On this day…
Today is November 25, 2012. On paper, not a noteworthy day in the least. There is a history between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart in the month of November that has nothing to do with November 9, 1997 (Montreal Screwjob). On November 25, 1989, the Rockers and Hart Foundation locked horns in a very good match at Madison Square Garden. Shawn and Bret were both tag team wrestlers at this point in time.
Just three years later to the exact day, Shawn and Bret would again be working against one another. This time in a singles match. This time not on a house-show, but on one of the major WWF PPV’s, Survivor Series 1992. And this time, both Shawn and Bret would be title-holders. Bret would be the WWF World Champion. He had beaten Ric Flair the month previous during a Coliseum Home video taping. The match itself was less than spectacular, but the fact remained that the Hitman was the WWF Champion for the very first time in his career. Shawn was the Intercontinental champion. This was his first singles belt in the WWF. He had just beaten the British Bulldog earlier that November in a very solid match on Saturday Night’s Main Event.
In the span of three years (to the exact day), both men had gone from tag team wrestlers to holding the top two titles in the company. On this very same card, Randy Savage and Mr. Perfect teamed up to take on Ric Flair and Razor Ramon in a tag team match. Originally, the Ultimate Warrior was supposed to be Savage’s partner, but Warrior had been fired by the WWF after testing positive for steroids. Bret Hart states in his book that the government was on Vince’s back about steroids, forcing Vince’s hand on releasing Warrior. Due to that, previous main eventers getting up there in age, and some leaving to go to WCW (Flair), Vince McMahon had to transition into a different generation of stars. This match is the very first glimpse of that realization for McMahon, and there would still be road bumps ahead (Hogan winning the WWF Title at Wrestlemania IX, right after Bret Hart had lost to Yokozuna, Hogan dropping the belt back to Yokozuna at KOTR ’93 in Hogans’ last WWF match for nearly 20 years later and darting off to WCW). Bret would eventually win that title back at Wrestlemania X. That event also turned out to be a huge event for Shawn Michaels. Many believe he had a show-stealing Ladder match, which got rated ***** by Dave Meltzer. The match was pioneering and began the way of high-flying matches in America. Wrestlemania X solidified what Vince and both Shawn and Bret started at Survivor Series 1992. They truly moved the company into the “New Generation” at Wrestlemania X. Wrestlemania X took place at Madison Square Garden, the same location these two men wrestled a classic tag team match just 4,5 years earlier, November 25, 1989. Which brings us to our first match:
Rockers vs. Hart Foundation 11.25.89 Madison Square Garden- New York, NY
This match is somehow not on Youtube, despite being on the Greatest Rivalries: HBK/Bret DVD and the HBK: MY Journey DVD. Here it is in 2 parts on Dailymotion, it's a 20 minute match.
Bret and Marty start the match off working some counters back and forth keeping it somewhat basic in the opening couple of minutes. Right away, it’s pretty obvious they are telling a story by working at a slower pace in the early stages of the match and pick up the pace as the match continues on. I love that style of story-telling. Just like in any line of work, finishing is what matters most. The Rockers start their double-team moves with a hip-toss and elbow drops on the Hitman before getting back up and getting absolutely trucked by a clothesline by the Anvil.
Shawn tries to knockdown Anvil off the ropes with a shoulder block, but, Anvil is having none of that shit. They stand there and stare at eachother for a good two seconds. Michaels gets back to work and Anvil catches Michaels in an attempted cross-body. Anvil goes for the bodyslam, but get Shawn counters into a sweet cradle for a 2 count.
In comes Marty, and he works an arm-bar on Neidhart and then proceeds to once again get trucked by him. This is certainly one of Anvils’ better performances in the ring. Granted, he is in there with a high work-rate opponent, but Anvil appears to still give a shit here. Shawn tags in, double superkicks from Shawn and Marty for a 2 count. Bret comes in, and we get some Bret vs. Shawn action. Bret hits an inverted atomic drop on Shawn, works his knee into Shawn’s back on the apron, and hits a backbreaker on Shawn. Bret deciding to work Shawn’s back. Shawn sells it all like a champ. Bret comes off as such as a mean, nasty heel in this part of the match, despite the fact they are not heels. He hits Shawn with two of the stiffest looking and sounding European uppercuts I’ve seen. Neidhart tags in. Sweet, little spot where Shawn leaps from the middle of the ring and tries to tag Marty, but Neidhart is there to catch Shawn, prevent the tag and move Shawn back into the Hart Foundation’s corner. The story here is that the match is not going as easy for the Hart’s as they thought it would, and because of that, they are having to resort to their previous heel-ish ways. Bret hits a suplex on Shawn, and the Harts start wrestling more of a heel-ish style and keep Shawn in the Harts’ corner and decimate him. Interesting stuff, as the Hart Foundation weren’t heels at this point in time. But the Rockers size (or lack there of), look, and style just lent them to getting more sympathy than any of the other tag teams of this time. Also, nowhere near as much high-flying stuff from the Rockers in this match as their known for. More psychology based with the Rockers trying to beat the Hart Foundation at their own game, mat-wrestling, pacing and even getting a couple cheap-shots in behind the ref’s back. Transition spot has Bret miss an elbow off the second rope which allows Shawn to make the tag to HOUSE OF FIRE!1 Marty. Marty goes to town on Bret. I then counted four (count them, 4!) near-falls: knee-lift, backslide, cross-body, and a roll-up. Bret an Marty go back and forth, before Marty tags in Shawn who proceeds to get trucked by Anvil (Anvil sure did a lot of trucking in this match). Bret tags in and goes to suplex Shawn, but Shawn counters with a suplex of his own. Bret then puts Shawn in abdominal stretch, Shawn goes to counter it and in comes Anvil, and then Marty All hell breaks loose.. Match ends as Hercules, Paul Roma and Tito Santana come to break it up. Match ends in a draw. Great match. Perhaps my favorite Rockers match ever It’s pretty apparent that Shawn & Marty made it a point not to go to the top rope during this match, as they only did once. I love the Rockers high-flying shit, but this is a match in which they relied on their chain-wrestling and psychology to tell a story, and it worked. I loved it. ****1/4
Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart- Survivor Series 1992 [11.25.92] Richfield Coliseum, Richfield, Ohio
Match starts off with some mat wrestling, in which Bret starts to get the better of until Shawn gets to the ropes to break that up. Bret applies a hammerlock, reversed by Shawn. Bret then gets the better of the situation by running and using his momentum to throw Shawn out of the ring. Shawn gets sling-shotted back into the ring and Bret applies an armbar. Bret goes for the roll-up only for Shawn to avoid it and hit a cross-body block. Two count. Bret starts to get back to work on Shawn’s arm and re-applies an armbar. They begin to pick up the pace alittle bit and run the ropes. Bret attempts to hit Shawn in the corner, but instead, his shoulder hits the ringpost.
