June 25, 2005
Graham Cawthon

Bret "The Hitman" Hart (1997)

In early 1997, the WWF released several new 1-hour Coliseum Home Videos, distributed by Goodtimes Home Entertainment. Sunny, World Tour, Free For All, etc.

One such tape in the series was a profile on the returning Bret “The Hitman” Hart and featured many of his battles from the last few weeks of 1996. Although it cuts off before the Royal Rumble, it’s clear that Bret’s “Frustrated” character was already in full swing before Stone Cold Steve Austin illegally dumped him out of the ring to win the 97 Rumble.

The World Wrestling Federation – For over 50 years, the Revolutionary Force in Sports Entertainment

“Because I am the best there was, the best there is, and the best there ever will be … and I’m back.” (Bret from Monday Night Raw – 10/21/96)

Cue Dok Hendrix, the host for the tape. Dok explains that the best there was, the best there is, and the best there ever will be has gotten even better since his return to the WWF. He notes that it’s because of the motivating factor of the fans, most notably his nephew who died several months earlier, that Bret came back to the WWF “in the twilight of his career” in hopes of winning his 4th WWF Championship.

Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin
Survivor Series 1996
Madison Square Garden
November 17, 1996
Vince McMahon & Jim Ross on commentary

While their WrestleMania 13 battle was more historic, I personally think this was the better all-around match. After Bret’s entrance, we’re joined in progress with Bret falling into the barrier on the floor. Austin dominates Bret on the floor and casually slides back in to break the count before going back out to the floor, where Bret makes a comeback and the two men almost fall through the retaining barrier.

Austin soon sends Bret onto the Spanish commentary table following a slingshot then climbs on top of the table to further punish Bret with a series of punches to the face. He follows with a forearm blow from the apron to Bret, laid across the table.

Back inside the ring, Austin lands a Bret Hart elbow to gain a 2-count. Stone Cold continues to dominate by throwing Bret hard into the corner and choking him against the ropes. After gaining another near fall, he locks Bret in an abdominal stretch, pulling the ropes to gain more of an advantage. The hold is eventually dropped and the two men trade vicious blows in the middle of the ring before Bret soon hits Austin with his former WCW finisher, the Stun Gun, for a near fall. Bret lands an Oklahoma side roll moments later for another near fall, then hits a piledriver for a third 2-count.

Bret goes up top but Austin follows, causing Bret to crotch himself on the top turnbuckle. Austin pounds away, climbs up, and hits a superplex to put both men on the mat. After a few seconds, Bret hooks a leg cradle on Austin to get a near fall. Bret comes up behind Austin but falls victim to the Stone Cold Stunner. Austin immediately drags Bret away from the ropes and hooks the leg but only gains a 2-count. Several more covers follow but Bret continues to kick out.

Hoping to put Bret out of his misery, Austin hooks on the Texas Cloverleaf, which at the time had been made famous by then-WCW Cruiserweight Champion Dean Malenko. Bret eventually reaches the ropes and the hold is broken. Austin assaults Bret in the corner and throws him across the ring, with Bret hitting the ringpost ribs-first. A lifeless Hart is pulled into the middle of the ring and covered but somehow kicks out at 2. Austin then applies a bow & arrow submission hold, with Bret soon reversing it and attempts to apply the Sharpshooter but Austin grabs the bottom rope before the hold can be fully applied.

The Hitman catches Austin in a sleeper but is rammed into the corner back-first and is dropped with a jaw breaker. Stone Cold gets to his feet first and locks Bret in the Million $ Dream, which was his finisher earlier in the year when he was associated with Ted Dibiase. And then, like a flashback to WrestleMania VIII and Bret’s match with Roddy Piper, Bret kicks off the top turnbuckle and falls backwards onto Austin. Austin refuses to release the sleeper and basically pins himself.

Ross and McMahon discuss the fact that Bret had just earned himself a world title shot at In Your House “It’s Time”. Austin stares at Bret from the floor while Hart’s theme music is played throughout MSG.

Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart
Monday Night Raw
New Haven, CT
November 18, 1996
Aired 11/25/96
Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, & Jerry Lawler on commentary

Again joined in progress but it’s still during the early stages of the match. An “Owen” chant is heard from the crowd as a backstage shot sees Davey Boy Smith, Owen’s then-tag team championship partner, watching the monitor.

Owen pounds on Bret in the corner while the announce team discusses the upcoming UK and United Arab Emirates tour. The King of Harts assaults his older brother with a basic kick / punch offense before locking him in a modified Camel Clutch. Bret gets to his feet but is soon put down with a belly to belly suplex.

We skip ahead in the match to see Bret throw Owen off the top. The two men trade blows, with Bret gaining the upper hand with a headbutt. Bret lands a blow to the midsection and follows with the side Russian leg sweep for a near fall. A backbreaker follows and Bret lands the elbow off the middle turnbuckle to continue his 5 Moves of Doom. Bret prepares Owen for the Sharpshooter but lands a headbutt to the midsection instead.

Owen gains a roll up out of nowhere but is sent to the floor when Bret kicks out with force. Owen tries a sunset flip into the ring but Bret rolls through and sets Owen up for the Sharpshooter. Just then, Stone Cold Steve Austin runs down with a steel chair and cracks it over Bret’s back. The referee stops the match.

Austin and Owen double team Bret and lock his ankle in the chair before Davey Boy comes down and removes the chair, arguing with Austin and trying to talk Owen out of it. Davey again removes the chair and receives a chair shot from behind by Austin. Owen and Austin share heated words as we go back to Dok Hendrix.

Bret Hart vs. WWF World Champion Psycho Sid
In Your House “It’s Time”
West Palm Beach, FL
December 15, 1996
Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Shawn Michaels on commentary

We see Bret’s entrance, fully equipped with fireworks, as HBK sarcastically puts Bret over as the role model of the WWF. We then jump ahead to Sid attempting to powerbomb Bret on the exposed floor. The challenger rams Sid into the ring post twice to gain the upper hand, then picks the champion up and again drives him into the post.

Back inside the ring, Bret continues to work over the back of the champion. Shawn discusses that, while Bret’s offense may vary during the match, his ultimate goal is to apply the Sharpshooter and – if it’s applied – even Sid doesn’t have a chance.

The challenger applies a rear chin lock and then connects with a headbutt to the lower back. Sid hits the corner back-first and continues to be pummeled in the corner. Another rear chin lock is applied, with Bret’s knee buried in the lower back of Sid. When talk of the Sharpshooter starts up, HBK reminds everyone that he was in the hold for 30-45 seconds and didn’t give up.

As referee Earl Hebner checks on the champion, Bret goes to the opposite corner and undoes the turnbuckle pad, which HBK notes as a sign of desperation. The challenger tries to ram Sid face first into the corner but the champion blocks it, only to be further assaulted in the kidneys and lower back. A back suplex by Bret follows.

JR and Michaels mention that Bret hasn’t hooked the leg during most of his covers. Hart connects with a suplex and lands an elbow off the middle ropes to the back. Through all of this, Bret is gaining several near falls by not hooking the leg.

Sid finally regains the advantage by throwing Bret off the top and begins to use his size and power to put the challenger down. A boot to the face and a big powerslam by Sid completely change the pace of the contest. JR reminds everyone that the WWF Champion will face Shawn Michaels at the Royal Rumble.

Out of nowhere, Bret attempts to apply the Sharpshooter but is kicked out to the floor. Just then, Stone Cold Steve Austin runs down and clips Bret in the back of the knee before Davey Boy Smith & Owen Hart come out, with all three men being quickly escorted backstage by officials.

Though heavily limping, Bret manages to get back inside the ring and Sid is visibly confused as to how the injury took place. The champion then begins pounding Bret in the corner. Sid tries twice to set Bret up for the Snake Eyes. The first attempt seems to be a bust so it’s done a second time, with Bret first avoiding the move but then falling victim to that forgotten exposed turnbuckle from earlier in the match.

