James Dixon: Presented by Paul Bearer, of all people. He went on a bit of a run of hosting Coliseum releases around this time, though I can’t fathom why. His overly-expressive warbled delivery only serves to make a mockery out of whatever he is talking about. And anyway, Bearer? On a Bret Hart tape? On an Undertaker tape, sure, but Bret? I can’t actually fathom what the point of this tape even is, because two of the matches (the first two) already appeared on Bret Hitman Hart earlier in the book. They do frustrate me so with their incessant rehashing.
Steel Cage Match
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
Gorilla Monsoon and Johnny Polo are on commentary for this, and what a way to start. The crowd is surprisingly muted and already this has the feel of two guys going through the “dark match main event” motions. Shawn jumps Bret before the bell and nearly escapes within a minute, but Bret comes back and slows things to his pace. What they are doing is just fine, as you might expect, but it is severely hampered by the crowd. I have never heard an audience so apathetic towards two of the all-time greats of the ring. I get it though, as this came from a monster TV taping full of routine squash matches and a weak main roster, but come one! It’s Shawn against Bret! In a cage! If this was on pay-per-view in front of a hot crowd in 1997, this would have been a very different match. I have mentioned before how the “feel” of the WWF was so far removed in 1993 from what preceded it, and that is never more apparent than here. The crowd is completely blacked out (though the draw is not even that bad for the time, at around 4500) and it looks almost amateur Indy level rather than the biggest wrestling company in the world. You would never have seen a tepid reaction like this towards Hogan in his heyday. That is not a slight on Bret or Shawn, just rather the whole company in general. Things were in a sorry state. Hart and Michaels run the usual cage escape attempt teases, and don’t give up on trying to make the crowd give a damn. They don’t quite succeed, but they try. The finish sees both on the outside of the cage climbing down next to each other, and Bret rather dumbly rams Michaels’ head into the bars. He gets lucky as Michaels gets his foot trapped in the cage, but he could quite easily have fallen to the floor and won it. It’s a rare logic hole from the finest in-ring technician of all time. The crowd does at least pop Hart winning, but they killed what was otherwise a perfectly fun bout. I can’t look past the silence this played in front of, and it loses stars because of it.
Final Rating: **
Bret Hart vs. IRS
Not to be confused with a previous match these two had with each other on a previous Coliseum release in Volume #2, this one comes from 1994 rather than 1991. Yeah, IRS was still around. It is of course Coliseum law that he features on every release they put out. When you hear “Bret Hart tape” you think you are going to get 60-minutes of awesome, but instead Video Control throws IRS at you to quell any optimism instantly. Bret controls early on with some chain wrestling that doesn’t go anywhere, with IRS managing to kill any entertainment by stalling and hamming it up with the crowd. He then spends an age pissing around with a foreign object that he found under the ring, which he nails Bret with in a lock-up once they finally get going again. Cue the standard Schyster heat, otherwise known as wrestling’s cure for narcolepsy. IRS thinks laying still with a chinlock applied for minutes on end counts as “wrestling”. He is a tedious joke of a wrestler, and it is actually a shame he isn’t called on it more. He rarely turns up on “all-time worst” lists because he is technically solid, but as far as entertainment value and the ability to make a match interesting, he makes that list for sure. Luckily Bret realises it is boring, and keeps showing flickers of life before mounting a comeback, which has me pleased because the end seems imminent, but IRS goes after his leg again and we are forced to endure more. Bret gets his leg hurt and Owen Hart runs down to offer “moral support”, shouting at Bret to get up before rolling him back in the ring. Bret wins it with a roll-up despite Owen’s presence and the fact that he collided with him on the apron, showing how worthless IRS was. Boring, so very boring.
Final Rating: *
Bret Hart (c) vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
This also turns up on Bret Hitman Hart… His Greatest Hits and Best Of Bret Hitman Hart, where I have covered it already. This is from March 1993, in South Charleston, NC. It comes a few weeks before Bret dropped the title to Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX. As I mentioned in the previous review of this, Bam Bam could have really improved the awful ‘Mania IX card, but since then I have found out he was supposed to be working Kamala (who knows why that was canned) so perhaps not. These two have a fairly good record when it comes to assembling decent bouts, with a match from Spain and another from King of the Ring ’93 standing out in particular. This particular contest actually comes at the end of a long run of house show matches around the horn that these guys had. The bout is exactly what you would expect from the wrestlers involved, which is a compliment rather than a criticism. They have a really strong go-home sequence with big impact moves from Bam Bam and near falls for both guys. The finish is similar to KOTR, with Bret catching a victory roll from Bigelow’s shoulders. A really good match and a sterling effort from both, just a shame it is the third rehash out of three matches shown. If you are a Bret Hart fan and bought all of his tapes (like I did growing up) then you have been ripped off.
Final Rating: ***¼
Bret Hart (c) vs. Fatu
Yet another match that has seen airtime already, with this also featuring on the Columbia House release Best Of Bret Hitman Hart. The match was originally on Monday Night Raw so any long-time WWF fan would have seen it prior to this tape’s release anyway. Fatu was still part of The Headshrinkers at this point, and I am sure no-one predicted he would go onto have the singles success he did as Rikishi years later. His longevity in the WWF is surprising, because he became utterly worthless around 1995 when he was “time to make a difference” Fatu, complete with cheesy grin, positive attitude and bright red tights. For those who are not aware that Fatu and Rikishi are the same person, they would be very surprised at how comparatively lean he is here, and how well he can move around. Bret ends up bleeding hardway from the nose, and they go for a long time considering it is the WWF Champion against a tag wrestler. Once again the comparisons to Hogan are inevitable, and it is safe to say this would have been over within a few minutes if it were Hogan in Bret’s place. Bret was always put into long matches with lesser opponents, giving the impression that he had to really work for every victory, which I think hurt him during his first title run. Fatu (well actually, Samu) nearly wins the title after the ‘Shrinkers pull “twin magic”, but Bret kicks out in an exciting near fall. When you can get the crowd to buy that one of The Headshrinkers is going to win the WWF title, I guess you are doing something right. Samu ends up getting caught in the hangman in the ropes and Bret polishes off Fatu with a Sharpshooter. It was a handicap match at times, but a well worked one. Bret making Fatu look like a credible challenger was impressive. Actually there was some good stuff from both guys, and the match is much better than you might expect.
Final Rating: **¾
Yokozuna (c) vs. Bret Hart
This comes from WrestleMania X and is shown in highlight form, albeit extended ones. This makes a lot of sense to be on a Bret Hart tape, as it was a defining moment in his career. There is not a great deal to say about that match that hasn’t been said already, because it is just the standard bout that these guys did with each other, only with both having worked already earlier in the evening. It is not a problem for Bret, but Yoko is slow. That plays a part in the story of the match too, as Yoko falls off the ropes going for the Banzai Drop, and Bret capitalises to pin him for the title. The iconic post-match celebration is cut and the tape abruptly ends afterwards. Only about three minutes shown and it felt very much tacked on.
Final Rating: Not rated (Clipped)
Summary: The tape score would suggest that this is a half-decent 60-minute slice of wrestling pie, and I guess it is, but at the same time it is entirely pointless and in fact, a complete rip-off. We tailor this book towards the serious collector, as we feel they are the people who will look to pick up copies of tapes that sound appealing. If that is you, then forget about this one, because every single match is culled from something already released, and nothing is particularly special anyway. I love Bret Hart, and think he is one of the best of all time, but his VHS tapes sure were a waste of money.