The Undertaker (c) vs. Bret Hart
Bret dedicates the match to all his fans all over the world and Canadians in general. He then demands the Canadian national anthem be played, which draws a chorus of boos and “USA” chants from the patriotic crowd. Shawn, the ref, manages to come out after Bret. I love that Bret sells Undertaker’s entrance with a little shiver and a “wow”. Shawn makes a point of doing his referee checks and he does them by the book. JR reels off SummerSlam statistics: Taker has only one SummerSlam defeat, as does Bret. Both these guys have fantastic strikes, Taker’s may be the best punches in the business at this point. Shawn’s refereeing is a cross between intrusive and fussy. The idea of being a good ref is that you don’t notice them, but he’s a spotlight hogging son-of-a-bitch. Taker dominates with size and power as Vince tells us Austin has gone to hospital and has no feeling in his hands. Another quirk of Shawn’s is to stand in the way of the hard camera. Refereeing looks so easy when an experienced ref does it. Bret goes after the leg to set up the Sharpshooter. As Bret works methodically at the leg, Paul Bearer strolls down here. He’s already made the revelations about the Undertaker’s brother, but Kane’s debut is still a few months away. Taker goes after him, which opens him up for a Bret chopblock. While Shawn is dealing with Bearer, Bret hooks the ring post figure four. I love that move, so much. Bret gets somewhat agitated with Shawn for making him break the hold. More shenanigans as Owen and Pillman join us. Bret continues to assault the leg as the ECW fans, Faith No More guy included, barrack Shawn. Superfan Vladimir seems to be a Bret fan. Taker bails for the second time to beat up a ringside spectator. This time Pillman. Taker heads back in for the chokeslam and Shawn is late returning from removing the Harts. Taker gets very angry about that and even more so when Bret rolls Taker up and Shawn manages to get back in for that count. Bret’s highly disciplined and systematic approach isn’t the most thrilling you’ll ever see and indeed he’s had better matches with the Undertaker than this. After another discussion with Shawn about the rules he starts to hit spots instead of working a body part. I don’t get people working Taker’s leg or arm, he’s never going to submit. Bret goes after the Sharpshooter anyway, but Taker grabs a goozle. Bret kicks the knee to get out, which is some clever psychology, only for Taker to punch his own way out of trouble. When Bret tries to get a breather, Taker chokeslams him back in. Taker tries to follow with the ropewalk, but Bret kicks the ropes away. I like that Bret, the technical master, doesn’t allow a move that doesn’t make a lot of technical sense. A superplex sets up the Sharpshooter, but Taker powers out sending Bret to the floor as JR has kittens. Bret escapes the Tombstone as the match starts to get stylish and Bret tries like hell to invent the ring post Sharpshooter. Taker powers out of that too, which knocks Shawn over. Bret sees this as an opportunity to grab a chair. He knocks Taker out cold as Shawn is down holding his knee. Taker kicks out causing increased tension. It’s at this point that Shawn spots the chair in the ring. He accuses Bret of using it so Bret spits in his face. Shawn swings the chair at him, Bret ducks and Taker eats chair. Shawn, forced to count or he can’t wrestle in America again, counts Taker down. Bret wins his fifth WWF title and Taker bails immediately to have words with Shawn. The first half of this title bout is monotonous with Bret trying to work the body part and Taker having no interest in it. The second half is way better as they kick it up a notch and use the knee to set spots up. The finish is magnificent. Shawn genuinely looked like he was aiming at Bret because of the movement of everyone involved. The Harts come out to celebrate as the fans pelt Bret with garbage. In doing so they’re just proving Bret right about the American wrestling fans. I used to like this match a lot more because of the title switch and what a total Bret mark I was in ’97, but time hasn’t been as kind to this as the Bret-Taker match at the ’96 Rumble.
Final Rating: ***¼