James Dixon: There is a lot of potential here; the Hart Foundation are one of the best teams in WWF history.
WWF Tag Team Championship
The British Bulldogs (c) vs. The Hart Foundation
We start off in Tampa, Florida and it is January 1987. Davey starts out taking on both the Harts by himself, and does a good job, hitting slams, clotheslines and a delayed suplex. Dynamite Kid was knocked out before the match on the outside by Jimmy Hart’s megaphone, but in reality he was badly injured and the WWF needed to get the titles off the Bulldogs, so they ran that spot. Davey does a great job on his own but it is not the match anyone wanted or expected because of the injury. It’s a shame. Referee Danny Davis spends the majority of the match checking on Dynamite while the Harts double-team Davey, and following the Hart Attack this is over in just 2:57. Like I said, it is a shame they couldn’t do a 20-minute classic for the belts, because it could have gone down in history as one of the great title changes. Even though it was under three minutes, this was still highly entertaining.
Final Rating: **
The Hart Foundation vs. The Rougeau Brothers
This is the Rougeau Brothers’ MSG debut and it is September 1986, a few months before the match we just saw for the titles. I still can’t fathom why they used to piss around with the timeline and continuity on these profile tapes so much, I mean, surely logic would dictate that it makes more sense to put things in the right order? It is interesting to see the Rougeaus in plain black tights, just looking like generic wrestlers. I don’t like Bret in blue at all either, it just seems so wrong and unnatural after decades of being used to him in pink. Feeling out process to start between both teams, and the Rougeaus get the better of Anvil. Bret comes in with Jacques, and he takes an armbar, which Jacques escapes with a wonderful athletic display, flipping over Hart’s back. Why didn’t he do anything even close to as exciting or interesting during his entire run as The Mountie years later? He could still stall even here though, and he and Anvil take an age to do anything, because Jacques catches a Boston crab, which Bret runs in to break up. The Harts go into a heat on Jacques, hitting the Demolition Decapitation and then slamming him on the concrete outside. This is in a pre-padding WWF as well, so pretty violent for the time. It’s nice to see the Harts do something vicious when they were heels, because I often wonder how they got over as bad guys, because they didn’t really do much to be hated. Bret rams Jacques into the ring and then back inside he works Jacques over with wear down holds. Jacques shoots him off the ropes and catches a perfect monkey flip, but Hart quickly makes the tag to Anvil, who goes to the front facelock. One of the reasons that The Hart Foundation as heels were very good is because they were able to keep the heat interesting. A lot of teams went to rest holds and kicky punchy stuff, but the Foundation didn’t fall into that lazy trap. That really helped their matches, because they were masters at tag team psychology. They continue to work over Jacques with double teams, and Jacques’ brief comeback and subsequent tag is missed by the distracted referee, so they go right back to it. Bret continues to control the match, but misses an elbow off the buckles and Jacques finally makes the hot tag. Ray explodes into life, very fresh from his minimal involvement in the match and takes out both guys. Hart has to make the save for his partner after an elbow drop and again when Raymond has a sleeper locked on. Hart is unable to prevent the defeat though, as he is too busy brawling outside the ring with Jacques as Raymond catches Anvil with a sunset flip to win the match. This was a really good formula tag match between two excellent teams. This era was tag wrestling at its very best. The 80s were a great time for the doubles division, and the Hart Foundation were one of the best things in it. The Rougeaus were prone to being lazy and underwhelming as their WWF run went on, but the Harts led them to something really enjoyable and put them over in a big way. Like with the Bulldogs’ tape where they lost seemingly every other match, it is strange to have the Harts losing, but I guess it showcases them well regardless.
