Welcome To The Vault! In This Edition, Harry Simon Goes Back To Yesteryear To Bring Us Bret "Hitman" Hart!
Time period covered: 1993-1994
Hosts: Gorilla Monsoon & Johnny Polo
Gorilla & Johnny opened the show. Polo tries waaaaaaay too hard to get himself over. They briefly breezed over the long-running feud between Bret Hart and Jerry Lawler, leading to…
1) Bret Hart b Jerry Lawler at 11:22 total time [9/29/93]. You know, Lawler has had the same theme music the longest out of anyone on the current WWE roster (11 years and counting). Before it was his, it belonged to “King” Harley Race, which ironically enough, was the catalyst for Lawler suing the WWWFE back in the 80s (Jerry has “King” trademarked for wrestling purposes). Anyway, Lawler insulted the crowd and ripped on Helen Hart until Bret’s music cut him off. Oddly, Bret threw his sunglasses to a kid at ringside from the ring, instead of employing his usual custom of personally placing them on a youngster’s head. Lawler was right, those fans really WERE fugly! Opening moments consisted of Lawler running from Bret and overselling everything. Bret led the crowd in a chant of “Burger King.” Lawler took so many powders, his name might as well have been “Curt Hennig.” That’s right, I went there. Bret didn’t really go after King, despite the fact that they were in a hostile bloodfeud. The hell? Lawler poked Bret with a handy foreign object and took over on offense. Lawler was just plain awesome as a heat machine, which was no easy task back in the Indictment Years of VinceyTown. Lawler even took the mic and said “Since you people think I’m a Burger King, I’m fixin’ to give the Hitman a whopper!” Lawler was such a great heel – even here, years after his prime – it makes me hate the obnoxious lech who sits next to JR on Monday nights just that much more. Lawler’s “whopper” came in the form of a nice piledriver for a nearfall. Usually, Bret could sell ice to an Eskimo, but he recovered WAAAAAY too quick from the piledriver, long pushed as one of the most devastating moves in wrestling (both work and shoot). Bret started a comeback, leading to referee Tim White taking a mini-bump off Bret’s elbow while Bret was pummeling Lawler in the corner. Lawler hit Bret with his crown and put his feet on the ropes to pin Bret at 8:33. Lawler split, and a second ref ran-in to explain what happened to White. Banshee ring announcer Mike McGurk said that the match would continue and that if Lawler did not return to the ring, he’d be suspended. From there, Bret just pounded on Lawler until Lawler whipped him in and went for a backdrop, which Bret turned into a small package for the pin. Bret continued hammering on Lawler and went for the sharpshooter, but the refs stopped it, allowing Lawler to take one final Hennig. This match only had three things wrong with it, but they were enough to be a cred-killer. 1) The part where Lawler actually pinned Bret. I hate crap like that, because it makes the babyface look weaker than Eazy-E’s immune system. 2) Like I said, Bret should have been more aggressive in going after Lawler considering their history. 3) The way-too-quick recovery from the whopperdriver. These guys were better than this. (Mike)
2) Shawn Michaels (w/ Diesel) b Bret by DQ at 7:42 [1/12/94]. Ah, business, she has picked up. These two were the two best workers in the company at this point, and arguably, the two best workers in the world. No matter what they thought of each other personally, you can’t tell me that each of these guys secretly relished the opportunity to be in the ring with the only other guy in the company who could hold up their end of a four-star match. Now imagine if these two had actually LIKED each other. If they were both on the same page, I truly believe that Bret-Shawn would have been wrestling’s greatest feud EVER. The thing I loved about this match was that when you get right down to it, they were doing the most basic of spots (armdrags, atomic drops, clotheslines, etc), but the timing was so bang-on that everything hit perfectly and the crowd ate it up with a spork. Bret started the dreaded “Five Moves Of Doom,” getting a nearfall with each one. Bret went for a reverse-rollup, but Shawn outmaneuvered him, sending him to the outside. Diesel posted Bret and tossed him back in the ring. Shawn went for a piledriver, but Owen Hart ran-in and broke it up for the DQ. This match was taped days before Owen’s official heel turn on Bret at RR94. Too short, and it had a screwjob finish, but it was great while it lasted, and they do make up for lost time later in the video. (Kerry)
Next was a special package highlighting some of the more memorable, significant wins of Bret’s career. They showed the finishes of Bret’s first IC title win (over “Mr. Powder” Curt Hennig at SummerSlam 91), the first ladder match in WWF history (Bret beat Shawn to retain his IC title in 1992), and Bret’s first World title win (over Ric Flair on 10/12/92).