The champion hits a devastating chokeslam but surprisingly only gets a 2-count. Michaels notes that he doesn’t respect Bret as a person but does respect his desire. Bret avoids a clothesline from Sid but then hits his own to send both men to the floor.

The challenger grabs Michaels’ chair away from the guest color man, to use obviously as a weapon, but is attacked from behind by Sid. The champion then grabs HBK by the face and shoves him down, immediately pissing Michaels off to the point where he climbs up on the ring apron just as Sid Irish whips Bret into the ropes. Bret and HBK collide head-first, Sid hits the powerbomb, and gains the easy 3-count. JR questions whether or not Sid has reached a level of immortality, considering his consecutive pinfalls over both HBK and the Hitman.

Sid parades his title belt while Bret – now sporting a bloody nose – rolls to the floor, spots Michaels, and punches him right in the face. Hart pulls Michaels’ shirt up over his face, in good ole hockey fight fashion, and leaves HBK laying on the floor.

Monday Night Raw
Tampa, FL
December 16, 1996

We see Jim Ross conducting an in-ring interview with the Hitman, sporting circular black shades instead of his trademark pink wrap-arounds. Bret goes on about the fact that rules no longer seem to have any meaning in the WWF and then singles out Shawn Michaels (mentioning him as a “prissy”), Stone Cold, and Psycho Sid as three guys that will soon see the Hitman play by his own rules. Bret says HBK can’t accept the fact that Michaels isn’t as good as the Hitman, then says he will do anything and everything to get back on top (a fan in the crowd shouts, “And you will!”).

The Hitman announces that he will be a participant in the 1997 Royal Rumble. Hart goes to do color commentary later in the show and ends up attacking Steve Austin during his match with Vader, twice applying the Sharpshooter. During the same segment, Bret and Vader get into an impromptu pull-apart, leading us to …

Bret Hart vs. Vader
Albany, NY
December 30, 1996
Aired 1/6/97
Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler, and Shawn Michaels on commentary

Joined in progress. Vince discusses that Bret needs this win to have the momentum going into the upcoming Royal Rumble match but mentions that, because Bret is such a marked man, he is not likely to win the 30-man event.

Vader uses his size and strength to keep Bret on the mat, landing a big clothesline off the middle turnbuckle before we skip ahead in the match. Vader goes up to the middle turnbuckle again and connects with a big splash for a near fall.

HBK continues to verbally attack Bret, saying he’s no angel. Vader goes up for the Vader Bomb, then heads to the top for the moonsault, but is convinced by the referee to come back down. Bret blocks the Vader Bomb by lifting both knees and goes to work with a series of punches to the midsection, following with a Russian leg sweep and a bodyslam. Michaels rags on the predictable 5 Moves of Doom as Bret connects with the elbow off the middle turnbuckle. Hart hits a big back suplex for a near fall.

Vader with an Irish whip, then catches Bret in a crossbody but both men fall over the top to the floor. Hart and Vader trade blows on the outside, with Psycho Sid then coming out and grabbing a cameraman to lead backstage. At the same time, Steve Austin comes out and hits the Stunner on Bret while Vader and Earl Hebner converse on the floor.

Back inside the ring, Vader immediately sets Bret up for the Vader Bomb. Once he hits it, the easy 3-count follows. This would be considered somewhat of an upset, considering Bret was being pushed much harder than Vader at the time.

Dok hypes the Bret / Austin feud, the Rumble match, as well as Bret’s quest to regain the title before signing off.

Before ending the tape, we take a look at the “You Start a Fire” music video which was put together during Bret’s title run in early 1996.

My thoughts: For a Bret Hart video, this doesn’t put Bret over very well. Aside from the victorious return against Austin and the cheap DQ win over Owen, he loses via pinfall in the last 2 matches on the tape. Aside from that, the VHS features some fairly rare matches (Vader, Sid, Owen). Is it worth getting? Sure but I wouldn’t pay more than $10, if that. Remember, everything is joined in progress.

wordpress stats plugin