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Bret Hart


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In the Fave Five thread, I talked about how Bret Hart is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, and I will always maintain that his very best matches rank among the very best in wrestling history. Others aren't nearly as enamored of him. I'm not going to name names because I don't want to seem like I'm calling anybody out, but I've seen plenty of posts denigrating him both here and at places like DVDVR and WKO. There have been a ton of wrestler-specific threads sprouting up as of late, so I figured the time was right to discuss this. What's everyone's take on Bret? Is he the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be? Or will putting the letter S in front of Hitman produce your exact opinion of Bret Hart? Or are you somewhere in the middle?

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I like Bret.

 

I don't love Bret.

 

Bret is a guy who has a lot of matches I think are good and some that I think are really good. All time great matches? Not that many I can think of off hand.

 

When I was watching matches for the SC poll years back I came away having a higher opinion of Bret than I had prior to it, but I still didn't think he was an all time great wrestler. Having seen all the stuff I've seen since then he'd be farther down my depth chart, but he's not someone who I can't appreciate.

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Used to be a big fan. Was very invested in the Hitman from the time I picked up wrestling again in '95 for a good five or six years after that. Was legitimately shocked and upset over the whole Montreal thing at the time as I was a huge Bret fan and a loyal WWF fan. Aside from the Benoit matches the only thing he did in WCW was the promo where he called out Goldberg and tricked him into spearing him while he was wearing a metal plate. The Hart family stuff wore me down eventually and I kind of lost interest in Bret around the time I lost interest in the WWF. Would prefer not to watch his matches these days as there's nothing new about them. The last time I watched the Hart Foundation I was bored shitless. He was a good worker in his own little world he created for himself, but I'd hesitate to call him a great one. I always got the impression that he preferred looking good against bigger guys then working with skilled opponents.

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For someone who called himself the Best There Ever Was, Hart's peal was incredibly short. In other threads, we are tlaking about guys with PEAKS that go over a decade. At best, Bret was at a peak from 1994-1997. He was also at his peak at an incredibly hot time in the wrestling business when so many other wrestlers sorta smoked him in the ring. Loss and Childs for sure watched all of the yearbooks so far from 1990, 92-1996. I would be interested to hear the thoughts of those who watched all of the yearbooks where BRet Hart stood compared to everyone else. They can give opinions on Bret but I don't think the answer will be "The Best There Ever Was". I think he might have an argument for Best Canadian that wrestled in the 1980s and 1990s.

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I'm surprised people get hung up on the "The Best There Ever Was" stuff. If you're name isn't Hulk Hogan or Jim Londos, you aren't "The Best There Ever Was"... so who really gives a fuck. In terms of being "the best worker there ever was", the super hardcore fans on this board can't even agree on the best worker... so who really gives a fuck.

 

Was he a good worker? Of course. Does he bore some folks? Sure... but if we asked folks to raise hands around here, we'll find people bored of Flair, Jumbo, Misawa, Kawada, etc. Are there 10 workers we'd rather watch? That means... what exactly? Quick: think of your favorite 10 movies. Then think of another 10 movies that aren't in those 10 that you also think are good. Those are some good movies to you... so your 10 "favs" aren't the limit of good movies out there. Nor are your 10 favorite movies.

 

This thread really is only interesting if there are some folks that want to walk through why they believe Bret is a shitty worker. Otherwise, we generally agree he was a good / solid worker at worst, and one who bored some of us at worst. Like a hundred other workers.

 

John

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His 91 wasn't that bad was it? The match with Mr. Perfect at Summerslam. The matches with DiBiase (from the April SNME and 29/12 at MSG). Some of his IC title defences against Skinner and The Mountie.

 

By no means a terrible year.

No one is arguing it's a terrible year.

 

But peak does not equal "not terrible."

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I dunno, Will, I think giving him all four years of 1994-97 is pretty generous. I'll give you '94 and '97 without too much argument. Bret spent most of '95 in mid card hell, he had the boring submission match with Backlund at 'Mania, spent the summer rekindling the feud with Lawler, with his dentist thrown into the mix, and finally went back to title contention late in the year. Even with the Lafeit, Diesel, and Davey Boy matches to his credit, it's not exactly a banner year for Bret. Bret was gone for most of 1996, he was around from January-March and then came back in November.

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'95 and '96 were prime years for Bret irrespective of how he was booked or how much time he took of.

 

The big question mark around Bret is how good he would've remained if Montreal hadn't happened. How good would the rumoured Bret/Austin rematch been at Wrestlemania XV, what other opponents he would have had great matches with, how they would've booked him, whether he'd have had another run on top as the face champ, etc.

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Last I've seen of Bret was during my 1998 WCW watch a few time ago, and despite the horrible booking he has to suffer through, I was surprised how much I enjoyed him once he effectively turned heel. His character of a complete hypocrite and conniving bastard was the best stuff on WCW TV for a while, and he delivered the two best Luger matches in years on Nitro. Also worked a very strong match against DDP, and cut a lot of good promos. Despite being the ultimate WWF babyface for the post-Hogan, pre-Austin generation, Bret's best work actually came from working heel, and it showed in WCW too. I loved him in the 90's, he was my favourite wrestler back then, and on rewatch and with time, and although I see his flaws, I still enjoy him a lot.

