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[1991-04-27-WWF-Saturday Night's Main Event] Bret Hart vs Ted DiBiase

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These two had a really terrific TV match. They cut a fast pace and had the crowd buying every big nearfall. They do quite a few crowd-pleasing spots. Sherri may have been a little *too* involved in this one, to be honest, but I think that was the point, as Piper ends up chasing her away from the ringside area with a broom! They didn't beat Bret here, and he had quite a bit of offense, perhaps one of the first signs that his singles push was underway.

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Bret sort of split with Anvil after Mania. Handful of matches, but Bret largely did singles. His first series around the horn was largely one with Barbarian while Perfect went around with Davey up to his injury. They had a few singles matches here and there... one gets the sense that they knew that's where they wanted to go: Bret-Hennig ar SummerSlam. They avoided starting the series before SummerSlam as well other than those handful of matches, so you also get the sense that the plan was for their primary series to be after Slam going around the horn.

 

Warlord stepped into the challenger spot... poor Bret. He didn't get his first real feud until October with the Mountie. Bizzare in hindsight that it took them so long to come up with something.

 

John

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one gets the sense that they knew that's where they wanted to go: Bret-Hennig ar SummerSlam.

Why do I remember them announcing Bulldog-Hennig a few months before Summerslam (including having a WWF Magazine feature on the match) only to switch it to Bret-Hennig a few weeks before the PPV?

 

And yes, I went to a few house shows in '91 where Bret was saddled with Barbarian and Warlord. I don't remember much about the matches other than the reaction Bret got for his entrance was about 10 times louder than I'd expected. They had to know they had something solid with Bret.

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:lol: I like Barbarian too, but back then as a 9 year old I couldn't help but see it as a big disappointment.

 

Although looking back, what other midcard heels were there for Bret to even have a house show run let alone feud with, even after he got the IC title? The only guy I can think of other than Hennig that would fit the bill is Rick Martel, but he disappeared after Wrestlemania thanks to the George Zahorian thing.

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I was 9 in 91 too and even saw a house show (my first) with Barbarian vs Bret. To me it wasn't a disappointment because in my mind, Barbarian was higher on the totem pole than Bret was and bigger too, so for Bret to be getting wins over him was a big deal. Barbarian had been getting jobber wins as a solo guy for a year. Bret had just started to get his first few in April, which happens to be when I saw that house show. I think Barbarian was a totally acceptable guy for Bret to break out as a solo guy against.

 

I'm pretty sure the initial plan was for him to continue to feud with Perfect after Summerslam, but obviously that wasn't workable. Now, Warlord was probably less viable than Barbarian especially now that Bret had the belt.

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Getting back to this match, I thought Bret giving DiBiase everything he could handle was 100 times more effective to get across the idea of, "Whoa, Bret is not just a mere tag team guy anymore," than going over a guy of Barbarian's stature. That's the kind of match I was hoping for at the house show, but DiBiase was locked up with Virgil.

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I was 9 in 91 too and even saw a house show (my first) with Barbarian vs Bret. To me it wasn't a disappointment because in my mind, Barbarian was higher on the totem pole than Bret was and bigger too, so for Bret to be getting wins over him was a big deal.

Bret was higher than Barbarian. They got thrown together for a few matches the prior November, and Bret won them all. There's an MSG match where Barbarian barely got to go 4 minutes with Bret before getting pinned.

 

 

Barbarian had been getting jobber wins as a solo guy for a year.

He got wins over Tito (Mania and a series in the Fall), Snuka (long unending series through August then occasional matches after that), Garvin (short series after Snuka), Dustin (Dec before he left), wins here and there against the likes of Hercules and Brunzell, then a series with Saba Simba in January. Couple of Sam Houston, and Koko was his primary leading into Mania. Others on that level.

 

He lost around the horn to Bossman, kind of blown off at the Rumble. Some losses in there to Duggan mixed in. Some others like Tugboat. Of course the Bret ones in November.

 

 

Bret had just started to get his first few in April, which happens to be when I saw that house show.

The thing is... Bret had been working singles for quite some time. There was the Bad News Allen feud from April-July 1988. Bret-Perfect was paired from after Mania V through 9/89, with the blow off looking like the 10/02/89 match that aired on Prime Time. Bad News pops up again in Sep-Oct 1989, even into January 1990. Almost all of the end of 1989 through Mania VI was as a singles. Some of it tied into tag feuds (Bravo, Valentine and HTM) where he was split from Anvil to work singles, but there also was a lot of random stuff tossed out there it looks like they preferred to have Bret work as a singles.

