I don’t think it’s any great secret that my love for today’s professional wrestling has taken a hit over the last decade or so. What used to be an obsession has now become more of a common fandom, wherein I watch a bit of Raw every Monday night then read or listen to recaps to see what I should go out of my way to review on the DVR. While some may point to my getting older, having a family, and other activities taking precedence on my available free time, rest assured I still do watch plenty of wrestling.
It’s just old stuff on the WWE Network.
Prime Time, TNT, old Nitros…that’s where my wrestling time is spent. I feel…actually more KNOW…I am now no longer in the target demographic. More and more, I feel I am morphing into one of those guys who wrote into the old Apter mags bemoaning the fact that Vince had turned wrestling into a circus, longing for ‘the good old days’ that had long since past. These geezers (and I can call them that because I now am amongst their kind) would generally point to specific incidents that caused them to throw up their hands in defeat.
What I am writing about today is one of the main causes for my waving the white flag.
For pretty much the entire decade of the 1990s, Bret Hart was my favorite wrestler. From his run as IC champ back when it meant something (there’s my old timer coming out!) to his first WWF title run to his awesome, AWESOME feud with Steve Austin, I always loved watching Bret in action. When Montreal happened (and if you want the full details on that, I strongly urge you to pick up The Death of WCW: 10th Anniversary Edition as we spent several pages documenting the whole thing), I was of course livid. And when WCW was, well, WCW with Bret, I wasn’t any happier.
But it wasn’t until 2010 when things really went south. Because that’s when Bret decided that a return to the company that he had railed against since that fateful night in Canada was in his best interest. Maybe it was. But part of me wanted to believe this man who said that he would never return, that he had been wronged too badly, too personally, and he would not forget that. I wanted to be that mark, I wanted to be that fan, I wanted to be that guy who said “It’s still real to me.” I wanted that part of my younger innocence to remain forever.
But it didn’t. And a large part of my wrestling love died.
Look, I get why Bret did it. They were going to create a Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior hatchet job DVD release and he didn’t want to be remembered that way. I understand that. But it doesn’t mean that I liked it. In fact, I pretty much hated his coming back.
And that was BEFORE anything happened on screen, which was a real tragedy.
Tragedy in this case meaning THE WWE CREATIVE CREW.
It all started on the first Raw of 2010, as Bret returned after a 12 year absence from the show. He came out to a huge ovation of course, and immediately began to thank the fans for their undying support. He noted that he had wanted to come back for years, but Vince had always blocked him from doing so.
Ok, faux pas number one right there: everyone knew Bret HATED Vince. Why on earth would he want to come back? And why would Vince prevent him from doing so? Vince didn’t hate Bret; he just felt that Bret made a bad business decision in not doing the ‘right thing’, and thus, the famous line about Bret screwing Bret.
The other guy in the equation was Shawn Michaels. So it was no surprise when the first guy Bret asked to come out and see him was the Heartbreak Kid. However, Bret wasn’t there to kick Shawn’s ass…he was there to kiss it.
Really, the first words out of Bret’s mouth were that he wanted to bury the hatchet.
Um, ok. That makes no sense.
So Shawn comes out and that he thought Bret was a royal pain and thus he deserved what happened in Montreal. On top of that, he didn’t regret at all what he did to assist in the double-cross.
See, now Shawn, I believe.
Newer fans might not realize this, but prior to his departure following his loss to Steve Austin, Shawn was arguably the biggest prima donna crybaby the business had ever known. When it was time for him to drop a title, something would always come up wherein he’d somehow been unable to do so. With that in mind, you may have a good idea why it felt so very weird to type that I believe Shawn more than Bret.
Regardless, they wind up having a love fest, talking about how great their Iron Match. That’s what Shawn called it – IRON MATCH. Guess he didn’t like the term “Man.” As noted, I love Bret, and I always thought Shawn was pretty awesome. But I remember watching that match live with friends and by about the 30 minute mark, we all knew there would be zero falls and we all kinda waited impatiently for the clock to wind down to zero. So while some may consider that a great match, I’ve always thought it was pretty disappointing.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, the hand shakes and hugs.
And yeah, they shake hands as the fans basically boo before offering a bit of polite applause. If you think WWE just started booking stupid stuff in the last 18 months or so, yeah, you’re wrong. You had two guys who for over a decade talked absolute trash about each other, and when they finally are on the same show, they shake hands and then hug.
What is it with this company not liking to use storylines real life literally hands to them?
The sole saving grace of this segment is a moment as Shawn is leaving, where he pauses ever so slightly, teasing a super kick.
Not enough to save this idiocy, but I’m nothing if not a fair man so I do need to mention it.
Shawn leaves the ring, so next Bret calls out Vince…who promptly no shows.
Until the end of the show, that is.
Vince appears in the ring two hours later and notes that since Shawn and Bret hugged, he considers Montreal history and then starts blah blahing about nothing until Bret comes out for the big confrontation. With Bret in his face, Vince again says that Bret screwed Bret, and that he would never forget Bret spitting in his face and then ‘sucker punching’ him. He notes that he hopes that Bret starts his blah blahing with two words; “I’m sorry.” Bret notes that his two words would be very different than Vince’s.
I’d like to think they were “storyline sucks.”
Well, that’s mine at least.
Instead, Bret talks about how he is here for closure, to put it all behind him, and be FRIENDS with everyone. Egads. Hearing him out, Vince notes that maybe Bret was right and they should just shake hands.
Which they do, and Vince raises his hands in the air.
And then promptly kicks Bret in the sack.
It would be over a month before Bret appeared on WWE television, so that shot to the nads must have really, REALLY hurt. In his absence, everyone from John Cena to the Undertaker showed up to tell Vince that when The Hitman returned, he was going to kick his fanny. And Vince would generally do his patented ‘big gulp’ at the thought.