Final Rating: ***
Bret Hart vs. Ricky Steamboat
If these guys half ass it with a stick they will still put out a watchable match, so against each other this could be an all-time classic. It is two of the all-time great ring technicians going head-to-head, but it is early in Hart’s WWF run, coming as it does from March 1986. He is sporting all-black attire with a solitary yellow line down the side, which again is so unusual to see. Subsequently, it almost doesn’t “feel” like Bret-Steamboat. I go on about attire having an effect on matches a lot, but I genuinely do think it matters. Bret jumps Steamboat before he even gets chance to take his jacket off, laying into him with punches, only to get sent hard chest-first into the buckles. Steamboat puts on an armbar, ignoring distraction attempts from Jimmy Hart, and he continues to pound the arm with chops and holds, before throwing Bret shoulder-first into the buckles. It is almost as if Steamboat is leading Bret through the match, and it is so strange to see ‘the Hitman’ getting carried in this way. He was still great, even in 86, but Steamboat was out of this world. Steamboat’s quickness allows him to counter everything Bret attempts, and he continues to meticulously work over the arm. Bret finally gets some offense with a few punches to the gut, but Steamboat takes him right back down with a superb kick to the face. Dragon makes the mistake of putting his head down, and gets caught with a swinging neckbreaker, as Hart finally takes control. I was actually expecting a faster start in this, but it has been all technical mat work, dominated by Steamboat. You can tell it was fairly early into Hart’s WWF career, because he seemed almost reluctant to try anything. He starts gaining confidence in himself as things go on, and the execution of everything from both has been as flawless as you might expect. While Steamboat has focused on holds and specifically Bret’s arm, Hart has used a more aggressive impact style, including a hard slam on the wooden floor outside the ring. It is slightly strange seeing Bret get dominated at a style he became known as the master of. It is nice to see him use a few different things than the five moves of doom he became synonymous with though, such as a nice running powerslam, which he should have used more. Hart misses an elbow off the ropes and Steamboat comes back with karate chops for a near fall. A high delayed back suplex gets another close two count for the Dragon. More shots in the corner from Steamboat, but a series of switches of an Irish whip result in the referee getting pancaked in the corner. Hart hits a one man Hart Attack for the visual win, but the referee is obviously unable to count. When he comes to, Hart nails Steamboat with a crossbody, but the Dragon rolls through to get the win. Unsurprisingly this is a really good match, but it is still no-where near the level it would have been if it had been “Excellence of Execution” Bret Hart from the 90s rather than early-WWF tag team wrestler Bret Hart. There was just something that felt flat and a little underwhelming about the whole thing when watched thirty years later. Still, both guys were determined to have a good match and they rather achieved that, just not to the incredible levels one might expect when hearing that the bout exists.
Final Rating: ***¾
The Hart Foundation & The Honky Tonk Man vs. Davey Boy Smith, Tito Santana & The Junkyard Dog
We are in Hershey, Pennsylvania for this six-man tag match from January 1987. On paper it is mostly a good match, and indeed if it was the Harts against Tito and Davey it could potentially be incredible. I’m not sure where Dynamite is though; I guess Dynamite must have been out injured. Some fluid exchanges between Davey and Hart start things off, before Davey gives slams to all three of the heels. After another brief but satisfying back-and-forth between Hart and Smith, Honky and JYD come in and as expected, the match quality drops significantly. JYD is someone I just never got, I cannot understand his popularity. JYD and Tito work over Anvil, who manages to escape a headlock by tagging in Honky. He comes in and walks straight into the same headlock, and Santana outwrestles him easily, before slamming him down. Honky wants no more of this and brings Bret back in. Now this would have been a superb match if they ever did a singles, but I don’t think they did because both were babyfaces for most of their WWF singles runs and their primes didn’t match up era wise. Tito from the 80s against Bret from the 90s could have been on the same level as Davey-Hart from SummerSlam 92. The Harts and Honky take over on JYD and work him over with double teams. A legdrop from Bret gets a two count, so he puts on a chinlock to wear JYD down further. The crowd chants “JYD” in unison and the Dog makes a tag, but of course, the referee didn’t see it and we go back to the heat, with Honky working a neck vice. For all this started pretty well, it has slowed down significantly and all three of the heels have done long rest hold segments. They have managed to keep the crowd with them mind you, and JYD was unquestionably popular, I don’t dispute that, I just don’t understand it. Honky hits a clothesline and a slam on JYD, but misses off the top and the Dog gets the hot tag to Tito. Flying forearm on Honky, but the pin attempt is broken up by Anvil. Bret comes in with an atomic drop and an elbow, but they collide heads and both go down. Tito dives through Bret’s legs and brings Davey back in for the first time in a while, and he unloads on Bret with a big clothesline and a stalling vertical suplex. Anvil again saves the fall as we break down with everyone in there. All three heels are whipped into each other and Davey covers Bret for the win. Fun enough, even with the slightly long heat section, but I don’t quite understand why Bret lost rather than Honky, or why another match where the Harts lost features on this tape.