 

 

I think Barbarian was a totally acceptable guy for Bret to break out as a solo guy against.

If one was a fan of work in the era, he felt like a massive step down from the Bret-Perfect series the year before.

 

Granted, revisionist work theory is that Barbarian could go, and admittedly Pefect does extremely little for me when re-watching his WWF work from 1988-91. But as a work fan of the era... Bret-Barbarian wouldn't get me to buy a ticket, while Perfect-Bret is something that would interest me.

 

Barbarian is "kinda acceptable" in a spinning their wheels kind of way, just filling time until Bret hooked up with Perfect for the IC Title. But it was a modest push, and modest feud, rather than getting him hot leading into something with Perfect.

 

On the other hand, he'd been in the WWF for ages. Fans had seen him win the Tag Titles. Fans had seen him in singles, against bigger guys than Perfect (Savage). So he might not have needed a ton.

 

 

I'm pretty sure the initial plan was for him to continue to feud with Perfect after Summerslam, but obviously that wasn't workable. Now, Warlord was probably less viable than Barbarian especially now that Bret had the belt.

After he had the belt, neither of them were viable as IC Challengers. That was just filling time until the figured out the Mountie was the right feud. It's strange it took them a month or so to figure that out.

 

John

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I was talking more from the perspective of the average viewing audience.

 

There were something like four Bret vs Barbarian matches in between the Hart Foundation as Tag Champs having matches with Rhythm and Blues and Power and Glory (and a few Smash/Crush matches). Certainly not around the horn and I would assume not as some planned singles push or testing the waters.

 

I think his best challenger in 91 is actually Nord, for what it's worth.

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I was talking more from the perspective of the average viewing audience.

 

There were something like four Bret vs Barbarian matches in between the Hart Foundation as Tag Champs having matches with Rhythm and Blues and Power and Glory (and a few Smash/Crush matches). Certainly not around the horn and I would assume not as some planned singles push or testing the waters.

I didn't say that Bret-Barbarian in went around the horn in 1990. I just said that Bret beat him in singles in late 1990, which kind of shows where they were on the totem pole: Bret was higher.

 

I pointed to the earlier around the horn ones to try to get across that the notion that, prior to coming out of Mania in 1991, Bret was a Tag Team Guy Only is a problematic notion. I certainly didn't think it at the time. A tag team specialist? Sure. Long standing partnership with Anvil. Sure. But he also struck me as the WWF equiv of Arn Anderson: loads of tag work from 1986 - 4/90, famous team(s), but you also ran into him working singles on house shows and TV which weren't all related to his tag feuds.

 

John

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I should know this but I'm blanking right now: In 1990- April 91 or so, were there a lot of cases of a babyface Bret's size beating a guy the Barbarian's size? I know coming into that house show in 91 at age 9, i was really surprised that Bret held his own to force the draw and I think some of that was how I was trained by the WWF to see larger wrestlers and smaller wrestlers.

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Beats me. I knew it was a work, and Bret was getting a singles push. It was clear that he wasn't going to job that feud with Barbarian. I suspect that a good share of the crowd didn't think Bret was going to lose, or there would have been a Backlund over Patera style pop when he simply "survived" against the Barbarian. :/

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Barbarian's push peaked when POP chased Demo for the Tag Titles. That went bust, and after that their push was kind of running in circles in the tag division, before getting a running in circles push as a singles. It wasn't exactly like he/they were getting a push like Bossman was.

 

In turn, Bret got a push against Demo... and beat them for the tag titles. Bret (and the Foundation) were so over as faces in the three-way (Demo vs Rockers vs Harts) that they had to turn Demo... which I don't think was the original plan.

 

The promotion was always pushing Bret (and the Foundation) and giving him stuff to do. Maybe it was clearer from having watched back to 1986, and being 25 in 1991 rather than 9. Not a knock, but looking at it from different POV's.

 

John

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In turn, Bret got a push against Demo... and beat them for the tag titles. Bret (and the Foundation) were so over as faces in the three-way (Demo vs Rockers vs Harts) that they had to turn Demo... which I don't think was the original plan.

I think your telling is obviously more accurate. I just find it interesting what my perspective was as a kid since Bret vs Barbarian is actually one of the most important match-ups of my youth, a seminal one for reasons i've mentioned before.