Coming out of that package, there was a strange exchange btween Gorilla and Polo. The lads were debating the importance luck plays in one’s career. Polo said, “Even a blind pig can find an acorn, you know.” Gorilla said, “I understand that.” He did???
3) Bret b IRS at 13:19 [2/1/94]. IRS came out and called Bret Hart a “tax cheat, (according) to his own brother, Owen.” Um, Canadians don’t have to worry about the IRS. IRS (the wrestler) has always been a paradox to me. I know that he knows his stuff and he’s fundamentally as sound as anyone who’s ever been in a WWWFE ring, but the guy was just so unforgivably boring, that overshadowed any positives about the guy. Stupid but true: Pro Wrestling Illustrated used to have a feature called “Scouting Report” where it would analyze the three biggest strengths and weaknesses of a wrestler’s game. When they did one on IRS (back when he was simply Mike Rotundo), they were so strapped for something nice to say about him that they actually listed “excessive perspiration” as one of his strengths. They pointed to his sweatiness as giving him a natural biological edge that allowed him to slip and slide out of the holds of his opponents. I swear on Chasey Lain’s body of work that I am not making this up. Anyway, this was a slow-paced match that saw announcers Gorilla and Stan Lane chastise IRS for “taking the easy way out” by using the ropes to break various Bret holds, as if that’s dishonorable. Whatthehellever, guys. They did the foreign object bit again, allowing IRS to work over Bret’s leg. Bret sold the leg like a pro’s pro. Anyone who ever thinks of becoming a pro wrestler should watch as much tape of Bret as they can possibly find. Creative spot came when IRS laced the leg into a pinning position from a stand, while holding the ropes for leverage. This segued into an IRS headlock. Gorilla at first logically wondered why IRS gave up on the injured leg, then redeemed himself by suggesting that Bret has never submitted, so IRS probably thought that a submission win was “out of the question.” On the other side of the broadcast booth, however, Lane was tongue-tied and kept calling Hart, “Bretman.” Bret came back and started the 5MOD, all the while limping around and selling that leg. Told ya. IRS finally went back to the leg and pitched Bret outside. The now-heel Owen Hart snuck down to ringside and started taunting Bret. Here’s some great Coliseum Continuity for you: Even though this match only took place 19 days after the previous one, Owen had made his aforementioned heel turn at RR94, not that you’d know it from the commentary, as it was never mentioned that Bret and Owen were now on opposite sides of the Hart House fence. So Owen went from helping Bret to attacking Bret in the space of a few minutes with no explanation whatsoever. Those poor new fans watching this video had to be confused as hell. Owen threw Bret back in the ring and mounted the apron. Bret ducked an IRS clothesline and collided with Owen, sending the “Rocket” to the floor. IRS caught Bretman in a reverse-rollup, but Bret reversed it for the pin. There was kind of a funny moment during the finish when Bret instinctively reached to pull the tights, then remembered he was a babyface, so he reversed it cleanly for the three-count. Excessive perspiration didn’t help you there, Irwin. Good match that told a story. (David)
Back in the studio, Gorilla asked Polo how he, as a manager, would help Bret prepare for a match with Yokozuna. Polo quipped, “I’d make him give me 20 percent.” Okay, that was a good line.
Time for the first exclusive interview with Bret, who talked about his first post-WM10 title defense against Yoko. Bret put over Yoko and talked about work ethic and what it takes to get to the top of the mountain. When Bret was inspired, his promos were delivered with an undeniable intensity and straight-edge credibility like nobody’s business.