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I like Bret, but I would have liked him a lot more if we got the PPV Bret on Coliseum Video matches, TV matches and handhelds. He is very much a big show performer. His career doesn't really have many hidden gems, and his Hart Foundation tag matches are almost all disappointing. His feud with Shawn Michaels had plenty of opportunities and went a long time, and still never produced a really classic match. You could say the same for his matches against Rick Martel. But for delivering exciting PPV main events, he was really good.

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Only going to comment on 1994 Bret but it seemed pretty up and down. I am probably a bigger component of his Owen Summerslam cage match than most around here and I think the Survivor Series match was a great theater. Obviously, the match vs. Owen at Wrestlemania is a classic and remains one of the ten best 1990's WWF matches. His match vs. 123 Kid seemed like a great unheralded match that showed Bret really working hard to make Kid look good.

 

On the other hand, his match at KOTR 1994 with Diesel was disappointing and not as good as Diesel's matches vs. Razor. He also never really seemed to be "the guy." That is a intangible thing to argue but many times with watching him in 1994, I was shocked at how unover he was. The match with 123 Kid for instance had very little heat. 1994 featured Bret's longest title run and it never felt like a legendary championship reign in any sense of the word.

 

I haven't seen much from him on the 1990 yearbook but the Martel MSG left a really bad taste in my mouth because I thought that was probably the worst possible match those two could have together at the time.

 

I guess most people would point to 1997 as Bret's best year and I look forward to that yearbook to see where his stuff holds up or not.

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i think you have to include 93. Like I said in the top 5 note there are a litany of really good+ matches.

 

Flair Ironman, Bigelow in Europe. Yoko Cage (and we don't even have the best of the cage matches they had apparently).

 

And really just the sheer accomplishment of going 30-40 with Backlund in a very good MSG match and then the next night having the Razor, Perfect, and Bam Bam matches at KOTR.

 

92 is interesting. Obviously there's the Davey carry job, the Piper match. Michaels at Survivor Series, but he had a ton of very solid televised Title defenses against giants in fall. Not a ton of them stand out. None of the Flair matches we have are even close to the ironman match in 93. I don't think we have a lot of the summer IC defenses vs Michaels, and none of the Mountie matches are very good from what I remember. I think 93 is a much clearer year and one that's much harder to dispute.

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I always enjoyed the Superstars match were Backlund snaps as well...Bret/Owen vs. Steiners from early 1994 was great too. I think 1994 was probably his best in ring year with 11/96-11/97 checking in as his best overall year (brawling, wrestling, promo work, heat).

I agree with this 100%. The stretch from late 96 to late 97 is probably my favorite era in wrestling.

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Bret Hart is one of my favourite, if not my favourite, wrestler ever.

 

The thing I love about Bret Hart matches is that the selling is always great and the finish is usually pretty awesome too. If I think of some of my favourite finishes in wrestling history, a lot of them involve Bret Hart. From the two first Austin matches, the Diesel Survivor Series match, the Bulldog matches, to the 1-2-3 Kid Raw match. They are all unique and so great.

 

His matches were filled with logical spots, he didn't go out and expose the business as most of the guys around him. When he does a table spot, its in the Diesel match where it makes complete sense and comes out of nowhere. When he is taking an Asai Moonsault he is brawling with the manager and turning in the last second to take it, instead of standing around and waiting. The guy just filled his matches with great little details to keep things making sense.

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Bret Hart is one of my favourite, if not my favourite, wrestler ever.

 

The thing I love about Bret Hart matches is that the selling is always great and the finish is usually pretty awesome too. If I think of some of my favourite finishes in wrestling history, a lot of them involve Bret Hart. From the two first Austin matches, the Diesel Survivor Series match, the Bulldog matches, to the 1-2-3 Kid Raw match. They are all unique and so great.

 

His matches were filled with logical spots, he didn't go out and expose the business as most of the guys around him. When he does a table spot, its in the Diesel match where it makes complete sense and comes out of nowhere. When he is taking an Asai Moonsault he is brawling with the manager and turning in the last second to take it, instead of standing around and waiting. The guy just filled his matches with great little details to keep things making sense.

I think that is definitely a key to Bret's work...logic. You can tell he really thought about the little things to make the match more realistic or, as you said, just not expose the business. Your example about the Asai moonsault is great one.

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The thing I think that hurts Bret more than anything else is his association with the "first wave" of wrestling smarkdom back around 2000 or so. Bret back then, along with Shawn in some quarters, was the be all and end all. Anyone put in that artificially lofty position is going to suffer a comparative decline in reputation as received wisdom is questioned and the status quo is assessed and reassessed.

 

Another way of putting this is that Bret has gone from being a lot of people's GOAT pick 10 years ago to "a guy who had a very good peak 94-97". And even then not everyone agrees.

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I always enjoyed the Superstars match were Backlund snaps as well...Bret/Owen vs. Steiners from early 1994 was great too. I think 1994 was probably his best in ring year with 11/96-11/97 checking in as his best overall year (brawling, wrestling, promo work, heat).

I agree with this 100%. The stretch from late 96 to late 97 is probably my favorite era in wrestling.

 

The same here. For someone who was not supposed to be a very good promo, Bret Hart killed it during that period character wise. Working with Austin brought him up to a new level (and vice-versa).

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