What's All The Hubbub: Bret Hart - The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be (Disc 2)
Posted by Aaron Hubbard on 06.19.2010
Bret Hart goes from tag team specialist to the greatest scientific champion in the history of the WWF.
Bret Hart vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Boston Garden 3/8/86
Reportedly, this is the match Steamboat wanted for Wrestlemania 2. If it had happened there, people would be talking about that show a lot more fondly. These are two of the most technically sound performers EVER, so you know its got to be a good match. Since Steamboat always plays babyface, Hart really amps up his heel performance, doing a Pearl Harbor job and letting Steamboat make a fool of him with his dodges and armdrags. I love watching Steamboat work an arm. I mean, everyone knows the armdrags are a thing of beauty, but watch him torque a wrist or drive his palm into an elbow. Little things like that are what separates the good workers from the all-time greats.
Bret takes over with a neckbreaker and stays in control with hard strikes. Steamboat is able to make even the most basic offense seem devastating; he makes a simple gut punch a big move by stumbling through the ropes and to the floor. Ricky teases a comeback with a slam before eating knees on a splash, and Bret slams him on the floor. Bret makes the cardinal mistake of attempting an elbow drop from the second rope, which NEVER worked. Dragon lets Bret get a few weak kickouts to put over his toughness and a moral victory off the neckbreaker clothesline, which would have gotten three if not for a ref bump. Steamboat then rolls through a crossbody to get the win, which is just flukish enough to not damage Bret while making the Dragon look clever. Good match. Match Rating: ***3/4
Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase w/Virgil, Odessa, TX 3/8/89
We skip ahead exactly three years to a house show, and there's no commentary for the match. Oddly enough, this match reminds me of Tyler Black and Austin Aries, with Bret getting a lot of spunky babyface offense and Dibiase stalling and waiting for his opportunity. The tide turns when Bret tries a second crossbody block and flies into the ropes, and DiBiase does a good heel beatdown and works on Bret's midsection with suplexes and a rib breaker, getting more and more frustrated each time he can't pin Hart. There's a great spot where he tries to make Bret pass out to a headlock, and when Bret survives, Virgil distracts the ref so Ted can choke Hart, and he asks the ref to check him again. When Bret's arm stays up, he pins him. Great heel determination that makes him more than a typical coward.
Bret throws DiBiase off the top rope and makes a comeback with the backbreaker and second rope forearm drop. He ends up going knee-first into the top turnbuckle and DiBiase goes after the leg with a spinning toehold, but Bret kicks him to the floor and follows with a pescado. The ensuing brawl ends in a suspect double count-out, which is a pretty decent booking decision considering their places on the card at the time. Not for everyone's taste, but if you want to see how to work a good “young babyface vs. wily veteran heel” match, this is a good example. Rating: ***1/2
The Hart Foundation vs. The Rockers, Saturday Night's Main Event, 4/28/90
Oh, so this is what the X-Division guys were watching. This match has a lightning fast pace even by today's standards. Watching Shawn bump for Neidhart is really entertaining. These are both babyface teams, and while the Harts work more heelish by default, the goal is just to have an exciting match. Aside from the pace and flying around, the big story is that Demolition comes down for a scouting report and the match ends up in a three way brawl. I would have liked to have seen a triple-threat, but this was a bit before that gimmick's time. Aside from the non-finish and the brevity, this is pure quality. The best praise I can give it is don't blink, because you WILL miss something. Man I miss tag teams. Rating: ***1/2
But just because Bret has the strength to kick out of Perfect's finish doesn't mean he's going to have an easy time winning. Hart throws out all kinds of moves but Perfect keeps kicking out, so Bret goes to the legs. He almost costs himself the match twice by getting distracted by the referee and the Coach, but he's able to counter a legdrop to the ribs into the Sharpshooter, and Hennig submits before Bret can even get it set in. The ultra fast submission and some slight sloppiness hurt this match, but the work is still quality and the intensity of the wrestlers and the fans really make this one special. Match Rating: ****1/2
Bret also heels it up for the partisan crowd, slamming Bulldog into the post, pulling his hair, or even something as simple as hitting an elbow to break up a chain wrestling sequence or keeping a sleeper hold on well after Bulldog gets the ropes. Smith eventually makes his comeback with his three big moves (the military press, the stall suplex and the running powerslam) before they go into the go-home stretch. Bret gets a nearfall off of a German Suplex, Davey almost wins with a superplex. The coolest spot is when Bret applies the Sharpshooter from the ground after a double clothesline, but Davey gets the ropes. We finish with the iconic sunset flip counter. This match is fondly remembered as one of the all-time greats, but it's a glorified carry job. I put it in the same category as Hogan vs. Warrior: a good match with great booking and a raucous crowd. And just like that match, the real winner is the loser. This was the peak of Davey Boy's career, and the beginning of Bret's road to the top. Match Rating: ****1/4
Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Bam Bam Bigelow, Barcelona, Spain 4/24/93
Bam Bam was always a hard worker, and having Bret in there to work with means you get a good match. The story is there already; Bigelow can win with his power, Bret can win by avoiding the big blows and using his body like a missile. That strategy ends up backfiring when Bam Bam catches him diving off the apron and drives him into the ring post. He stays focused on Bret's back with a bearhug and a gutwrench lift, but he also throws in a butterfly backbreaker. Bret gets a hope spot with an impressive back suplex before making his comeback after Bigelow misses a diving headbutt. He hits the Russian Legsweep, flying clothesline and flying bulldog, but realizes that Bigelow's too strong to be put in the Sharpshooter, and instead picks up the win with a victory roll. One of many good Bret vs. Bigelow matches. Match Rating: ***
Semi-Final Match: Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Mr. Perfect, King of the Ring 6/13/93
This is such a great wrestling match. Perfect doesn't have the injury he had at Summer Slam, they are both babyfaces, and the personal animosity isn't there, so both guys really wrestle. They do a lot more flying around, with Hart busting out his superplex and Hennig his top rope missile dropkick. Bret takes early control with headlocks, which frustrates Perfect and he starts heeling it up a bit, including a great spot where he holds the rope open for Bret to come in and then kicks him. Other heelish tricks such as the hair toss, shoving Bret off the apron into the rail, using the ropes for leverage on a sleeper and keeping the hold on for a four count in the ropes also show up.