4) Bret b Adam Bomb (w/ Johnny Polo) at approximately 11:37 (no opening bell) [8/31/93]. To open this match, Polo (who was wearing swimmer’s gear) looked into the camera and said Bret was “a personal friend of Ronald McDonald.” Even Stan Lane was confused by that one. Here’s a great example of Bret being a one-man show. This told a simple but effective story as Bomb kept powering out of Bret’s holds. The point was proven and Bret bumped like a pinball, making Bomb look like a million bucks. Bomb is unfairly criticized for some reason. He wasn’t Rick Steamboat or anything, but for a big guy, he wasn’t nearly as bad as the Nashes or Sids of the world. He had the last great “wrestler name” ever created, too. The match was all Bomb until Bret stopped a charge with a boot to the face and a picture-perfect flying bulldog off the second rope. Bret started the 5MOD, but missed the diving forearm. Bomb gave Bret a hanging choke and went to the top rope, but Bret was playing possum and threw him off. Bret locked in the sharpshooter and Bomb submitted. Four matches into the tape and the star finally wins with his finisher. Well, as of this match, he’s already beaten Jake The Snake and tied George Steele for number of wins on one’s own video. (David)
5) Bret b Kwang (w/ Harvey Wippleman) at 7:48 [4/11/94]. Bret was on his second World Title reign during this match, but he didn’t wear the belt to the ring and no mention was made of it. Um, so I guess this was a non-title match. Gorilla praised Kwang for being “very firepluggish.” Um, okay. Lane pointed out that this was Kwang’s first match on Coliseum Video. Gorilla added, “But it won’t be his last!” There’s no need for threats, Gorilla. Bret did what he could here, but Kwang sucked wang. In all fairness to the guy (who had greater fame as both TNT and Savio Vega), the “ninja” shtick severely limited what he could do, as he was pretty much confined to chops, kicks, and snooze-inducing “nerveholds.” Bret inside-cradled Kwang, but Harvey tied up the referee. If you know the difference between an inside cradle and a small package, then you, sir or madam, are a better being than I. Things picked up when Bret finally made his comeback and rolled into the 5MOD, ending with Kwang submitting to the sharpshooter. It even woke up the crowd. The match was good when Kwang was bumping for Bret, but it couldn’t make up for the first six minutes. (Mike)
Time for a second candid interview with Bret. This one emanated from up in the arena while a match was going on. Bret talked about how much pride he took in being a two-time World champion and talked about how it seemed like the gold was getting further and further away, but his fans gave him the support to regain the big prize. Bret pulled back the curtain to show a full arena enjoying a match. Bret talked about how these were the people he worked for. He spoke both with great humility and strong conviction, and pulled it off. Maybe Bret was never a media darling like Hulk Hogan or The Rock, but he had a connection with his fans that no one can touch. He still does. I defy anyone to watch this tape and tell me that Bret wasn’t a good promo.
Next was a feature showing the final minutes from all three of his matches at the 1993 King Of The Ring tournament (beating Razor Ramon, Hennig, and Bam Bam Bigelow, respectively). This was put over huge, and rightly so. This was the biggest push any one wrestler got on PPV since Randy Savage went 4-0 at WM4. Not-so-coincidentally, KOTR93 was one of the best PPVs of all time. Then they showed a clip of Lawler attacking Bret during the coronation
6) Bret b Shawn (w/o Diesel) in a cage match by escaping the cage at 11:36 [12/1/93]. Gorilla said it was a non-title match because Shawn “didn’t want to put his IC Title on the line.” Just as well, seeing as how Shawn wasn’t the IC champion at this point (Razor was). Since Bret didn’t hold a title at this point either, I guess technically, it WAS a non-title match, but still, you’re a putz, Gorilla. Shawn attacked Bret coming into the cage and started fast, until Bret caught an attempted dropkick and slingshot Shawn into the cage.
You know, I really thought I could get through this tape without finding any Montreal “Easter eggs” in here. Not so. Polo did color on this match, and suggested that cage matches should only be won by escaping over the top. Gorilla suggested that he fly to Toronto to pitch this idea to WWF President Jack Tunney. Polo started ripping on Canada, then caught himself and said that he “likes Montreal, Quebec” (Polo was managing The Quebecers at this point). Anyway, the two took turns trying to dive out the cage door, until Shawn stopped Bret and slingshot him throat-first into the bottom rope. Shawn tried to escape over the top, but Bret pulled him back in by his hair. Polo pointed out that “if Shawn had a buzzcut, he’d have won the match right there.” Rule of the Romans, kids. In any war, the side with the shortest haircuts always won (History according to Arnold J. Rimmer). Shawn crotched Bret on the top rope, but when he went for the door, Bret return-crotched him on the second rope. Shawn tapped Bret with a superkick, and by “tapped,” I mean “touched very, very lightly.” Ordinarily, I’d bitch about showing light, but the storyline was that the cage match took