Final Rating: **¼
Mean Gene Okerlund does an investigative report on the Hart Foundation HQ, amidst frequent sexist remarks and leeching at the women who “work” for them. He comes across as a complete pervert. Randomly there are girls running past screaming in terror, with the impression being that they have just been raped. Oh dear. This is shockingly bad, like something out of a B-Movie or a cheap low-rent porno. Actually, the way they are setting it up, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the secretaries whips out Gene’s eager member, and starts going to town. Gene eventually walks in on the Hart Foundation and Danny Davis playing with wrestling figures, and they are instantly ashamed and try to hide it. They should be more ashamed that this segment is featured on their profile tape. For some reason, the Hart Foundation appear to be wearing road kill around their necks as scarves. Not a good look, guys. They could slot into the role of Cruella de Vil’s henchmen quite easily. Gene is eventually granted an interview by Jimmy Hart, but he might as well have not bothered. We go back to borderline porn as the secretaries massage the Foundation erotically and the segment ends. Fifteen minutes this lasted, and it was thoroughly disturbing throughout.
Next up is the angle where Danny Davis is suspended from refereeing for life by Jack Tunney, and Jimmy Hart stops Davis from getting into a fight with Tito Santana. The footage is very brief, but it was a fun angle at the time. I don’t count Davis as part of the Hart Foundation though, so the segment’s inclusion on this tape is somewhat unwelcome.
The Hart Foundation vs. Jim Powers & Jerry Allen
This is Davis’ first appearance alongside the Foundation since costing the Bulldogs their titles, with this match coming from New Haven, Connecticut in February 1987. Who the hell is Jerry Allen? Who cares, this will be a squash. I have little time for Powers after his shoddy performances as a (supposed) babyface in the Young Stallions. As expected, the Hart Foundation dominate, and this thing is over in under two minutes following the Hart Attack. Danny Davis attacks Powers after the match and throws him to the outside. I get that they are showing the whole angle with Davis, Tito, the Harts and the Bulldogs, but was this squash really necessary? This tape started really well, but it has hit a bit of a valley with this and the creepy Okerlund segment.
Final Rating: SQUASH (Not rated)
The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis vs. The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana
This match comes from WrestleMania III. The Bulldogs take out all three of the heels outside the ring before the bell, and then do a number on Anvil in the ring. Santana comes in but gets caught in the corner, but his quickness allows him to escape and tag in Davey Boy, who catches Anvil with a big back body drop. The commentary on this is dire, because instead of Ventura, we have a bunch of celebrities alongside a clearly less than impressed Gorilla Monsoon, and it is distracting. This match is ok, but it would have been so much better as just a straight Bulldogs-Harts match, with Davis and Santana working a singles squash. With the amount of shit on this card, you would have to cut half of it to make it a truly great overall show. The Harts work over Dynamite, and Davis comes in for a few seconds to put the boots in. The crowd really wants to see him take a beating here, and they have booked this smart, because Davis only coming in for seconds at a time and throwing a few kicks before tagging back out, is really pissing off this massive crowd. The pop for Tito when he comes in and unloads on him is incredible. Tito proceeds to wipe Davis out with the flying forearm, but instead of going for the pin he lays in with punches. Anvil makes the save with a clothesline to the back of the head, but Santana manages to tag in Davey Boy before Davis can escape. Clothesline from Davey followed by a tombstone piledriver, and Davis is out of it. Davey doesn’t want to end it yet, and hits a stalling suplex and a running powerslam, but Anvil prevents the pin. Tito hits the flying forearm on him and a melee breaks out. In the midst of it, Davis nails Smith with the megaphone and falls on top of him for the fluke pin, to the disgust of the crowd. This is an ok match, but not a patch on what it could and should have been if Davis was not involved. Credit to him though, he took an absolute hammering from Davey at the end, and the finish was really well worked and red hot.