Shawn hits a sweet-looking armbreaker on Bret. Bret then does his Bret Hart style hitting the turnbuckle chest first. Shawn goes for a pin, but gets two. Shawn hits a nice dropkick and backbreaker, for two. Shawn grabs a chinlock on Bret, only for Bret to fight back with a swinging neckbreaker to regain control..for a moment. It’s actually Shawn who keeps control of the match, as he gets up off the mat before Bret does. Shawn grabs a headlock on Bret. Bret delivers a boot to the face of Shawn in the corner.
Bret goes for an elbow off the second rope, but Shawn moves out of the way, 2 count. Shawn runs at Bret, Bret is able to avoid Shawn, and deliver backdrop suplex, excellently delivered by the Hitman. Both guys are on the mat catching their breath after the back-and-forth action we are seeing. Back up, Bret regains control of the match with a catapult of ol’ HBK into the corner. They do the spot where Shawn is lying across the ropes, Bret kicks Shawn in the stomach, only for Shawn to land on his nuts on the top rope. Nice little spot. Nearfall on backbody drop for a two count.
We get the Bret Hart five moves of doom. Russian leg-sweep into a 2 count. (By the way, it’s amazing how much more stiff the WWF ring was in 1992 compared to 1998 and on to now. There is very little give with that ring anytime a wrestler bumps. In both this match and the match I watched and reviewed above, the mat looks like a 20x20 slab of concrete and not just because of the color of the canvas, but whenever a wrestler takes a basic back bump, it’s as if he’s falling on concrete. The mat doesn’t move at all. Stiff as hell. Much softer ring starting from 1998.) That goes into the Bret Hart backbreaker and the Bret Hart elbow off the second rope for another 2 count. Ah, only 3 moves of doom there. We get a change of momentum with a superplex! Both men are down and Bret is able to lay his arm across Shawn body for a two count. Bret then applies the sleeper on Shawn. They then do the spot where Shawn tries to get out of the sleeper by pushing Bret into the corner, but Earl Hebner gets in the way, and gets squashed (Was it a must for Hebner to ref all HBK/Bret matches? And get bumped in each match, as well? ).
Bret gets dumped out onto the floor after he avoided a suplex from Bret. Some outside shenanigans as Shawn slams Bret into the steel ringpost. Back in the ring, Shawn gets back to back nearfalls after whipping Bret into the corner and hitting a backbody drop. Close but no cigar. Shawn decided to heel it up and argues with Hebner for alittle, Bret gets cute and tries to steal this one away with a rollup from behind Shawn, but he only gets a two count. Shawn hits a superkick (interesting to note, it was still a superkick at this time and not yet “sweet chin music,” as this wasn’t his finisher yet). Now, Shawn hits his then finishing move at the time, the unstoppable “teardrop” suplex! No way a wrestler can kick out of that move, right? Well, Bret Hart does the impossible and actually kicks out of this devastating maneuver. The finish sees Shawn crotch himself on the ropes and then attempt to jump off the second rope, only to pancake flat on the mat and land right into Bret’s sharpshooter. Very similar to how they ended regulation of the Ironman Match four years later, only this time, Shawn would submit.
Nice, long 26 minute match in which Bret retains that beautiful, prestigious WWF Winged Eagle Belt. Terrific match, much better than I thought it would be, and much better than I remember it being. Some back and forth action, mixed in with some quality mat wrestling. They both worked their ass off, barely any rest-holds. It is apparent in this match that Bret is much further along in the ring and in the “WWF style” than Shawn is here. Even still, for a guy who is a lot less experienced and a full eight years younger than Bret, Shawn certainly holds his end of the bargain in this match. He still had some work to do, but he was clearly on the right path. Even at this stage, it was quite apparent these were the two guys who would lead the company into the future. They are great, no doubt about it. Call it ****1/2