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Charles (Loss)

[1993-08-30-WWF-Summerslam] Bret Hart vs Doink the Clown / Bret Hart vs Jerry Lawler

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This was all so brilliantly booked. A bait-and-switch that turned out to be a bait-and-switch in and of itself, making it not a bait-and-switch at all. I think of this as more an angle than a match, but it's a classic angle. This was the first time I'd actually seen this in full.

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Everything was pretty much awesome here, from start to finish, with Lawler great promo, to the Doink match which was really good (I hate that this was Borne's last accomplishment as Doink, the face turn killed the character), to the super stiff brawl with Lawler, to the post match. One of the greatest angle/match the WWF has booked in the 90's. I loved it from day one.

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It's a shame Bret drank too much of his own Excellence of Execution Kool-Aid, because this match and his work with Austin show that he could be a damn good brawler when he wanted to be. And his work in Memphis and his 1997 run showed his heel promo skills. I'm starting to think that Bret's true calling was as a brawling heel rather than a technical babyface.

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This is one of my golden memories from my early years of fandom, and 20 years later I still love it.

 

On commentary Heenan was on top form all match. Lawler was comic gold as well during the promo. Explaining how he'd been in a pile-up on the I95 and barely survived the fiery wreckage. Unfortunately due to a horrific knee injury he was barred from competing and Doink was his replacement. The first match was decent enough as an appetiser. Then the King comes in and nails Bret with a crutch. His knee has healed, it's a miracle! He's unfairly forced into fighting and the Hitman gains some initial revenge before tiredness sets in. Quite a hardcore edge to it with some ECW officiating from Bill Alfonso. It only went 7m and who knows how I should rank it? Afterwards Bret refuses to release the Sharpshooter and long live the King. Sports entertainment at it's finest.

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I called Bodies/Steiners match of the night for Summerslam as I viewed Hart/Doink/Lawler as one big angle. This whole thing is excellent. Lawler is fantastic throughout this whole thing from the second he pops through the curtain on crutches to the end as he is being raced to the back on a stretcher with his arm raised in victory. I get such a kick out of Bruce Hart getting a bucket of water in the face from Doink. Stu/Helen did not make show due to health issues but I wonder how they would have played into this. Doink did his part well in the initial match with Hart. As much as I've enjoyed WWF from this year, I am disappointed that Doink was not pushed more and that Borne's run is coming to an end. Lawler is wonderful as heel. Easily the best one going in WWF. Lawler looks to escape all this before Tunney shows up and the match with Bret must happen! The booking is so awesome of this whole segment. Hart gets the submission win but Lawler gets to remain King of the WWF when the decision is reversed. The perfect result for this match.

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Probably the best WWF segment of the year, since this is the type of match(es) that utterly defies a conventional star rating. This may be the best heel Lawler performance I've ever seen--his usual cheating tactics really come off as a desperate bid to survive rather than doing rote chicken shit stuff out of the Memphis Heel Wrestling Textbook. Plus said chicken shit stuff really feels fresh in a WWF setting. The set-up and initial angle is so Memphis that I suspect Lawler must have pitched it all himself. They really lay in some of the bucket and crutch shots here, giving this a distinctly non-WWF vibe. And the post-match is great, with the ring filling up with panicked officials trying to get Bret to break the hold. Bret gets a form of revenge but Lawler ultimately gets to have his hand raised, a good way to give a partial payoff while leaving the feud open to continue.

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Wrestling theater at its best. King is able to go out and do his thing and the crowd eats it up. The dynamic is superb and incredible seeing the contrast to what we all just witnessed in the MSC the night before. Heenan provides probably his last true highlight on WWF commentary giving a great performance sticking up for Lawler and the humility he displayed to even arrive at the building. The Doink vs. Hart stuff was well done and is a nice bookend to the Doink character in 1993 that could have done more with, but I am happy with what we received based on the occupational gimmick mindset that WWF was becoming at this time. The Lawler vs. Bret stuff really heats up and Lawler's tactics do have a sense of desperation to them that does rise it above his normal schtick. I thought the finish was also really well done and extended the feud displaying the strengths of both competitors. A highlight for the entire year. ****1/2

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Okay, let's take this one match at a time.

 

First, let's deal with Bret-Borne. The actual match was really good, and Matt got to show odd moves that we not only had never seen in the WWF before, but ones we didn't see too often after either. The STF and stump puller (which, miracle of miracles, Vince actually called) aren't normally holds you'd associate with the WWF, and it's a shame Matt let the STF go in favor of a regular reverse chinlock. Unlike most, I think that the original Doink gimmick, while much better off on a heel, could have been adapted to a babyface style if the right heel was programmed opposite him. I don't think Lawler was that heel, though.

 

Bret was a bit off, but that was what was called for in light of the situation, I loved how he was trying to get outside at Lawler during the first part of the match, only to settle down to the business at hand once he realized how tough Doink really was. This wasn't a classic in-ring Bret performance by a longshot, but it was good enough.