 

I was going to ask you when WWF had the Warriors signed, but I can look through the WON on that, actually.

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June 1990.

 

We all thought with the Warriors in, and Demo switched to heels in the Demo vs Harts vs Rockers feud, that the Warriors would get the title at Summer Slam. Instead...

 

Harts got it. Demo got switched over to a Demo vs Warrior + LOD feud that kind of went nowhere... Harts stuck around with the Rockers, with the Rockers winning / not winning the titles.

 

1990 was kind of a messy year for WWF booking.

 

John

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As fun as all the skits were, it's a breath of fresh air getting to watch SNME promos with no puns or overarching theme that has to be pushed. This is a really strong match, a true hidden gem that I've never heard about before in a land where hidden TV gems are very rare. This does come off as a coming-out party for Bret, even more than Survivor Series did. I'd actually have liked to have seen him get the COR victory outright, but they'd beaten DiBiase with that finish enough times during the Virgil feud that I can see why they wanted to skip it.

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Sherri’s hair is a mess. Money makes DiBiase the better man. Camera shot up Sherri’s dress. Sherri is a sport as she is up on apron and takes an inadvertent knee from Dibiase and falls to the floor. She throws better punches than must guys today. DiBiiase/Bret having a great match but Sherri gets too involved for Piper’s liking. He heads ringside to confront Sherri. He finds a broom under the ring and spanks her with it. Then pretends to ride it and chases her away. Bret hanging with DiBiase is a good step towards his singles push.

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Thought this was really good and maybe just a shade below Tito/Perfect as my favorite SNME match. Bret looks great in it and has started the shades passing out at ringside. Dibiase redeems himself from the MSG match with a good one here. I had forgotten how involved Sherri was with Dibiase but damn if her and Pipers interaction didn't crack me up here. Decent finish to protect both me.

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We already knew that these two could put on a show together from the '90 Survivor Series, and this match was on the level of that segment.......until the stuff with Piper and Sherri started. I know that they had to advance that angle, and seeing Piper and Sherri interact is always a treat, but it really felt like they scuttled a good match just to get that stuff in. Bret was really showing that he could go with Teddy for a long period of time, maybe even beat him, and instead we end up with the match thrown out and forgotten. What a shame.

 

Piper and Savage are really developing a chemistry in the booth, although they were a bit more antagonistic than they had been previously. I liked Savage gloating about Teddy's offense and how he'd use it on Piper like he was on Bret. I also liked Savage and his "two and seven-eighths" routine, which I'll get back to in just a second. Also, notice that not a word was said by Vince to Piper about remembering his contract when he went down to confront Sherri. That's one advantage of doing commentary in a studio setting; the announcers already know the matches they're calling, so they know what not to say in order to avoid making themselves look foolish.

 

As for Vince, he was at his worst here. It's bad enough that he barely called the moves, but his "ONE......TWO......THREE! HE GOT HIM!........no, he didn't" routine was totally obnoxious here, especially when he insisted that Bret had still gotten the three-count three different times after everyone watching saw Teddy kick out. His "THREE! THREE! THREE!" led to Randy's remark about "Two and seven-eighths" that I just mentioned, and Vince most likely didn't care for it, because after the next near fall, he sarcastically said that it was "two and fifteen-sixteenths". Savage played along to save the segment, but that's not the point.

 

I don't know where Vince got this from, but it really makes him look moronic. He's supposed to be the lead announcer of the WWF and he can't tell what a three-count is? Somehow, I don't think he'd allow his announcers to do stuff like that today, and he shouldn't. He either never listened to his own commentary or truly didn't care how stupid he sounded as long as he made money, and that's sad. If you're going to put yourself in a position of public visibility such as commentary, shouldn't you at least act like you give a damn about the job? People get on Gino's case for his various shortcomings, but at least he knows when the hell the ref counts to three and when he doesn't. I guess I shouldn't be surprised about this considering Vince's track record of deliberately insulting his audience to see just how much they'll take, but I am.

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This was a really fun match. Sherri didn't seem too involved to me, as I really loved all of the stuff she was doing here. That includes the Piper stuff too, she's just great. Bret and Ted had a really good match here. One I'll remember, and I'm pretty sure I have never seen this before.

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Bret really gets to look good against DiBiase. No way a tag guy like Bret should be as able to handle Teddy one on one as he does. Ted makes up for his MSG match with Piper with this match.

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