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Charles (Loss)

[1994-03-20-WWF-Wrestlemania X] Bret Hart vs Owen Hart

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Watching wrestling in the way I've been watching it on these yearbooks, where U.S. wrestling typically suffers the most is not in the offense on display, or that the matches aren't given enough time, or that the psychology isn't as good, or that the crowd isn't as involved. Nothing like that. The biggest issue is that wrestlers don't hit each other very hard. Seeing Kawada kick someone really hard in the face, then watching a Shawn Michaels match filled with lots of rope running, leapfrogs, inside cradles, etc., the kick has a lot more impact. That's not to say U.S. guys haven't had great matches, and it's not to say there haven't been some pretty snug U.S. matches, like Vader vs Sting for example. But the lack of laying shots in is the biggest difference. Clotheslines don't look as good. Chops don't look as good. Strikes don't look as good.

 

So with that in mind, I was expecting to come into this match and not hold it in as high regard as I have in the past. I thought I'd see it as a good match, but one that felt "soft", too finesse-y and lacking aggression. I have seen this match probably two dozen times. If I had to name my 10 most watched matches ever, this is probably in the top five, maybe even the top two or three. I've seen it enough that I can call most of the spots before they happen. There was nothing here that I had forgotten -- except how great this match is.

 

It's not that they're hitting each other really hard. It's that they're having a great wrestling match. It's that Bret's selling is on display and Owen's offense is on display. I don't know if they're laying their stuff in. It really doesn't matter, because everything they do looks really good. It also works really well as a first match in a feud. Owen needed to win to keep the feud going. People needed to think he could beat Bret. But they also needed to think he got lucky. The point they were selling here was that Owen could beat Bret if Bret didn't take him seriously, or had his guard down on a bad night. And they did a great job of making that point. It almost feels like a waste of time in some ways to walk through everything I liked about the match. Part of that is because it seems so self-evident, and maybe I assume that everyone has seen it as many times as I have. But Owen showboating and Bret outwrestling him and Owen's gut check, leading to back and forth wrestling with each guy getting his shots in, leading to Owen getting a lucky break when Bret injured his knee diving to the outside, leading to Owen doing some great work on Bret's knee, leading to Bret teasing a comeback, leading to Owen beating him just by shifting his weight in a basic wrestling rollup by Bret, is just spot on. I think the progression, the way one thing leads so smoothly to another, is the best part of this. It has been pointed out before that Bret likes to work his matches as a series of five-minute mini-matches stitched together and this is definitely a case of that.

 

As much as I like the Austin matches, I don't think this decimates them by any means. But I do think that this was the finest hour for both Bret and Owen -- the best match either guy ever had.

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As a REALLY young kid (still young, but younger) I thought this was the greatest match I'd ever seen. Even when it fell out of favour of that I thought it was the best WWE match ever. I haven't seen it in YEARS, but it's cool to see someone say it's Bret Hart's best match. It'll be interesting to me where this lands on your top 100 of the year (assuming you're still doing that). Pretty eager for a re-watch myself.

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Loved your review for this Loss. I remember buying the WrestleMania X VHS master from a pawn shop when I was a kid. I think it might be the match I've watched the most. I saw it a few years ago on Bret's DVD, and was happy to see how well it holds up. I agree that the progression and flow of this match is just perfect.

 

I remember reading online like 10 years ago that Bret and Owen had a totally different match planned for WMX. Basically, that the match they were working on throughout the house show circuit was different. I think the story goes, that the week of WMX, they decided that the match they had wasn't hitting the right note so they came up with this new lay out a few days before WMX. I don't remember if Bret discussed it in his book, and I lent out the book to a good friend so can't look it up right now. Anyone remember the details or know what I'm talking about?

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incredible review Loss!

 

 

Watching wrestling in the way I've been watching it on these yearbooks, where U.S. wrestling typically suffers the most is not in the offense on display, or that the matches aren't given enough time, or that the psychology isn't as good, or that the crowd isn't as involved. Nothing like that. The biggest issue is that wrestlers don't hit each other very hard. Seeing Kawada kick someone really hard in the face, then watching a Shawn Michaels match filled with lots of rope running, leapfrogs, inside cradles, etc., the kick has a lot more impact. That's not to say U.S. guys haven't had great matches, and it's not to say there haven't been some pretty snug U.S. matches, like Vader vs Sting for example. But the lack of laying shots in is the biggest difference. Clotheslines don't look as good. Chops don't look as good. Strikes don't look as good.

