Bret Hart made the announcement on Monday that he has been diagnosed with cancer.
The announcement hit every wrestling fan like a ton of bricks. For so many of us, Bret represents wrestling in the ’90s. He brought in the era of in-ring greatness that followed the first “Steroid Era” of guys like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. He’d go on to have classic rivalries with Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold and help carry wrestling beyond a down period. This list won’t do his greatness its just due, but I’ll try.
Here are just 10 moments that I’ll never forget from the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.
The Mr. Perfect Saga
I think the very first match I saw that I realized was a great wrestling match was Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam ’91. I was five at the time and was a fan of wrestling in the way most kids are: the big, loud good guys are cool and I like it when they win. But this match was the first time I was sucked into the actual drama and greatness of the wrestling. Their SummerSlam match is one of the best Intercontinental title matches of all-time, and their follow-up at King of the Ring ’93 was only a notch below. But the part I grew to appreciate as I got older? The backstage segment before the match. Two underrated funny guys just being entertaining as hell.
The Greatest Match Of All-Time*
Ric Flair himself has said that Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog at a sold-out Wembley Stadium for the Intercontinental championship is one of the greatest matches of ever. Bret himself (he’s never been one for humility) thinks the match should stand up in the history of greatest matches. And his argument wouldn’t be far off. Hart and Bulldog pulled off a match that allowed them to headline an event in which Savage and Warrior wrestled for the World title. You can make the assumption that Bret’s ability to headline an event like this put him firmly in the main-event picture going forward.
Never Been A Right Time To Say Goodbye
WWE has always had an infatuation with its wrestlers and musical performances. From Koko B. Ware’s “Piledriver” song to John Cena rapping his own theme song, WWE loves the awkwardness of having its guys make music. So, for WWF WrestleMania: The Album, Bret did a pop love spoken word rendition of pure ’90s cheese. Just listen.
The Greatest Sibling Rivalry Ever
Bret vs. Owen was perfect. They had a slow build starting in 1993 with Owen being jealous of his brother. Then the jealousy built for months, and the beauty of it was that Bret was partly at fault here for costing them the Tag Team titles. This all culminated in probably the best opening match in WrestleMania history when they tore it up in Madison Square Garden for the event’s 10th installment.
Mr. Burns’ Musk
I think Bret Hart’s popularity in the ’90s has been understated in recent years. That’s partly because WWE can rewrite history when a guy leaves the company. But, look, he was on the friggin’ Simpsons. That’s crossover as hell.
Making Stone Cold Steve Austin
I’m not sure there’s a Stone Cold without Bret Hart. Obviously the Hart/Austin match at WrestleMania 13 was one of the best ever and set the stage for Austin’s babyface turn. Then there was my absolute favorite Monday Night RAW ever when Stone Cold and Bret had a street fight that essentially lasted the whole episode and ended with Austin disguised as an ambulance driver and beating Bret up. The rivalry was tremendous and we have Bret to thank for it as much as Austin.
He Knocked Out Vince McMahon
We all know about the Montreal Screwjob. But one thing we’ve never seen, but have heard about was the fact that Bret punched Vince square in the jaw in the locker room after the match and knocked him out cold. According to the people in the room, Vince took a dive like he was selling a move in the ring. It takes cojones to do that, even if you’re no longer in the company.
Bret vs. El Dandy
It only took a few months for Bret Hart to realize he was in the middle of a sh*tstorm at WCW. So, there was a point in his WCW career where he turned into YOLOBret and became the most entertaining form of himself. This interview about friggin’ El Dandy is peak Bret in WCW.
The Steel Plate Segment
This is Bret’s best moment in WCW. It’s a short segment that was brilliant beyond its years. Bret challenged Goldberg to a match, came to the ring and took a spear. Goldberg, though, laid unconscious in the ring. Why? Bret was wearing a metal plate under his jersey. It was just a moment of creativity that was rare in WCW at the time and one of Hart’s favorite moments.
Bret’s Love Of Hip-Hop And His Crazy Shoe Game
Whenever Bret Hart wore street clothes to the ring, he was always wearing the dopest Jordans. His Jordan connect is only rivaled by Shane McMahon. Even in retirement, as an old man, Bret would show up on RAW with any fresh, rare Jordan. As he got older, he started appreciating the way rap would embrace him, shouting out Drake for beating Meek Mill, posting pics of Fabolous and even doing a rap album with Cam’ron. Bret did it for the culture.