Posted in: CPR Productions Ranking the Talent - Hitman's Greatest Hits
Feb 14, 2013 - 5:06:31 PM
‘Sup, Lords of Pain? Just when you have though you have seen the last of me talking about Bret Hart, I come up with the final part in the trilogy. But don’t worry Hitman fans, you can chill on the hate mail for now. This time I will be accentuating some of Bret’s positives. I mean I am sure I won’t be able to resist the odd snide comment here and there but it’s time to show him some love. Reader StuGosling suggested that the loser of the Smarks Court vote do a top ten column of the winner’s best matches. Despite the fact that Trips and I ground out a satisfying victory (despite Bret turning things around after I published the verdict!), I still liked the idea of the challenge so here we go with...
The Hitman’s Greatest Hits
It cannot be denied, even by me, that Bret Hart has got a whole host of top matches on his CV. When I got to compiling my list I wanted to make sure that I got a bit of variation. As such there is going to be a nice mix, although I will be sticking to his time in the WWF and only PPV matches. Before we get to the list though I will talk a little about the matches that didn’t make it. If you’ve read and paid attention to my previous columns on Bret you will probably have already guessed what the highest profile omission will be. I have never enjoyed the ironman match from WrestleMania 12 and I never will. The last couple of times I’ve tried to watch it I can’t even make it through. There are many others that are often bigged up which I honestly don’t see as that great. His work with Backlund, Diesel, Hakushi and Lafitte gave us matches that were good, but I certainly wouldn’t class them any higher. I do however have a few honourable mentions that haven’t made my list of ten favourite Hitman matches in their own right. I won’t go into that now though, but I will pick up on them as I go. And finally no, his match with Vince McMahon will not be appearing! So now I bring you my favourite...
TEN EXCELLENTLY EXECUTED ENCOUNTERS
10. w/ Jim Neidhart vs The Brain Busters @ SummerSlam ‘89
To be perfectly honest this match would probably fall a little outside the top ten but I think it is important to feature at least one outing from the original Hart Foundation run. There was just something simplistically beautiful about WWF’s tag division in the late 80s and early 90s. The dynamic between partners, between teams, with managers, the tag team psychology, the stories being told in the matches, it was all very basic but it worked brilliantly. The Hart Foundation were a huge part of that scene and whilst they were only with the company for a year, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard may have been the pick of the bunch. When the two teams met at SummerSlam 1989, The Busters had just won the tag titles from Demolition but their bout with the Hart Foundation would be non-title. The match was typical of the golden era of tag wrestling (#FuckYouMattHardy&Co) but an extremely good example of exactly how to have a strong tag match. It had pretty much had all the typical elements (illegal double teaming, manager interference, face-in-peril, hot tags) and as the curtain jerker, it got the PPV off to a great start. A must watch for anyone who wants to know what old-school tag team action is all about. >>>Watch Here<<<
9. vs The Undertaker @ SummerSlam ‘97
Yep, this is the same guy that said he didn’t like Bret’s work with the Deadman. Sue me. I had a debate to win! Realistically though, this match makes the list for a number of reasons but the action between the two participants is quite a long way down it. As anybody who lived through it, or anybody who has played through the Attitude Era on WWE 13 will know, this match is huge.
It just set a whole load of things in motion for what essentially would be the WWF winning the Monday Night War. For those who aren’t familiar with it all, Shawn Michaels was the guest referee whilst very much feuding with Bret. The finish saw HBK go to hit Hart with a chair but instead catching Taker before reluctantly counting the three and giving his arch enemy the WWF Championship. It would lead to Shawn taking on the Deadman in the first Hell in a Cell and the debut of Kane. That meant Michaels would go to Montreal as number one contender and we all know what happened there. So whilst this match didn’t make the list for the action, the drama involved and the sheer importance of it more than makes up for that. >>>Watch Here<<<
8. vs Shawn Michaels @ Survivor Series ‘97
Talking of Montreal! This is without a doubt one of the most important matches in wrestling history. Everybody knows about the finish. Hell, you can be pretty sure that someone is going to rehash the screw job on a yearly basis. But what a lot of people forget, and I guess some don’t even know is that before Vince came down to ringside to end the match prematurely (although to be honest, it seemed like everyone who mattered knew the finish but Bret) the two participants were putting on one hell of a brawl. Over the years it has seemed that when wrestlers genuinely don’t seem to like each other, it leads to some off the charts chemistry. Whilst the aftermath of this match would see the hatred between Shawn and Bret rise to unprecedented levels, they would never meet in the ring again meaning that this match is probably the one that has the most passion behind it. My first honourable mention of the night was a match they had five years earlier at the same event. Bret had just become WWF champ, Shawn had just become IC champ and they got thrown together pretty randomly to mop up a lot of the messes being made at the time. The action was strong, in fact I liken it in a way to the ironman match but without all the dead time. Still, there wasn’t the passion that there would be in 1997 as it wasn’t a case of the strong technician going against the strong athlete, but a straight up brawl and a great one at that. In a way it’s a shame that the ending keeps that fact in the shadows. If you don’t know anything about this encounter aside from the finish, I highly recommend you check the whole thing out. >>>Watch Here<<<