Final Rating: **¾
WWF Tag Team Championship
The British Bulldogs (c) vs. The Hart Foundation
This is more like it; a full match between these two teams with no additions and I assume no three minute contest either. This is from November 1986 at the Boston Gardens, and I am pretty sure Dynamite was injured here as well, so it might be a detriment to the quality. Dynamite gets backed into the Hart corner early on, but fights off both guys, before bringing in Smith. Davey gets the better of Hart, but gets caught with a slam by Anvil and they go into a heat. The Harts cheat in their corner at every given opportunity, masterfully working over Davey in the ring before Bret gives him a vicious slam on the wooden floor outside. He is no good to the Harts out there as they can’t win the titles on a count out, so Anvil drags him back in and goes to a front facelock. Davey tries to fight out of it and reach Dynamite, but Bret prevents it and Davey is double teamed some more by the Foundation. It is textbook tag wrestling and should be studied, because it is a lost art. The Harts are such smart cheaters. For the record, a DDT is nothing like a piledriver, though apparently Alfred Hayes on commentary is unaware of that. Sleeper from Hart, as they continue to thoroughly dominate Davey. He escapes by ramming Hart into the buckles and he manages a press slam into a crotching on the ropes. Davey makes the tag and Dynamite slams the Harts into each other before taking Bret out with a clothesline. Snap suplex from Dynamite and a falling headbutt, but instead of going for the pin he locks on a sleeper. Neidhart makes the save, but the referee gets nailed in the bedlam. Watching this it becomes apparent that despite his injuries, Dynamite is still ten times the wrestler of the majority of the rest of the roster. He JUST kicks out of a near fall, and Anvil slams Dynamite and throws Bret on again for a close count. The referee’s count is slow because he has been knocked out, and as Anvil confronts him about it, Davey rolls him up for the win. Anvil and Davey weren’t even legal! Ok sure, the ref was woozy from being knocked out, but that was a robbery. Not the first time Bret was screwed by a referee over a title… Hoho. Not the best Bulldogs-Harts match I have seen, it was quite formulaic, though still very well done. Yet another loss for the Harts on their own tape though.
Final Rating: ***
WWF Tag Team Championship
The Hart Foundation vs. The Killer Bees
The final match of the tape comes from MSG, and we skip forward to February 1987, as the continuity is again all over the place, with this occurring before the WrestleMania match. Logic, Coliseum, logic! They take forever to get going, and the camera keeps cutting to Jimmy Hart talking shit at the commentary desk. I get the impression that Gorilla really disliked Jimmy, and it was more than just in character when he insulted him. I could be wrong, but he always seemed extra vicious about Hart. For the record, the Killer Bees’ absurd yellow and black tennis shoes are the worst footwear any wrestler has ever worked in. No-one can defend those. The Bees have the better of the early exchanges, but the Harts take control and work over Blair with their usual double team offense. Anvil puts on a bearhug and they run the false tag spot that we have seen a few times on this tape. That is the problem with watching a comp tape about a tag team, because a lot of the matches are quite samey in their structure and a number of the spots. The Hart Foundation had a formula that worked for getting a good match out of any opponents, and they stuck to it. They were far more varied as babyfaces. Blair escapes a camel clutch with an electric chair drop and gets the hot tag. Brunzell fires on Hart, and hits a big atomic drop and his famous dropkick for a near fall. The bell rings early for no good reason, but they continue and Neidhart catches a small package for the win. Amateur hour from the WWF, but it didn’t affect the match because the finish came straight after anyway. A decent enough bout, like all the others on this tape have been, but nothing out of the ordinary. Like I said, the Hart Foundation were strictly formula with most opponents when they were heels.
Final Rating: **¾
Summary: With the exception of the Mean Gene segment, there is nothing remotely bad on this tape. Sure, there are a few curious choices and things get rather samey after a while, but the quality remains above average throughout. The Steamboat-Bret match is the pick of the bunch, though not the 5* epic some may be hoping for. Consistently decent is a rarity on early Coliseum tapes, so this is recommended.