I remember you alluding to this in the 95 yearbook. Specifically during the Pillman-Badd match at Fall Brawl. Even WCW, which was known for a stiffer style had dialed back considerably. I'm guessing it was the influence of Hogan on the company. Or maybe Bischoff just wanted to copy the WWF style. Interesting point and probably a reason ECW stood out in the US with all the nasty bumps and stiff shots. It's amazing how light Shawn was working during this time in retrospect. Scott Hall may not have been a great worker but his punches looked great and stood out in this era.

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Fantastic review Loss!

 

One thing I'd like to add is that i love the finish. When Bret goes for the Victory Roll, you instantly flashback to the KOTR finals against Bam Bam, and knowing thats how Bret won that match, you think he has this one sown up. And of course he doesn't. Thats how you swerve the audience in a good way. Something Russo never grasped.

 

Anyway its that call back to a previous match that reminds you that wrestling is one long ongoing interconnected fabric. I love that stuff.

 

I also think this match really kicked off one of the greatest long running stories in WWF history.

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I actually don't love stiffness in my matches. All things equal I'd probably prefer less snugness than more. It's supposed to be fake. Everything is just a symbol. In 2012 I cringe when they're really laying it in. I guess I just don't have the stomach anymore or something. I'll take coherence over believably any day.

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Stiffness has never been particularly important to me, but it has been such a noticeable difference in American and Japanese styles that I can't help but say something about it. It's something I pay more attention to than I did before I started watching yearbooks for sure. I think more than stiffness, the element of danger and the idea that wrestling looks like it hurts and the guys are tough is probably an even bigger deal than how much they are laying shots in. Japan has more asskickers at this point. The WWF has fun characters, but not really a ton of scary guys who will knock you into next week. So the aggression is amped up a lot in Japanese matches, and the stiffness is just one way that manifests itself.

 

Lucha guys work even lighter than American guys, but the style still feels more credible much of the time because of the heavy emphasis on matwork. I'm finding a shift in the guys that I like more toward guys who feel imposing or seem like a threat -- not just in how they look, but how they work. Not to keep going back to Shawn, but I think that's exposed him more than anything. He's a great exaggerated bumper and he's excellent at pacing a match. But he has almost no offense.

 

There is more than one way for a wrestler to be great, but the angriness and aggression -- or at least the ability to tie someone in knots on the mat -- tends to be what I favor the more wrestling I watch. Shawn Michaels isn't a tough guy. He's an exciting guy. Owen Hart isn't exactly a tough guy either, but Owen Hart has more offense that looks like it hurts and is better at working holds. Michaels gets compared to Flair a lot, but Flair had great fundamentals. His punches always looked really good, so did his kicks and his chops. He also sold himself and his programs so well as an interview that he was still worth watching. Steamboat doesn't have a ton of offense either, but his gracefulness gives him credibility. And most of his matches have him working from underneath, so because he can sell, outpace his opponent and surprise them with pinfall attempts from so many directions, that's where his cred comes from. More than anyone, Ricky Steamboat is always three seconds from winning a match. Austin at this point was a guy who would take his opponent down to the mat and punish him. Vader -- yeah, Vader was a monster. So yeah, I really like that in guys these days more than someone whose primary gimmick is that they dazzle and excite.

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From Bret Hart's recent interview on the Score (via Wrestling Inc.):

 

On his match with his brother, Owen Hart, at WrestleMania X: "The beauty of the match with Owen was that Owen was such a great high-flyer. We were just walking through how he was going to switch and become a heel character now. Over the last few weeks, we sort of strategized and put together a pretty nice match for me and Owen at WrestleMania.

 

"But I realized on the day before we left for WrestleMania that the match was too polished and too nice. They would have begun cheering Owen and he would have become a babyface. It wasn't advancing his villain role at all. So, I remember talking to Owen and telling him. The day before we left, I called him up and said to meet me at my dad's dungeon.

 

"We met down there and we just sat and stared at each other, sitting there. I think Owen was wondering why I called him up. I said, 'Owen, we got to change the whole match. You've got too many nice moves. You've got all these aerial moves. After a while, they're going to start cheering you. Then being a villain is not going to work out for you. We have to come up with more ways to make you more vicious and more dislikable.'

 

"So, we just altered the match. We took the whole match that we originally had and scrapped it and came up with a different match that paved the way for Owen to become the villain that he was over the next nine months. 'Cause that was critical, for Owen have them accept him as the bad guy. So, being the older, bigger brother, it was easy for me to lose my momentum and let Owen get stuck being the good guy and they're cheering for him over me. But that wasn't what the story line called for so we had to kind of tweak it a little bit and make sure that our characters were what they needed to be at the end of the match."