 

As far as Lawler goes, if he'd performed like this more often his WWF character have been taken a lot more seriously. We've all seen the fake injury routine, and usually it's as obvious as sunrise in the morning that the wrestler in question is faking. But Lawler plays it as close to straight as his heelish nature allows, and although it was almost certain that the injury' was a fake, the moment that he came in and let Bret have it with the crutch was still a legitimate shock to me. I thought there was a tiny chance that he'd injured his knee somehow the previous night in Memphis and they'd decided to run an angle with it and give Borne a pay-per-view payday in the process, but that (thankfully) wasn't the case.

 

The Hart brothers were a distraction we didn't need. Bruce getting water thrown in his face was a nice bit, but we could have lived without it. I wonder if that bucket of water was intended for Stu originally; he seems like the type that would have gone along with something like that. Owen was even worse; he's an active WWF wrestler, and presumably would have many chances to get back at both Lawler and Doink, so he had no business interfering in Bret's match.

 

I wasn't feeling Heenan's performance, but a lot of that's because Vince was in no mood to play straight man. Any comedian sounds like he's reaching when his audience turns a deaf ear or growls at him to stop it, and Vince was guilty of both of those. Not that that's anything new, of course. The only two WWF announcers who know how to work with Heenan well are Gino and Okerlund, and he's barely working with either of them anymore. JR's too straight, Vince is too much of a nerd, and no one else appears to have the first clue how to work with themselves, let alone anyone else. Even Bobby's terrific retelling of Lawler's "accident" got no reaction from Vince whatsoever except "What a ripoff", which had to do with the match, not what Heenan was saying. They just don't understand you anymore, Brain, and that's ​their ​fault, not yours.

 

Now for Bret-Lawler. If they'd wanted to turn Lawler face, there wasn't a better way to do it than we saw. I know all about poetic justice and whatnot, but the sharpshooter segment was too damn long, period. Heenan delivered one of his best serious performances, and he was absolutely right all the way down the line. There's no way in hell that it should have taken all those people to get Bret to release the hold, it ruins the story they were trying to tell completely.

 

It would have been better for Bret to have lost semi-clean if they were going to have Lawler go over; have one of the crutch shots put him down for good and let that be the end of it. As it stands now, it truly does​ look like every WWF referee and official was conspiring against Lawler, and that's a bad, bad look for your top babyface going forward. No wonder this issue was shoved aside both in New York and Memphis. What could they have done to rehab Bret in the WWF? And forget Memphis totally; he would have been a dead man the second he crossed the Tennessee state line and Vince knew it.

 

It was easier for Lawler to (ostensibly) turn his attention to Doink and let Bret lay low for a while, at least in terms of hot feuds. By the time the Owen issue started up later in the year, the fans had had time to digest what had happened at SummerSlam and realized that Bret had momentarily snapped. If they'd tried to continue the Lawler program right afterward, there's a good chance he'd have ended up being booed like he was against Austin in a somewhat similar situation years later, especially since Owen and Bruce didn't help matters by pounding on Lawler as he lay on the stretcher. For a second I thought they were going to be the ones who convinced Bret to release the hold, but they were more overtly heelish than Bret was, both with their whining during the match and their actions after it.

 

None of the above is to say that this wasn't a classic angle/match; it certainly was. But the story being told by the end didn't match the one framed at the beginning. It wasn't the workers' faults; they all played their parts as well as they could. But the booking had too much of an "attitude", if you will. It wouldn't surprise me if Lawler asked for some of this in order to come off as a bigger face than ever in Memphis, but he did his job too well for them to take advantage of it.

 

I forgot to mention the great psychology built around pulling down the strap. Bret did it first here, and in true Memphis fashion, it was lights out for his opponent. Even Lawler pulling his own strap down was no help for once. I'm guessing that the whole sequence was Lawler's idea, because Bret seldom if ever pulled his own straps down to signal a comeback.

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Bret Hart vs Doink The Clown Summerslam 1993

 

So building off the Lawler's beatdown of The Hitman at King of the Ring 1993 over who the real King of the Ring was they booked Bret Hart versus Jerry Lawler for Summerslam. However, you see The King was in a massive ten car pile up caused by an old blue hair and injured his knee. Heenan says on commentary that even after he pulled his own body from the fiery wreckage he saved a school bus of children! What a hero, The King Jerry Lawler is! However, he has chose a replacement his court jester, the Evil Clown, Doink! I love the Doink gimmick so much. He throws a bucket of confetti on the fans and then a bucket of water on Bruce Hart! HA! Bret tees off on Doink. Bret just murders Doink. Besides 1997, we don't get enough of this pissed off Bret. He is so great here just kicking ass. Loved him crotching Doink on top rope and then letting him fall face first. Of course, Bret is tempted to attack Lawler and this when Doink jumps him from behind. Doink is great here ramming Bret hard into the steps and then working the knee over. I love that the Evil Clown is a technical wizard using the STF and stump puller. Doink eats knees on the Whoopie Cushion! Bret tees off on Doink again and goes for the Sharpshooter and Lawler breaks the crutch over the Hitman's back! It is a miracle! I guess Bret wins this match by DQ . Love it!