7. vs Mr Perfect @ King of the Ring ‘93
King of the Ring 1993 is an event that really set the tone for a new era (generation) in the WWF. Hogan dropped the title to Yokozuna in his last PPV for the company before heading to WCW. The night however well and truly belonged to Bret as he proved that he should be the man to take over from the Hulkster. He wrestled three matches that night, including the main event of the evening. He started out with a decent outing against Razor Ramon. He ended the night with another of my honourable mentions, beating Bam Bam Bigelow in the tournament final in an intriguing encounter. Sandwiched between these however was an all-face match up with Mr Perfect. ***SPOILER ALERT*** This isn’t the last we will see of Hennig in this countdown but in some ways this was actually superior to their higher profile encounter. The action itself was as good as you would expect to see between the two but there was a totally different layer to the match, namely Perfect being tempted back into his heelish ways to try and get the win. It adds a certain amount of drama to proceedings and gives the match an edge that it probably wouldn’t have had, no matter how good the actual wrestling on show was. If you like a match that has more going on that just the face value stuff, then this is definitely one for you. >>>Watch Here<<<
6. vs The British Bulldog @ SummerSlam ‘92
I haven’t managed to get to see a great deal of WWE live during my long stint as a wrestling fans but I am definitely proud to say that a twelve year old Mazza was in attendance at Wembley for this bad boy. I actually don’t remember too much about that day aside from those duelling “Bulldog” “Hitman” chants (guess which side I was on!). It was that atmosphere that pulled the match up a notch for me. Now don’t get me wrong, the show the brothers-in-law put on in that ring was very strong indeed but (as you can probably tell from it only coming in sixth) I don’t put it that “very greatest” category some do. That said, I have placed it on a “best of” compilation so I should probably be arguing the positives. It’s hardly groundbreaking journalism to bring up the fact that wrestlers have a history of putting on great matches with their buddies. The Kliq always seemed to take things to another level when put together and the same could be said for The Hitman. When he found himself working with or against family members, there just seemed to be an understanding (as we will see a few more times before this column is done). More importantly however, he always seemed to make his family members raise their game. Owen, Anvil and Davey all had their biggest career moments with Bret in the same ring and this was without a doubt the pinnacle for Bulldog. The Hitman put him over big time and it is a damn shame it was pretty much all for nothing in the end. >>>Watch Here<<<
5. w/ Owen Hart vs The Quebecers @ Royal Rumble ‘94
Ok, hands up if you were expecting to see this match on the list? Whilst Bret certainly did the business with guys that were banging his sisters, when it came to his little bro that chemistry was off the chart. This match was essentially the catalyst for everything that happened between the Hart Brothers in 1994. Some people will remember the match for Owen turning heel. Others will remember it for Bret being too damn selfish to tag his brother in. You should all remember it for the greatest unintentionally hilarious promo of all time...
But in reality, it deserves to be remembered as an excellent tag team match. It had all the elements needed. It had the titles on the line, it had the previously mentioned drama between the challengers that had been brewing beforehand, it had all of the hallmarks of the matches in the tag team golden era. In fact it had two of the best tag wrestlers from that era in Bret and Jacques Rougeau. The early years of the Royal Rumble PPV had a habit of throwing up great tag team encounters and none were better or more important than this one. >>>Watch Here<<<
4. vs Steve Austin @ WrestleMania 13
What can I say about this match that hasn’t been said before. It would probably be the top spot on a lot of people’s “Best of Bret” lists. Hell, it would be at the top of quite a few people’s “Best of Mania” lists too. It was without a doubt a brilliant brawl. It seems strange saying that as it was a Submission Match but it was one of those matches where logical thinking had no business being involved. Calling it the match that made Stone Cold would be a disservice to plenty of other Austin bouts but I think it would be fair to call this one the most important. Whilst the double turn may have been a mere formality at that point, it was booked extremely well and by the time it was over there was no doubt who was the heel and who was the face. The action was brutal for the most part, with the hatred the men had for each other coming through the TV screen in bucketfuls. I argued in Smarks Court against Bret’s story telling ability but if there was ever one exception it was this one. I actually believe the in-ring action was superior in their encounter half a year earlier at Survivor Series 1996 (yep, another honourable mention) but the story being told just took it to new levels. The image of Austin’s blood covered face will forever be one of the most famous in WrestleMania history but credit had to go to Bret for putting Stone Cold over so well, even though The Hitman won the match. >>>Watch Here<<<
3. vs Mr Perfect @ SummerSlam ‘91
