him to the outside. Piper gets pissed and spits at Bret. He asks for a test of strength. They exchange wristlocks, and Bret yanks him down into a hammerlock. Nice storytelling there, as Roddy tried everything to try to get out of it, but Bret held on. Bret delivers a dropkick but hurts his own shoulder. Brain theorizes that Bret's goldbricking as Piper moves in for the kill. Sure enough, Bret small packages him for two. Piper gets up and slaps him in the mush. Bret cross bodies him, and they both fall to the floor. Piper gets in first and holds the ropes open for Bret. Either sportsmanship or an act of condescension from Piper. Bret stops to tie his boot, so Piper decks him in the eye. Bret blades and starts dripping all over the ring. Piper works the cut and delivers a bulldog for two. Piper bites the cut. Ew. A high knee gets two. Bret comes back with a sunset flip for two. Piper stays on the cut to keep the advantage. They slug it out, and Bret levels him with a flying forearm that sends Piper to the outside. Back in, they clothesline each other for a double KO. Piper goes up top, but Bret suddenly pops up and spikes his head into the mat. Atomic drop. Vertical suplex for two. Russian leg sweep for two. Back breaker for two. Bret goes for the Sharpshooter, but Roddy blocks. Bret drops an elbow right between his eyes and goes to the second rope. Piper blocks with a boot. They slug it out from the knees, and Roddy shoves Bret into the ref. Bret falls out of the ring from a clothesline, and Roddy rams his face into the steps. Piper grabs the ring bell as Bret helplessly staggers to his knees. Piper raises it overhead. There's no danger. The ref is still out. Piper thinks about it…but decides against it. Instead, he slaps on the sleeper hold. Bret walks up the ropes and shoves off, putting him on top of Roddy for the pin at 13:51. One of my personal favorite matches. Incredibly stiff for a WWF match. Unparalleled psychology and storytelling. It always gets lost in Bret's endless series of great matches, but it's certainly one of Piper's best.
- By JD Dunn
Mike Chin: Bret Hart matured into a main event talent by shades and degrees. Winning the Intercontinental Championship off of Curt Hennig at SummerSlam 1991 was a key step. No less important was the manner in which he dropped the strap to Davey Boy Smith in front of a raucous crowd at Wembley Stadium one year later.
But in between these two vital performances in the career of The Hitman came an equally important outing at Wrestlemania 8, wrestling Roddy Piper.
The Intercontinental Championship match between these two men is a pretty remarkable instance of passing the torch. Hot Rod, a Wrestlemania 1 main eventer, was one of the most recognizable wrestlers in the world, and looked a little funny as IC champ if only for the fact that he was sort of above mid-card titles. Hart, meanwhile, had evolved into one of the best in-ring performers in the world but I don't know that anyone looked at him as World Championship material.
This match changed things.
The match itself is quite good—a back forth bout that skews technical, but features more than a few moments of brawling. The closing moments are when this one goes from good to great. With the referee down, Piper grabs the ring bell. Hart, already bloodied, looks half beaten to death already, and we get a moment of truth. Will Piper give in to the heel instincts that made him a star in the first place, and put The Hitman in the ground?
Instead, Piper's conscience kicks in and he tosses the bell in favor of locking in his trademark sleeper hold in an attempt to win the match clean. Hart looks like he's going to fade, but in a truly beautiful bit of technical mastery, he instead works his way to the corner, pushes off with his feet and rolls Piper into an inescapable pinning predicament. Yes, Hart, would revisit a similar finish against Steve Austin years later, but I dare say that this was the best execution of the spot--catching everyone by surprise, and highlighting Hart's technical skill with stunning visual style to convince fans, arguably for the first time, that they were watching a legitimate superstar in the making.
Hart would be involved in title matches three out of the next four years as well. It's little wonder that those next three times, he performed with the World Championship at stake.
Ryan Byers: If you look up and down our thirty-match list, you'll notice that the majority of the bouts have one thing in common: Almost all of them are main event matches. One of the very few undercard encounters to make this list is Roddy Piper vs. Bret "The Hitman" Hart from Wrestlemania VIII, with Piper's Intercontinental Title on the line. Also, this match is different from the majority of the list in that it's a fair amount shorter than most of the other entries, clocking in at about thirteen minutes whereas your typical Wrestlemania main event presentation exceeds the twenty-minute mark. So, what is it about this match that leads to it being so well remembered and ranking among some of the most heavily promoted matches in professional wrestling history, even though it wasn't promoted as well and even though it could have been longer? There are two reasons. The first is that it was essentially the Hitman's Wrestlemania coming out party. At this point, Bret Hart had been on the company's roster since roughly the time of Wrestlemania II, but he had limited opportunities to appear on the company's signature event, as he was on only Manias II and IV and only wrestling in battles royale at that. This was his first significant Wrestlemania moment, and, as such, it was a key component of his ascension to the main event scene. The second reason that the match is so well remembered is that, regardless of who is involved in it, it's pretty damn awesome. We're talking about a somewhat brief yet intense brawl between two babyfaces, a type of match that fans will go nuts for when done correctly, as it's essentially the wrestling equivalent of figuring out which of two high profile action stars would win in a fight. The match also sticks out in the minds of fans who were watching it at the time because it featured some gimmicks that were not common in the World Wrestling Federation at the time (especially on the midcard), including a ref bump and the ring bell, as the Rowdy one came ever so close to reverting to his heelish ways before listening to the audience and throwing the weapon aside. More noteworthy than those gimmicks, though, was Bret Hart's BLOOD, which got people's attention in both a positive and negative manner. It was a positive in that it made the match all the more memorable to fans, given that the crimson liquid almost never made appearances in WWF matches of the time. It was a negative in that the reason blood almost never made appearances in WWF matches of the time was that the company had a strictly enforced policy preventing its performers from intentionally causing themselves to bleed. Bret Hart showed some dedication to his craft by not only intentionally defying that edict but also by doing it in such a way that it avoided detection by corporate brass, as they bought the Hitman's story that the blood was inadvertent. Not all Wrestlemania VIII participants were so lucky, though that's a story to tell a few entries higher on the list . .