Bret goes to work on the legs to set up for the Sharpshooter, but Perfect knows that trick and knows that it beat him at Summer Slam, so he's desperate and resorts to going after the fingers that were injured in Bret's match with Ramon. That sums it up; Perfect doesn't cheat because he necessarily wants to, it's because he has to against Hart. Bret counters the Perfect Plex with a suplex that sends them both tumbling to the floor, and then wins by shifting the weight on a small package. Perfect shakes Bret's hand as a sign of sportsmanship. This was more technically sound than the Summer Slam Match, but didn't have the intensity or crowd heat. Take your pick; you can't go wrong. Match Rating: ****1/2
Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. “The Rocket” Owen Hart, Wrestlemania X
I love the crowd psyche-out by teasing Bret's entrance and then having Owen enter first. You've also got to love the kid who sticks his tongue out when Bret gives him his glasses. Odds on anyone doing that to Rey these days? Third mark-out moment: Owen raising his hands in victory after a collar-and-elbow tie-up. Someone seriously needs to steal that. Tons of subtle storytelling here, like Bret going into an amateur takedown after Owen knips out of a headscissors to show off. Owen escapes by grabbing the ropes, but when Owen does the same move, Bret cheaply uses his momentum to send Owen outside, and Owen responds with a slap. When Bret closes in, Owen backs off into a corner. They do a wrestling sequence where Owen gets over by holding his own, but Bret clotheslines him to the floor and gets in his face. Owen shoves Bret and Bret slaps Owen and gets a nearfall off of a schoolboy. All this is just the appetizer.
Owen starts taking control by going after the back, ramming it into the post, hitting a backbreaker, applying a camel clutch and hitting his belly-to-belly suplex, but he almost gets beat when Bret rolls through a springboard crossbody. They play off one of Bret's big spots in the Davey Boy match, with Bret floating over when Owen attempts to suplex him in the ring, but before Bret can hit his German Suplex Owen counters and hits it instead. He hits a Tombstone Piledriver but decides to go with a diving headbutt which misses. This spot tells a big story: even though Owen is as talented as Bret, he doesn't have the big match experience to go for a pin at the best opportunity.
Bret starts running through his signature offense, but Owen catches him with an enzugiri. Bret takes a cheap shot to prevent a Sharpshooter, and Owen upstages him by rolling through it when Bret tries it. Bret gets overzealous and hits a pescado, but he hurts his knee. Owen sharks after the leg, slamming it into the post, stretching it with the Indian Deathlock and Figure-Four, and twisting it with a dragon screw. Bret finally makes a comeback with his own enzugiri. Bret throws out the big moves like the piledriver and superplex, but Owen kicks out. Owen gets some cheap heat by countering a sleeper with a low blow and applying the Sharpshooter, but when Bret reverses into his own Sharpshooter, Owen grabs the ropes. Bret tries his last ditch ace in the hole, the victory roll, but Owen counters it and beats Bret cleanly with his wrestling skill.
While Owen's cheating was more obvious and blatant, Bret's subtle bullying tactics were more devastating than any of Owen's hair-pulling or pandering. Bret's ability to generate sympathy for Owen without really doing anything wrong is amazing, as is Owen's ability to negate that sympathy by being such a jackass. Depending on which side you are on, Owen comes across as talented but arrogant and needs to be put in his place, or he's arrogant but talented and deserves his chance to shine. That level of storytelling combined with near flawless execution, great selling and a grueling pace combine to make this one of the greatest matches ever. Match Rating: *****
If you highlight the match with the Rockers on the menu and press LEFT twice, you'll see an interview where Bret got the “Hitman” name from “Hitman” Hernz, who felt that Bret did good with the name. If you go to the Bulldog match and press LEFT twice, Bret talks about never injuring anyone in twenty-three years, and he was a physical wrestler.
The 411: Most of these matches are from Bret's golden years, and the quality reflects that. Outside of the Nasty Boys match, there's nothing but goodness on this disc. The matches with Mr. Perfect, Davey Boy Smith and Owen Hart are all must see matches. However, the rare matches with Steamboat, DiBiase and the Rockers are arguably even more valuable.