I felt like going all out for this one
Mon, 13 February 2006
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Undoubtedly, Bret "Hitman" Hart is one wrestler that I consistently think of right away to be placed at the top of my personal favourites list. I was rabidly anticipating this DVD dedicated to his career. Now that it is in my possession, I'm thrilled to say that it totally rocks as much as I was hoping and expecting it to.
The combined running time for this 3 disc bad boy, including all of the extras and so forth, is a whopping 540 minutes. When I started writing about it, I found that there was just so much I wanted to talk about, it wouldn't all fit into a "regular" review. I decided I'd just split it up into a few articles, enabling me to discuss all this stuff in the geeky amount of detail it inspired. So I am going to take a look at (almost) every aspect of the DVD and expound on the parts that I feel most strongly about. The first articles will be all about Disc 1, which is mainly a biography of Bret's career, as told by the man himself. Then I'll do an article discussing Discs 2 and 3, which predominantly feature some of The Hitman's best matches.
The subtitle of this set is "The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be" which is the boastful catchphrase the Hitman would often use. His Mother was the one who came up with that (seriously!), which always makes me laugh. To me it means that, when Bret would use that expression, he was basically saying, "Hey, my mum reckons I'm great".
Due to how sharp all his moves always looked Hart was also dubbed "the excellence of execution" which is one of the coolest monikers ever, in my opinion. That's a big reason why he's such a favourite of mine; his matches always seemed realistic and most everything he did looked great. Another aspect to the Hitman that appealed to me was that he always seemed just plain cool. He had this laid back, calm confidence about him, to go along with his first-rate appearance. How he managed to look so tough and cool while wearing pink tights I'm not sure, but (to me at least) he did!
While he was once almost universally lauded by fellow wrestlers, as well as wrestling writers and fans (especially those on the internet), Bret's later career, and more recent events in his life, involved some very controversial incidents. For those (and some other) reasons, opinions about the Hitman are now much more divided. Some folks now consider him to be a selfish, egotistical whiner. Others say his ring skills are overrated and he's not the amazing technical wrestler that is usually claimed. I'll try to address these issues later in this review and offer my opinions on such matters.
|Even the Hitman can't avoid looking like a doofus in photos of his younger days |
Many of the more controversial issues from Bret's life are covered in some detail on the DVD. Bret became personally involved in the making of this thing because he was concerned about how he and his wrestling career were going to be portrayed. Probably rightfully so, since before his involvement, Vince and co. were intending to call the DVD "Screwed: The Bret Hart Story" and it was to feature various wrestlers speaking about how Hart did certain things improperly (according to them at least).
Naturally enough, Bret kicks things off by talking a little about his youth, growing up in Canada, where he was a talented amateur wrestler. He goes on to explain how he got involved in the professional wrestling business. Although it wasn't something he'd been planning to do, being the son of the legendary Stu Hart, it wasn't exactly a surprising thing to most. He broke in working for the Canadian "Stampede Wrestling" promotion that his dad owned and ran. He had a large family and most of his brothers also wrestled. From very early on it was pretty clear that Bret was probably the most talented of them all (the "other good one", Owen Hart, was younger, so his skill was not yet known at that stage).
Bret's ability became especially apparent when he began wrestling the "Dynamite Kid" Tom Billington on a regular basis. Dynamite is the guy who inspired Chris Benoit to be a wrestler; Benoit's style is nearly identical to the Kid's, which should give you an idea how awesome he was. Dyno had his largest amount of fame in the USA as one half of the "British Bulldogs" tag team in WWF. But he was well renowned in England, Canada and (especially) Japan before that. Today many experts call Dynamite Kid the best technical wrestler, pound for pound, of all time. Bret himself says the same on this disc. They show footage of some of Bret and Dynamite's bouts from this period and it is truly amazing stuff. In fact, the only thing about this DVD that disappointed me slightly is that none of those matches are included in full.
Anyway, after Stampede and a few tours of Japan, Bret was to head to Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation. He started off as a singles wrestler. Because of his lack of microphone skills and his fairly bland look (at that time), in a promotion where image and entertaining personas often meant more than sheer technical ability, Hart was soon on the fast track to nowhere. He started getting used mainly as a jobber (those guys who never win). He was offered the gimmick of a cowboy, but he understood that wouldn't suit him and had no desire to play that role. He suggested forming a team with Jim Neidhart, who had also come to the WWF from Stampede. There's much more detail about this stuff of course. I found it very interesting indeed, as I only knew bits and pieces of it previously.
My earliest memories of Hart, and where I first became a fan of his, are from his early days in the WWF (now WWE) teaming with Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, with Jimmy Hart as their manager. They were known as the "Hart Foundation". Anvil was the wild powerhouse brawler of the team, while Bret was the clever technician. They clicked beautifully and many fans still consider them one of the best tag teams ever. They wrestled as heels (bad guys) during their first run and did a fantastic job, with plenty of help from Jimmy and his megaphone, of pissing the crowds off.
However they were also consistently having some of the best quality matches on the card (especially their bouts against the British Bulldogs) and had that "cool bad guy" thing going on. So, they were really the kind of guys that fans would "love to hate". When the Hart Foundation turned face (good guys) later down the track, the audience was only too happy to start cheering them.
|I doubt they meant for this photo to look as gay as it does |
It was a real treat for me to see all this classic Hart Foundation footage and hear the Hitman himself reminisce about it all. There are a few of the team's full matches included on the set too (which, as I said, I'll talk a bit about in part 4 of my "review"), so that's all good.
Eventually we move on to Bret getting back to being a singles wrester. He was now much more prepared for the role, having honed his Hitman persona. It was a tentative transition at first, with a couple of false starts. But, thanks mainly to the great matches he could have with almost anyone, before too long the fans started really taking to him. I fondly recall being really pleased when they started to acknowledge his skill more strongly.
As his individual star began to rise Bret was put into the Intercontinental Title mix. That involved some fantastic matches with the late "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig. Those bouts helped to make Bret look even stronger in the fan's minds. It was Hennig that Bret defeated to capture his first IC belt. The intercontinental title was still a very prestigious one back then too. These days it often seems like an afterthought, but I digress.
After proving to be well liked and accepted as the IC champ, there was really only one way for Bret's career to reach an even higher level. That was, of course, to become the World Heavyweight Champion. And that is where I shall kick off Part 2! As well as discussing the controversy and tragedy that followed for the Hitman. Be sure to tune in to the Buttonhole channel for more Bret Hart DVD goodness!
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