Redress – I’m a Bret Hart fan as I got into wrestling around the first time he became WWF champion. However, I’ve never actually seen the match where he wins the title. Time to put that right.

I first got into pro wrestling around the autumn of 1992. At this point, I knew nothing about it and was just enthralled by larger than life characters fighting each other in a ring on TV. A few months later I watched my first ‘proper’ Pay Per View –  WWF Royal Rumble 1993, where Bret Hart defended the WWF World Title against Razor Ramon. I’ve loved that match since the first day I saw it and I think it played a big part of what I like to see in wrestling to this day.

Bret was a ‘realistic’ champion, a smaller competitor who you could see losing to other guys, as opposed to a superman like Hulk Hogan, who never lost. I think that’s why I liked him as champion…his matches often had great action, really good storytelling and felt like they were important, as there was a good chance Bret could lose to his often larger, more devious opponents. I still think it’s a shame his first title reign came to an end at Wrestlemania IX, to Yokozuna…I know that’s 25 years ago…it’s not exactly the hottest take, is it?

Anyway, I’m rambling…I really got into wrestling thanks to Bret’s first title reign, but I’ve never actually seen how Bret won the title…thanks to the WWF Network, I can go back and watch it…

Bret’s first WWF World Title win didn’t come at a Pay-Per-View or even a TV taping…it actually came on an untelevised show in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in October 1992. Defending champion Ric Flair was in his second WWF World Title reign, but was on the outs with the WWF (he’d be gone by February 1993) and it was decided that Bret Hart would be the next champion. It made sense to have him win the title in Canada (Hart’s from Calgary originally) but surely a big title win for a first time champion should have made TV at least? Maybe the WWF thought they could brush the match under the carpet if they changed their mind on Hart as WWF champion? Luckily, the match was recorded and is available on the ‘Smack ‘Em Whack Em’ compilation on the WWE Network.

Neither man thinks particularly highly of the match, from all accounts. Flair was suffering with inner ear problems from an errant Ultimate Warrior strike earlier in the month and Hart had a few nagging injuries coming into the match. Both men also had a clash of styles – Hart liked a realistic approach, while Flair liked to make his opponent look good with lots of big bumps (falls) and bouncing around.

Enough backstory, let’s watch this match…as an aside, it’s the first time I’ve done this style of blog post, so let me know if it comes across OK. Constructive criticism is always welcome…

Thoughts on the match

I do like how the start of this match is really understated… I know Bret wins the title, but if you’re watching this match at the time I don’t think you would have suspected a thing. Even with Bret getting the better of Flair in the early going, working over Flair’s arm and reversing a suplex, there is no hype from the commentary of Gorilla Monsoon and ‘Lord’ Alfred Hayes. They quietly praise Bret while at no point giving away the finish with silly hyperbole.

Bret trying to pin Flair after ‘the Flair Flop’ (basically, if you beat Ric Flair up a lot, he falls flat on his face) is a great bit of wrestling – logically, if a guy fall down suddenly, why wouldn’t you try and pin him? Flair’s been great in this match so far – I love his mannerisms and he’s doing his best to make Hart look good. It’s definitely a Ric Flair match though – we’ve had two backdrops out of the corner, two Flair Flops, two quick Hart clotheslines and Flair’s trunks being pulled down…in the space of five minutes.

There’s some miscommunication where Flair kicks Hart off on a Figure Four Leglock attempt too soon, causing Bret to dislocate some fingers blocking his fall into the turnbuckles. Hart just quickly relocates them and continues. Fair play to Bret…though he probably realized he might not get another WWF title match if something went wrong here!

I really like the pace of this match…it’s slow, but not dull. It’s a deliberate pace, with no wasted motion from either man. The crowd are getting into this too – it’s like they can sense something might be happening here. As Bret wins a slugfest, I realize that Flair hasn’t taken any crazy bumps involving the turnbuckles. As I type that, Flair gets himself pressed off the top rope to the mat. Thanks Ric. I’d love to see Ric Flair’s ‘Successful Top Rope Moves Ratio’….I’d estimate it’s around 0.1%. Flair takes a third backdrop out of the corner…I can deal with that. It’s when Flair takes more than three Gorilla Press Slams in one match that my suspension of disbelief starts to fail.

Bret goes into the Five Moves Of Doom catalogue (a Russian Legsweep, a Backbreaker and a second rope elbow drop here), hits a third suplex, wins another slugfest then hits a top rope superplex to get the crowd going. Bret then slaps on the Sharpshooter as Mr Perfect (at ringside as Flair’s ‘executive consultant’) tries the worst attempt at distracting a referee ever…seriously, referee Earl Hebner just shooed him away! Hebner turns back to the match to see Flair submitting and there a new champion! Good reaction from the crowd, even though it does feel too polite. I guess it may have been a long show…

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Verdict – I quite enjoyed that.  I felt like the quality did drop a little in the middle of the match, almost like the wrestlers reigned it in a bit. Still though, a fine match and one that should have been on TV/Pay-per-view, not on a forgotten Coliseum compilation. I’ll give it a score of 3.5/5 – I enjoyed the match, but it didn’t quite get to fifth gear for me. I think Ric Flair and Bret Hart are great and I wish there had been rematches as I think they could have been great…that said, it looks like they had an Ironman match in January 1993…how did that not air somewhere? To think, Wrestlemania IX has Crush v Doink on, while Ric Flair vs Bret Hart is relegated to compilation tape and Youtube….life isn’t fair….