Bret “Hitman” Hart – In my mind the greatest wrestler ever to come out of ‘The Great White North’ Bret Hart started training in the famed basement of the Hart Home labelled “The Dungeon” (it was called that because you could hear the screams coming from the basement as the old man and the patriarch of the Hart family Stu Hart stretched would-be wrestlers past their breaking point to see if they had what it took, and because he enjoyed it). Bret had originally wanted to be a film director, though he gave up that dream to be a referee and eventually a wrestler for his Father Stu’s wrestling promotion Stampede Wrestling. Stampede was home to many future and past WWF stars like The Dynamite Kid, Jake Roberts, Bad News Allen & Bret’s future Brother-in-law- “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith. The Hart bunch was filled with not just talent, but arguably bipolarity, which Bret and his baby Brother Owen seemed to rise above. Bret would be sent to the improvised depths of Puerto Rico to gain worldwide wrestling experience, well either that or Stu was trying to see if Bret was tough enough. Astonishingly enough Bret was not knifed and returned stronger than ever.
When Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation purchased Stampede Wrestling Bret and others were the main target of interest. While in the early years of WWF Bret was nearly stuck with the awful gimmick of “Cowboy” Bret Hart, but luckily he protested and despite being a rookie was proposed a very different idea, and a tag team partner. The newly rechristened “Hitman” Bret Hart & Brother-in-law Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart would go on to join forces with Manager Jimmy Hart as The Hart Foundation. The Hart Foundation then went on to win multiple WWF Tag Team Championships together and become unquestionably one of the greatest tag teams of all time, PWI ranked them #37 in their “The 100 Best Tag Teams” of the PWI Years in 2003.
Eventually Bret’s performances were so outstanding that he began to outshine The Anvil and win over the hearts and minds of WWF fans world wide. Bret went on to win the Intercontinental Title no less than 5 times becoming one of the greatest IC Champs in WWE history. When former Rocker Shawn Michaels developed an on screen attitude and branched out as a singles star, Bret was interested in facing Shawn because he recognized he could make money having great matches with him all over the world. Bret and Shawn went on to have one of the greatest feuds in WWF history, but more on that later. Bret went on to have a classic match with Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania VIII and retain his Intercontinental gold. Then would come what Bret described as his favourite match of all time, and I have trouble disagreeing… From Wembley Stadium in the UK in front of more than 80,000 people Bret Hart would face his Brother-In-Law Davey Boy Smith in by far Smith’s greatest match of all time, that was one of my personal favourite moments as a fan. Then came another of The Hitman’s greatest moments….
On October 12 of 1992 Bret Hart would accomplish the ultimate goal for anyone in the WWF when he made Ric Flair give up to the Sharpshooter and he was was crowned new WWF Champion in his home country of Canada! The reign would not last long October to April is long these days, but not back then), but that didn’t stop Bret from stealing the show every single night he laced up his boots. He would go on to defeat both Shawn Michaels & Razor Ramon in excellent matches at the Survivor Series & Royal Rumble respectively, as well as other challengers at house shows and tv tapings. At WrestleMania in what would go down as Yokozuna’s greatest match ever Bret would fall to the mammoth Japanese native (Kayfabe). Bret Hart would go on to become the inaugural King of the Ring winner, Hart would also feud with evil commentator Jerry “The King” Lawler, culminating in Hart making Lawler kiss his very own foot, it was not exactly the WWF Title, but it was something while the WWF main event was suffering.
Bret would go on to team with his brother Owen on a regular basis in ’93- early ’94. Bret & Owen had what many consider the greatest tag team match in WWE history against The Steiner Brothers which would go over 30 minutes. At the 1993 Survivor Series Bret would inadvertently cause Owen to be eliminated from Team Hart in an elimination match, Owen was not happy so he shoved Bret. Owen would then go on to apologize to Bret and the bad would be put behind the Harts…. Then Owen did the unthinkable, during a tag team match against the Quebecers, he low bridged a charging Bret which caused him to spill to the floor and be counted out. Owen went to help Bret up after the match and kicked his leg from under the Hitman (he kicked Bret’s leg out of his leg). At Wrestlemania X in a match I labelled 5 stars Bret Hart finally fought his brother Owen in the opener, to EVERYONE’S shock Owen got the 3 count when he countered a Bret Hart Victory Roll. Bret would go on to face Yokozuna in the main event and win his second World Wrestling Federation Championship. Bret was being hoisted on shoulders and celebrated while Owen shook his head in disbelief from the aisle.