so much out of the guys, it was all they could do to do anything in there. Shawn did the slow climb, but Bret caught up with him and kicked him loose in a great spot. Then Bret climbed for it, but Shawn came back with a burst of energy and ran all the way across the ring, leaping up to grab Bret and yank him back down to earth. Awesome spot. Shawn slapped on a sleeper while Polo sang. Badly. Scott Levy is one of the sharpest, most creative minds in the biz , but good God almighty did the guy ever suck on color commentary. Anyway, Bret ran Shawn into the cage to break the sleeper. Both guys climbed and straddled the cage, slugging it out on top of the cage. Shawn was two steps ahead of Bret as they neared the finish line, but Bret clocked Shawn, causing HBK to feed his leg through the cage and get it tied up in the ropes, hanging upside down. The crowd went nuts, and Bret landed on the floor for the win. The finish got over with the crowd so well, they did the same finish for the famous Bret-Owen cage match at SummerSlam 94. Michaels was the undisputed king of gracefully getting himself tangled up in wrestling rings. Excellent cage match between two of the best ever in their primes. It doesn’t get much better than this. (Kerry)
7) Bret b Yokozuna (w/ Jim Cornette & Mr. Fuji) to win the World Title at 10:33 [WM10, 3/20/94]. Roddy Piper was special referee. These two had their timing down to a science and worked the “lionheart vs. big bully” match as well as anyone, second only to Sting vs. Vader, IMO. Plus this match had the backstory of Bret coming off a grueling opening match against Owen, during which he suffered a re-aggravation of the leg injury that led to the Hart Boyz’ loss in the Tag Title match at RR94 (which subsequently caused Owen to turn on Bret). Meanwhile, Yoko was reasonably fresh, as heel ref Coke Hennig screwed Lex Luger in Yoko’s first match of the evening. Bret was beyond awesome as the scrappy fighter who never backed down. Bret covered Yoko after dropping him with a series of rights, but Cornette pulled Piper out of the ring to stop the count. Hot Rod decked James E., prompting a brief chant of “Roddy” from the MSG crowd. Yoko dropped his plop on Bret in the world’s scariest legdrop. I still can’t figure out how he did that move without legitimately killing guys. Yoke pitched Bret over the top rope, and Bret just barely beat the count back in. I think they were banking on a Japanese-style pop for that tease, but it didn’t happen. It’s kinda tough for me to watch this match and see Yoko headlining one of the biggest shows in company history, knowing that four years later, he was broke and living out his days in a crappy motel in Las Vegas. Yoko missed a charge and Bret hit the flying bulldog off the second rope for a nearfall. The crowd was creaming for Bret. The diving forearm got another nearfall, as did a sweet flying clothesline. Piper deserves a lot of credit for upping the drama quotient in this match. Yoko stopped Bret cold by catching him off the second rope and squashing him with the world’s biggest belly-to-belly suplex. Yoko set Bret up for a Banzai drop, but lost his balance and fell backwards off the ropes, crashing to the mat. Bret hooked the leg and got the pin. The place came unglued. I dunno, I hated that finish 10 years ago and I hated it today. Bret won the main event of the biggest show in company history (at that point) because Yoko fell to earth Shockmaster-style. That didn’t put over Bret as the better wrestler; it was a flukey upset type finish. The rest of the match was damn good, though. (David)
Time for the final backstage interview with Bret. Bret was waving goodbye to the boys off-camera, saying “Razor, call me in the hotel later.” Lovvvvvvve…exciting and newwwwwww…come aboarrrrrrrrrrrrrd…we’re expecting youuuuuuuuu… Anyway, Bret talked about giving 100% and put over the famous SummerSlam 92 match with Davey Boy Smith as one of his finest, even though he lost. Bret used one of his lesser-known catchphrases, “Winning and losing, both are confusing.” A nice little interlude, but this was the last time we’d see Bret on his tape, so him talking about a loss seemed kind of a weird note to go out on. Worse, they didn’t show any clips from the classic match at Wembley Stadium.
Back to the studio, where Gorilla and Johnny bid us farewell. JP puts himself over one last time. Christ, Scotty, just overdose and die already.
Final WLD record for The Hitman on his own video = 6-1-0
Overall over-analysis: I’d like to mention that out of the two hours on this video, 74 minutes were in-ring action. Ahhhh, the good old days. The Kwang match was a waste of time, but this thing is worth a look for the Shawn Michaels matches alone, if nothing else. Hey, I make no apologies for being a huge Bret mark, and this tape is full of reasons why. More than just entertaining matches (though it had those, too), this tape is a great learning tool. Bret brought a believability to his matches the likes of which not seen in anyone outside of the upper echelon of Kurt Angles, Chris Benoits, Dean Malenkos and Eddie Guerreros of the world. A must-see.
This Observer’s Thumb…………..is WAY up.
Match dates courtesy of www.prowrestlinghistory.com
THE TWF "MENTAL WELLNESS TEST!"
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).