#05-08837 – Bret “Hit Man” Hart

Arnold Furious: Here at the History of Wrestling offices we’re all pretty big Bret Hart fans. In fact if you’d asked any of us who our favourite wrestler was back in 1997 when this tape came out, I’m pretty sure you’d have gotten a universal “Hitman” answer. Bret had been my favourite for about five years by this point and part of my growing up process was watching Bret climb the WWF’s card and become a legend. Given that all of us mark for Bret, and hard, it’s not easy to get a review claimed on a Bret tape. This is the first and only one I’ve got the chance to do. The rarity of this tape, in the UK at least, is a strange one and I’ve seen it sell on eBay for stupid money. Even buying in from America would set the UK buyer back approximately £15 (before shipping) for a 60-minute VHS release. Video Control opens with the very end of Bret’s comeback speech. Host is Dok Hendrix. He claims Bret has gotten even better since his WWF return, which might well be true. Dok is all over the place, going from Matt Annis to the WWF title to Bret’s comeback. It’s completely non-linear and is like a flow of consciousness.

 

Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin
This is Bret’s first match back in the USA since losing the WWF title to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII. We get Bret’s entrance and then it clips ahead to the latter part of the match, probably halfway through, with a brawl on the floor. Bret’s absence wasn’t as long as the WWF tried to pretend it was as he’d been working the WWF’s foreign tours during his time off. Originally he’d intended to shoot another series of Lonesome Dove only for the show to get cancelled. With newly found spare time he kept his eye in overseas. Honestly, I think a lot of WWF guys got overexposed in the USA by constantly working there. Back in the day, in the territory system, you could just move to another part of the country and come back fresh. Now wrestlers get burned out in record time thanks to multiple TVs per week and tours all the time, so everyone in the world has seen John Cena wrestle a thousand times. Bret’s ’96 absence served as a reminder that the Hitman was an exceptional talent. Absence made the heart grow fonder. Only he soon discovered the WWF landscape had changed and the WWF’s fans swiftly turned on him in favour of his opponent at Survivor Series; ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. This match actually made Steve Austin, as prior to it he was a phenomenal talent, but he’d never had the chance to go toe-to-toe with a big name. So while he’s popular, he’s not massively over. After this match the main event opened up to him and he’d been elevated to another level, all courtesy of Bret’s treatment of him here. It’s weird that Vince felt the need to bury Bret by saying he was out of shape and it wasn’t a great performance at Survivor Series, clearly not realising in the process he was burying Austin also. As if to say “Bret wasn’t great, but he still won”, so he’s also saying “Bret wasn’t great and Austin still lost”. The fans luckily ignored the clumsy announcing and paid attention to the story told in the ring. If you’re being really picky there are moments in this match that aren’t perfect. Austin taking a back bump flat onto Bret’s leg is one, Bret shooting the half right into the ropes another. Slight positional faux pas’ that don’t really add up to much in the bigger scheme of the match, especially when Austin gets his character across so well every time he lays in a punch. There’s one other tiny nitpick and that’s the Stunner. When he hits it, he needs to drag Bret away from the ropes, giving Bret recovery time to kick out. He should just pin and have Bret use the ropes. Kicking out somewhat hurts the move. The story works fine as Austin anticipates Bret grabbing the rope and drags him away to set it up, but I thought his finisher needed protecting. Normally when you see an up and comer battle a top star it’s the main eventer that carries the match, for the most part, but this bout has Austin dictating many of the spots and work throughout. They must have planned stuff out together, and Bret was great at that and making others look good, as there are great ideas at every turn. Bret finishes by kicking off the buckles and pinning Austin while Steve has the Million Dollar Dream applied. About half this match survived the clipping, which includes the bulk of the psychology and the better action.
Final Rating: *****

 

Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart
This is Bret’s first match back on Raw, two weeks after Survivor Series (albeit taped the night after). We JIP to skip over Vince’s bullshit commentary about Bret not being all that great at Survivor Series, as that would be entirely contrary to the message of the tape. If you pick up The Raw Files: 1996 you’ll be able to read a more detailed report on this match, but the basics of it are; it’s good but not great. Given how many classic Bret-Owen matches there have been over the years, you’d think they could do better. Vince does work in some burial of the Hitman, suggesting he’s slow going after big spots, while JR is critical of a “lapse of concentration” that allows Owen a cheeky roll-up. Bret has it sewn up with a Sharpshooter but Austin runs in to chair shot him for the DQ. The post match antics, where Austin goes to break Bret’s ankle and Bulldog saves him are retained in full.
Final Rating: ***

 