For a long, long time, this would have been my automatic response for somebody asking me to name the best Hitman match. In fact back in the days when I would watch my WWF VHS cassettes over and over again, this classic from SummerSlam 1991 was probably second only to Savage vs Steamboat. Over the last couple of years though it has dropped back a little bit. I don’t know whether it is that I have just watched it so many times that it annoys me (not the case for the Mania III match) or if the couple of faults I find in it are deserved. The first thing that really bugs me is the speed of the finish. I would really have loved to have seen one of my favourites gut it out a bit longer in the Sharpshooter to add a bit more drama. The second thing is that since I have known just how messed up Hennig was at the time, I can’t help but notice tiny problems. Mr Perfect’s back was totally fucked going into the match (stemming from a broken tailbone) and he had actually held out just to do the job for Bret. Whilst he still put on a show better than 98% of wrestlers in the history of the company could put on, you can always tell he was not quite at 100%. Despite those tiny points (yeah, I realise the second explains the first!) this is still very much a classic that you can watch again and again, as I proved back in my younger days! >>>Watch Here<<<
2. w/ Owen, Bulldog, Neidhart and Pillman vs Austin, Goldust, Shamrock and LOD @ IYH: Canadian Stampede
I bet there weren’t a great deal of you expecting to see this in the top three. The fact is however that this is one of the most underrated matches ever from one of the most underrated PPVs ever. For those of you who have never seen it, let me set the scene for you. After the double turn at WrestleMania 13, Bret joined forces with his old running buddies to create a bigger and better version of the Hart Foundation. The feud with Stone Cold continued but the group became extremely anti-American. This had them over big time as heels in the States but they were pretty much treated like heroes in the rest of the world for telling it how it is. This dynamic was great in the US but when it came to Canada, and in particular the Hart territory of Calgary, it was out of this world. Think of Cena in places like Chicago and the Hammerstein Ballroom. Think of Hogan’s epic encounters at Manias 6 and 18. Think of some of the loudest reactions to Austin’s glass smashing. For me they all pale in comparison to the noise and passion made by the 12 thousand in the Saddledome for this match. I am generally not a fan of multiman tags that aren’t fought under elimination rules but this is most definitely the exception to the rule. Whilst a lot of professional wrestling is built on hatred, rarely has it been captured to the extent it was here between both sides and the crowd. Whilst Bret and Austin were the key players in this, another positive is that absolutely everyone involved got to shine and add their own little piece to the match, with Owen even getting the rub of rolling up Austin for the victory. With the Hart family at ringside, if you feel you want to watch them in their crowning glory for a feel good moment, this is the one you need, not WrestleMania 26. >>>Watch Here<<<
1. vs Owen Hart @ WrestleMania X
And we finally make it to number one. The word clinic gets thrown around a lot in wrestling but never has it been more apt than here. Back when I started my life as a reviewer in the Lords of Pain Columns Forum, this was the first ever match to get that elusive A+ grade from me. When discussing the greatest matches in WrestleMania history this is always one of the first that spring to mind. There was a whole lot going on at WrestleMania X but for me the only story of the night was the game of one upmanship between the Harts and the Kliq. Michaels, Hall and B&Q’s finest quickly became the second match to get an A+ nod from me but looking back there is a difference. HBK and Razor got plus points for the innovation on show in their ladder match and whereas I will take this type of ladder match over the all spotfest and no storyline ones, it would be taken to new heights later. Owen and Bret on the other hand had a wrestling match which, just like Savage and Steamboat before them, will stand the test of time. It’s hard to believe that it is getting on for twenty years old now. It is definitely one for the purists out there. There’s very little in the way of unnecessary flash, just great wrestling hold for hold, counter for counter between two guys who knew each other inside out. It is a perfect curtain jerker in that there isn’t a great deal hype around it. They would get the chance to have a more main event style battle in a cage at SummerSlam that year (and the final honourable mention) which told a story to a level not many can inside any kind of steel structure (the Game of course is excluded from that). This is the height of their matches together for me though. Hell, it’s the height of all Bret’s matches in my eyes. Just like the last match on this list, little bro would take the glory but whilst he would have to wait until summer for his main event, big bro would get it that same night against Yokozuna, taking home the WWF title into the bargain. But it was how the night started, and not how the night ended which would be the highlight of not only WrestleMania X, but of the whole of the New Generation era. >>>Watch Here<<<
So there we have it peeps. I can’t believe I made it all the way through without calling Bret a whiny crybaby. Ooops. Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed my look at my ten favourite Hitman matches. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts. What would you have had at number one? Which less obvious matches would make your top ten? Where would you have put the ironman match? You can use the handy little comments boxes below, hit me up on Twitter or let me know on the CPR Productions Facebook page (linked below). I shall be back at some point in the future, probably with a Triple H version of this column and I will also be looking to get started on a new Smarks Court. In the meantime, be sure to pop by the Columns Forum where the NXT competition is really hotting up. Until next time, Peace!