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Steamboat doesn't have a ton of offense either, but his gracefulness gives him credibility. And most of his matches have him working from underneath, so because he can sell, outpace his opponent and surprise them with pinfall attempts from so many directions, that's where his cred comes from. More than anyone, Ricky Steamboat is always three seconds from winning a match.

So how does this set him apart from Michaels?

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I know you were asking Loss, but:

 

1) Michaels didn't go for quick pins as often as Steamboat.

 

2) Michaels spent much of his pre-injury singles career (including 1994) working heel, a role in which those attributes aren't as useful as they are when working face.

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Steamboat doesn't have a ton of offense either, but his gracefulness gives him credibility. And most of his matches have him working from underneath, so because he can sell, outpace his opponent and surprise them with pinfall attempts from so many directions, that's where his cred comes from. More than anyone, Ricky Steamboat is always three seconds from winning a match.

So how does this set him apart from Michaels?

 

Bolded parts.

 

Steamboat doesn't have a ton of offense either, but his gracefulness gives him credibility. And most of his matches have him working from underneath, so because he can sell, outpace his opponent and surprise them with pinfall attempts from so many directions, that's where his cred comes from. More than anyone, Ricky Steamboat is always three seconds from winning a match.

I'll also add that Michaels matches weren't really laid out with lots of quick pins Steamboat-style during this time.

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At the risk of sidetracking this thread (feel free to break it off), I don't know that Steamboat was significantly more graceful than Shawn. For one thing, I always thought his overhead chop from the top rope looked goofy as hell. And saying that Shawn didn't work from underneath enough strikes me as a rather novel criticism. The most common complaint is that he spent most of the match getting his ass kicked and then Jesused up and made the comeback. It's true that he didn't get as many flash pins as Steamboat (although he did go for quite a few), but that's countered somewhat by the fact that he had the Sweet Chin Music as his great equalizer.

 

I'll have a detailed review of Bret/Owen in my ***** match thread, but I'll just start by saying that it's great. The Austin matches are better, but it's still easily a top ten match in WWF/E history.

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This is why I was hesitant to respond to that thread. Because there is no answer I can provide that is anything but subjective, and it'll turn Bret/Owen into a five-page thread about Shawn. The Internet has enough of those.

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Isn't this the match where Owen puts the submission on the wrong leg? I guess they skipped over that part in the Dungeon ;) I'll always adore this match. It was pretty much the reason why I got back into wrestling when my buddy and I rented it one night for kicks.

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At the risk of sidetracking this thread (feel free to break it off), I don't know that Steamboat was significantly more graceful than Shawn. For one thing, I always thought his overhead chop from the top rope looked goofy as hell. And saying that Shawn didn't work from underneath enough strikes me as a rather novel criticism. The most common complaint is that he spent most of the match getting his ass kicked and then Jesused up and made the comeback. It's true that he didn't get as many flash pins as Steamboat (although he did go for quite a few), but that's countered somewhat by the fact that he had the Sweet Chin Music as his great equalizer.

 

I'll have a detailed review of Bret/Owen in my ***** match thread, but I'll just start by saying that it's great. The Austin matches are better, but it's still easily a top ten match in WWF/E history.

I thought I'd come back to this. Shawn during this time period was a heel. The Jesusing up comeback is a latter day Michaels thing. At this point, he controlled most of his matches, but was content to sit in a chinlock more than is remembered. I do think Michaels and Steamboat are similar wrestlers, but I also think 1994 Steamboat was a better wrestler than 1994 Michaels. The biggest reason is that Shawn working heel just didn't have the aggression to go with the excitement, and his stuff didn't look crisp next to the stuff Steamboat did. The ladder match - Shawn's signature match of '94 - is the exception to that, but he is also working with a weapon.

 

I'm not someone who's afraid to criticize Steamboat. Steamboat didn't have a ton of offense and didn't always work matches that fit the storyline. But Steamboat's stuff just looked much better than Shawn's.

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If we're talking strictly 1994 Shawn, then I agree. It took him another year or so to become a complete wrestler. A big part of that was his moveset being more suited for working babyface, but I think his stuff looked more impactful as well. I also agree with the broader point. I very much prefer guys whose main goal is hurting or otherwise defeating their opponent over ones whose main goal is putting on a show.

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I never understand the view that the Ladder match stole the show when you had this bout leading off the PPV! I've seen this many times now and it still is one of my favorite matches. My match of the year though I'm still keeping an open mind to some of the later stuff to appear on the yearbook. We get the great video history before hand.