WWF Championship
Sycho Sid (c) vs. Bret Hart
Shawn Michaels is on commentary and again we have Bret’s entrance before we clip ahead to later in the match with Psychopathic Sid attempting a powerbomb on the floor. Most of the match is Bret working the back and all of that is retained, which is good for the psychology of the match, but not particularly interesting. Bret’s own take was that the match was pretty good, which it was… for Sid, but Shawn Michaels had dragged a wonderful **** match full of big bumps and awesome wrestling out of Sid at Survivor Series. This one pales in comparison. I think my biggest issue is that Bret works the back for ages and Sid either doesn’t want to, or doesn’t know how to sell it. The strangest thing about this match is the insistence of all commentators, Shawn included, that Bret doesn’t hook the leg on pinfalls. To which I say; why is that a problem? If you hook the leg you make it easier for someone to roll a shoulder without the effort of kicking out. I’ve never quite understood it, unless it’s hooked over the plane of the shoulders. Bret looks hurt here, banged up after a big foreign tour, and gingerly takes Sid’s bigger spots, which is a marked contrast to Bret in his absolute prime where he’d throw himself back-first onto the canvas hard. Considering how knackered Bret was and how poor Sid was as a worker, it’s strange they give them 17-minutes, but then the demand of the main eventers is to carry the show. I’m sure both guys understood that responsibility and it’s rare for the WWF to take time away from the main events. Very rarely are their main events quick. Both guys start to look tired towards the end and they blow a corner spot because of it, with Sid stumbling over and Bret tripping on his legs. So they have to re-do the spot. Sid must respect Bret because he sure protects him on the bigger spots and he holds him as gently as an egg during the chokeslam. Sid stops off to pie-face Shawn, which leads to him running into Bret. Sid finishes with the powerbomb. The surprisingly energetic stretch is worth waiting for and this version of the match is probably better than the full thing as a lot of early stuff is clipped out. It’s still too long. Bret takes it to Shawn afterwards in a very believable hockey style scuffle. It was worked, but it sure didn’t look like it.
Final Rating: **½

 

Promo Time: Bret Hart. This is from Raw the night after It’s Time. He’s still getting babyface reactions for his whining. He says things have changed since he was champion. He doesn’t know who are friends and who are enemies and what the rules are. He calls Shawn “prissy” and a liar for interfering in his match when he said he wouldn’t. “He just can’t handle the fact that’s he’s not as good as I am”. He reluctantly enters the Royal Rumble and says he feels sorry for the other 29 guys before sitting ringside for commentary. The promo rather tailed away at the end, which is what happens when Bret loses track of what he wants to say. Otherwise this was gold.

 

Video Control takes us to Bret’s “commentary” where he puts the Sharpshooter on Steve Austin twice and gets into a brawl with Vader.

 

Bret Hart vs. Vader
This is from Raw in early 1997 and follows on from the last angle. Shawn Michaels is on commentary. Vince preys on Bret’s failure to win against Sid by saying he desperately needs to win this match. Bret finds it hard to cope with Vader’s stiff offence and in general he disliked working stiff guys. Vader himself received a dressing down from HBK in 1996 for working too stiff. Shawn starts shooting on commentary calling Bret “no angel”, but says he can’t mention anything specifically as Bret will punch him in the face. Shawn continues the assault as Bret hits the Five Moves of Doom and Shawn accuses him of “doing the same thing every time”, which is rich coming from Mr. Flying Forearm, Kip Up, Savage Elbow, Sweet Chin Music. Bret and Vader is a tidy match as they both have interesting trademark stuff that normally doesn’t work together. The match has a weird ending as Austin runs down here and Sid comes out to borrow a cameraman at the same time. None of this causes a DQ. Austin’s Stunner directly leads to Vader taking it with a Vaderbomb, which is a weirdly depressing way to end a Bret Hart tape. Bret sure took a lot of unnecessary jobs during his comeback year. Again, this harks back to Survivor Series as Austin’s Stunner is greeted with death by Bret and yet while he kicked out at Survivor Series, he lies around for long enough for Vader to get his finish in here. The inconsistency of it is baffling. Although, Austin had already risen after their first match.
Final Rating: **¾

 

Video Control takes us back to Dok who bizarrely shills the Royal Rumble match despite the tape coming out after the Rumble took place. Dok throws to “You Start a Fire”, which is a great music video and we’re out of here.

 

Summary: They shouldn’t have called this the “Pink and Black Attack” they should have called it “what Bret did between Survivor Series ’96 and Royal Rumble ‘97”. That’s a far more truthful title. It barely covers seven weeks of his career. I know they were eager to throw out a Bret tape before they turned him heel at WrestleMania, but they didn’t have much content. Luckily the Austin match is included, which gives the tape a big boost and there’s nothing bad on the tape at all. An easy thumbs up but a strange tape release.
Verdict: 87

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