 

Bret Hart vs Jerry Lawler - Summerslam 1993

 

Jerry The King Lawler is helping his buddy, Doink the Clown to the back when Jack Tunney stops him and sends him back to the ring to have the regularly scheduled match. Bret is fighting through officials to try to get to the King. Once Bret gets to him, he just murders The King with rights. This is the best Memphis match to ever take place in WWF. Just a wild, chaotic brawl. Bret bites Lawler in the head. He just throwing the punches with reckless abandon. Bret finds a crutch and breaks it over Lawler's back. The King picks up broken crutch and jabs it into the abdomen of Bret. He jabs it in the throat and chokes him with it. Lawler is great in this. So cheap and desperate, goading Owen and Bruce and just cheating at will against Bret with the crutch and ramming his balls into the post. Bret's trick knee acts up and rams Lawler in the Royal Family Jewels! Bret is great in this when he takes the strap down. There s just a look in his eyes where you actually think he might murder the King. He just conveys so much badass asskicker here. Loved the punches and PILEDRIVER!!! This is not played up enough on commentary. Bret applies the Sharpshooter and Lawler is forced to quit, but Bret wont relinquish the hold. This goes on for a while even his brothers get involved. Once he releases it we find out Jerry Lawler has won the match by disqualification making him the Undisputed King of the WWF. He leaves on a stretcher with one finger in the air. Awesome!

 

One of the all-time best WWF angles ever from the bullshit Lawler story to the great Doink match to great Bret/Lawler brawl to the bullshit finish of Lawler remaining "undisputed" King of the WWF. Lawler was at his Memphis heel best and Bret was in full asskicker moder. Really something to behold. ****1/4 for the whole kit and caboodle.

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This kicked so much ass. This whole angle/match was soooo much fun - Lawler sending Doink to fight against Bret for him, Bret & Doink had a very good little match, and Lawler did the classic heel deal where he really isn't injured. Then it was time for some Memphis comes to WWF~! - and my god, they did that in the best way possible - epic brawling w/ a great shine for Bret, then Lawler working the heat in masterful fashion. Bret looked phenomenal in this, a badass babyface kicking the asses of Lawler & Doink - and then you get Jerry Lawler, the King of Memphis himself, being the legend that he is. What a match. ****1/2

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I love reading Garretta's thoughts of the '90s set, but I think he's way off base with how Bret looked following this deal.

This has always been one of my favorite matches/angles, even though I only originally saw it on VHS over a year later. 

Rewatching it now, I was very impressed by Bret's work in the ring and as a character with this angle. Against Doink and later Lawler, he looked driven and intense, but also at times overmatched. Specifically the moment where Lawler choked him outside the ring with his crutch blew me away with how legit Hart's struggle looked. 

This sneak attack and plan by Lawler (and Doink) was only the latest insult against Bret and his family, dating back 2 months. Even disregarding the Memphis side (as we should with it never being acknowledge on WWF TV), Bret was attacked by Lawler at the KOTR and then watched his brother destroyed in a match and his parents constantly mocked, including to their faces on Raw. Bruce and Owen's presence only added, and Doink's splashing of Bruce was another tip of the iceberg.

By the time Bret put Lawler in the sharpshooter, the audience had seen him unfairly destroyed by Lawler both physically and verbally and especially considering the match looked to be over without Lawler having to get into the ring, Bret finally getting the piledriver and sharpshooter was a huge cathartic moment. 

Bret not releasing the hold felt completely different than the Austin deal 4 years later, and in fact adds a whole other level to that match. Here, Bret finally (and I mean FINALLY) got his nemesis in a place where he had total control and despite winning the match, he hadn't forgotten about the insults and more recently the beating Lawler (and Doink) had put on him. The referees and agents pleading with Bret did nothing to give Lawler sympathy. Instead, it showed the audience just how far Bret was taking his revenge, but again this is an audience that had been with Bret over the last 2 months watching Lawler constantly get the upper hand.

The audience explodes with cheers when Bret finally releases the hold, showing they were totally still on his side. And the reversal of the decision saves both men. Bret had Lawler beat completely and the fans got multiple chances to cheer. However, Lawler is able to sneak away claiming he won (which he did). His fist raise while on the stretcher at the end was perfect.

It keeps the feud going strong and the only reason it went away for a year-plus was due to Lawler's legal issues. 

If anything, I think this was one of the biggest moments in Bret's career up to this point as it showed just how much the audience adored him. Again, he wasn't acting heelish. He was a hero responding to a horrific villain and his actions led to him losing the match, not being rewarded. I think the audience respected the authenticity Bret gave the angle as it made it easy to believe (and understand) in his actions.

Just my two-sense, but like most others here, I consider this to be a hallmark of this era of the WWF and an overall highlight for my fandom.

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