 

Owen's celebrating of tie up is great. He is real cocky here and takes a lot of control in the match. The moves are so crisp and Owen hits one of the best looking German suplexes. Owen has a great moveset variety. Never really taken the view that Bret took Owen lightly in this match. Maybe that is the Owen fan in me believing he cleanly won here. Bret injuring his knee is a momentum change and Owen quickly pounces. Bret takes back control towards the end looking to put away Owen.

 

Not a fluke type pinfall victory for me. Bret had used the victory roll previously in matches and I think Owen does a great job of expertly blocking the move and getting the pin. Crowd is pretty shocked at that one. I didn't get to watch this match until couple months after the show so was well aware of outcome. Even then, this match provided a great mark out moment for me seeing Owen win.

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I'm still pretty sure this is the best opening match to a PPV i can ever recall. It's just an excellent wrestling match. The story told here is very clear. Bret's selling is top notch and Owen puts on a performance of a lifetime that is evident right off the bat with his hilarious mockery of a collar and elbow tie up. Hell, Owen almost can't believe he beat Bret afterwards as he has to check with Hebner to make sure it's a reality. Personally, I might take Bret-Austin from SS but this is easily a top three Bret match ever.

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One of my favorite matches ever and holds up every time. Everything I think is just so perfect from the work to the setting to the announcing. Lawler was at his heel commentating best adn Vince was great in given Owen credit when it was deserved. An overall awesome match and my MOTY for the time being.

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Just saw this again and I think Loss was dead on. We KNOW this match is good, but you sort of forget how good it is.

 

It tells such a great story with Owen going cheap immediately and brazenly, with him capitalizing on the back and then the neck and then the leg at each absolutely logical and compelling opportunity while Bret fights back with these great comebacks that Owen cuts off so well. Bret sells on offense. Both guys stuff looks so good. Owen is a king at heeling it up and it's all completely believable while Bret just lays it into him when he gets the chance. They play up the fact that both guys knows each other so well and there are callbacks both within the match (the second attempt of a dragon screw for one) and to both the royal rumble with Bret's leg which was such a big part of the feud and to King of the Ring with the reversed victory roll which the move a desperate Bret had used to beat Bam Bam in the finals. Add in the backstory and the hot crowd and the lingering stakes for both wrestlers and it's just such a well-worked, well-put together match.

 

It sort of amazes me how quickly Owen (especially with his repertoire of high flying offense) was able to work so deep and thorough and believable a heel so soon after he turned for the first time in his career, especially when he was on so big a stage.

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FWIW, this match stood out to me way, way more than the ladder match back when I ordered WMX. Part of it was because I was still a Heel Fan, and this was a rare case of a WWF heel beating a top babyface clean as a sheet. Still, this is easily the best WWF bout since the WM7 retirement match. Lots and lots of little call-backs here for the devoted fan. Some of that is probably simply guys liking to re-use spots, like Bret's victory roll. But some of it is definitely intentional, like Owen kicking Bret's leg out of his leg in an exact recreation of the Rumble post-match. Just an incredibly well-done match, that establishes Owen as a new main eventer and sets the table for rematches. In a way, this is almost the U.S. version of Misawa pinning Jumbo, if Misawa were the heel. Not a "passing of the torch," then or now in retrospect looking at the rest of Owen's career, but a clear sign that a new main event guy had arrived.

 

Incidentally, I'm not the biggest Heel Lawler Commentator fan, and I've explained a few times how I think he's a clear step behind Jesse, Cornette, and the Brain in that role. But man alive was he a breath of fresh air in his return to the WWF. Having to hear Stan Lane, Gorilla, DiBiase, or Johnny Polo on this simply wouldn't have worked at all. Lawler balanced his usual jokes with a strong sense of getting the story over, and also had his personal history with Bret to draw on. I'd say it's one of his better announcing performances ever.

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I loved Owen's heelish spirit and mannerisms. He'd become so much more interesting as a character now. The older vs younger brother dynamic was fantastic. A high workrate encounter as they fitted a lot into it's 20m run time. Mainly fought in a scientific manner with the occasional shortcut. It had a keen edge and focus to the work. Very well layed out and expertly executed. By all rights it should've been one of the top US matches of the decade.

 

I'd disagree with Loss earlier. The biggest downside to US wrestling from the era wasn't a lack of stiffness or indeed any of the things mentioned. It was Earl Fucking Hebner! Fuck me the guy was a human millstone. There were an absolute ton of intended near falls here. Needless to say, the front crawl became the butterfly on every Goddamn last one of them. It was a relief when they moved onto a period of legwork before the stretch. Overall I'd say it was an ideal first match in a feud with just the right booking.

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