Bret would go on to have great Title defences. Then came Chicago, and SummerSlam 1994 when Owen and Bret would seemingly settle it one on one for the WWF Title inside of a 15 foot high steel cage. Now this may have been a bloodless cage match, but it didn’t stop it from being a 5 Star Classic. Bret would go onto win, but he wasn’t through with Owen just yet, as Owen would convince their mother Helen to throw in the towel while Bret was defending his WWF Title against legendary Bob Backlund in a Submission match. Bret Hart would be named Wrestler of the Year in 1994, no reasonable person who saw the year he had could ever possibly disagree.
In 1995 Bret Hart would go on a brief hiatus. When he returned Bret had excellent matches with Diesel, Hakushi, The 1-2-3 Kid & many others. Hart defeated Diesel at the 1995 in a very ‘hardcore’ No Holds Barred match to be come the 3 time WWF Champion. Bret would go on to have a dominate Championship reign packed with incredible matches. Bret would go on to face brother-in-law and now edgier British Bulldog in a bloody and physical brawl that would go down as yet another classic Bret Hart match, and arguably better than the Wembley match. After Bret got a few more successful Title defences he would go on to face his most legendary rival Shawn Michaels….
A 60 minute Iron Man Match for the WWF Championship was announced between Hart and Michaels, as the clock struck zero there were no falls. In Sudden Death Michaels was able to connect with Sweet Chin Music twice to put away the Wiley veteran Hart. Afterwards Shawn and Bret would clash (in real life) and a feud would soon begin, both on and off screen. Bret would take a leave of absence, a sabbatical of sorts to pursue his acting career and other projects.
Rebellious Steve Austin would taunt and attempt to goad Bret Hart back into the WWF throughout the Summer. Hart would return to face Austin in a #1 contenders match for the WWF Championship at the 1996 Survivor Series. Bret would go on to win with an ingenious counter similar to the way he beat Piper at WrestleMania VIII. Bret would then go on to challenge then Champion Sid, but was inadvertently costed the match by HBK who was on commentary during the match, Bret brawled with Shawn soon after.
Hart & Austin renewed their rivalry when after eliminating Austin from the Rumble (Austin was eliminated, but the referees were distracted by an outside brawl) Austin returned and eliminated Hart to win. Bret picked up the WWF Title for a fourth time when he won a Fatal Four Way for the gold. Austin soon cost Hart the title which only threw fire on their feud. At Wrestlemania 13 Austin and Hart would go on to have one of the greatest matches/fights of all time in a Submission Match, as Hart had the Sharpshooter locked in and Austin was pouring blood the Rattlesnake passed out from blood loss and a legend was born, Bret was turned on by the crowd, they were now Stone Cold fans for life.
Austin and The Hitman would continue their feud of the year as Hart would reunite the Hart Foundation to take on the morally bankrupt American way of life. In Canada the Hart Foundation were heroes, in the USA they were villains, it was one of the most unique things in the history of professional wrestling. This feud would really heat up when the Foundation beat Team USA in Calgary. This would all lead to a match between Bret Hart & The Undertaker for the WWF Title, if Hart lost he could never wrestle in the USA again, if he won he would become a 5x World Champion, when Bret spat in special guest ref Shawn Michaels’ face HBK would take a chair and swing, only Bret ducked and Taker took the shot leading to HBK reluctantly counting to three.
DX would soon form and go on to feud with Bret, the feud was personal and a lot of cheap shots were taken by both men. Everything would culminate in Montreal, as Bret Hart had Shawn Michaels locked in his own Sharpshooter Vince McMahon called for the bell, Earl Hebner gave the signal and the Montreal Screwjob had been perpetrated. Bret responded by breaking monitors and punching out Vince in the lockeroom . The story goes Vince had helped Bret sign a contract with WCW because he could not afford to pay Bret’s contract. Bret had a close in his current contract where he had creative input, he said he couldn’t lose in Montreal, Vince agreed, Vince lied.
WCW’s criminal misuse of Bret Hart made Bret bitter about taking the job, although he had a handful of great matches when he was allowed to.
When Owen died the wrestling world was shocked, but no one more so than Bret Hart. In my opinion Owen’s death was the saddest thing to ever happen in a business plagued with tragedy.
Then to make things worse not long after Bill Goldberg hit Bret Hart with the kick (Terrible worker). Bret suffered a severe concussion but sadly kept trying to work through it. When Bret was riding his bike he would fall off and have a bad stroke (as if there’s any good kind).
The first call Bret received was from Vince McMahon himself, Bret was touched (Vince was like his Father before the Screwjob). Bret would go on to make a near full recovery, but he could never take another bump again affectively ending the career of the greatest worker in WWF history.
Bret, Vince and Shawn are now on good terms.
Bret Hart is not only number 2 on my list but he is… The Best There Was, The Best There Is, And The Best There Ever Will Be.
Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog – SummerSlam ’92
Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart – WrestleMania X
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart – WrestleMania 13