SPEAKING OF BIG GULPS…why did we never get that cross promotion?
A (hopefully lenticular) picture on Vince on the side of one of these would have made the guy a trillionaire.
After such a build, you’d expect Vince to be cowering when Bret’s testicles healed up enough to allow him to return to Raw in February…but this is Vince McMahon we’s talkin’ ’bout!
He just got right up in Bret’s face!
So, NO FEAR VINCE basically goes nose to nose with Bret, talking about how Hart has no charisma, can’t speak English, he looks like an old hound dog, how he’s not a hero, he’s dressed like a hobo. Bret’s response?
He stands by politely, randomly asking, “Are you finished?”
I’m really concerned I am going to break this keyboard as I am typing so angrily as I recap all this stupidity. My once hero, now just a complete mamby pamby geek.
Bret takes it all in, does nothing, finally snapping when Vince notes Stu doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. Sadly he doesn’t point out “the same Hall of Fame that has Koko B. Ware in it.”
You know, just to really stick it to him.
So Bret attacks with a kick to Vince’s genitals, and…wait, there’s something I have to point out here.
Despite the fact that these guys were clearly kicking groins in such a manner that would have Homer Simpson howling, the announcers kept talking about how they were kicking each other in the gut. Why? Absolutely no idea.
In the interest of education, I’d like to help these guys out with pictures:
THIS IS THE GUT:
THIS IS THE GROIN:
I’dd also point out the man in the picture above appears to have his weiner removed, but that kinda goes without saying.
Following Bret’s shot to Vince’s groin/gut/whatever, Batista makes the save. Since Vince is a Mighty McMahon, he gets right back up (damaging his grapefruits wouldn’t keep him out for a month!) and pummels away, eventually spitting right in Bret’s hound dog face.
The weeks go by and we get more stuff like this, with Vince saying he’ll take a match with Bret at WrestleMania and then saying no he won’t. Finally, Bret realizes that with no WrestleMania match in the offering, it ain’t worth sticking around this stupid place no mo so he says good bye to the fans and hops in his limo to go back to Calgary.
Unfortunately for Bret, as he’s getting into the limo, another car rams into it, trapping his leg and doing severe damage.
This would lead to a few weeks of Vince now wanting a match with Bret, since he’s incapacitated. And then Bret explaining how he couldn’t have a match, since he was hurt.
And now a pansy.
But yes, this goes where you expect it to go…
…with Bret revealing that he faked the injury just so Vince would accept the match, a no holds barred match.
To be fair, this part was actually a logical storyline and I’m sure on paper, it seemed fine. And of course, both Vince and Bret are two of the best ever in their ability to manipulate the crowd so the payoff was admittedly fun. Why they felt the need to do all this when they could have just shown footage week after week of what actually happened or maybe get some clips from Wrestling with Shadows and probably done a lot better can certainly be debated, but you know what, I’m nothing if not a fair man and I will say this was not really induction worthy.
But the match itself?
That’s why we’re really here today.
After all the real life drama and storyline BS, we finally got Vince vs. Bret on the grandest stage of them all: WrestleMania.
How could this possibly go wrong?
Answer: in pretty much every way imaginable.
So Bret comes out, getting a nice enough reaction from the hardcores in the crowd. Next Vince starts down the aisle. Now you’d think that Bret, after 13 years of waiting to strangle McMahon, would run down the aisle and beat him to a pulp. Instead, he waits by silently as Vince monologues, noting that he is going to give Bret a WrestleMania-sized screwing. You see, because Mr. McMahon went out and purchased a ‘whole bunch’ of lumberjacks!
In the form of the entire Hart family!
As in Natalya and the Hart Dynasty!
As in BRUCE!
As in DIANA!
As in a bunch of others that even I, one of Bret’s biggest fans who can recite half his autobiography word for word, have zero idea who they were!
You know what will add a lot more interest to a real life feud that’s been ongoing for thirteen years?
THIS WOMAN putting the chops to Bret if he falls out of the ring!
And we get SUPER PUDGY BRUCE as the special guest referee!
If he keeps the sunglasses on the entire match, I will delete everything I’ve written here today and induct, I don’t know, The Miller Light Catfight Girls match instead. (Note to self: induct that next year.)
Before the match can truly get started, Bret asks his family if they got paid up front, if they’ve already cashed the checks. Nodding follows. So Bret informs Vince since he’d already paid them, that was fine.
Because Bret had heard about Vince’s little plan, and therefore, tonight was going to see another double cross…as the Harts stand united against the evil Mister McMahon!
And yes, this follows that announcement.
Seriously, I can’t believe they didn’t do that. GAZILLIONS left on the table.
And Bret starts beating on Vince.
And beating on Vince.
And beating on Vince.
And beating on Vince…this time with a tire iron.
And when Bret got tuckered out from beating on Vince, the other Harts beat on Vince.
Say what you will about McMahon, but when it’s time for him to take a beating, he takes it like a champ.
Take note, Steph.
It’s ok to look like a loser some times.
After all the punishment, Bret decides to go for the Sharpshooter…
…but instead lets go of it and gets the tire iron back to beat on Vince some more.
And then kicks him in the gut/groin/I’vealreadyusedthisjokebefore/whatever again.
And then beats on him with a chair for three or four minutes.
And the crowd goes mild.
Really. They were getting kinda bored by this point.
Finally, FINALLY, Bret puts Vince in the Sharpshooter and the match comes to a merciful end.
As the Hart family stands triumphant, the evil Mr. McMahon is vanquished.
The real comedy here, though, is what the idea was behind the scenes in putting the match together.
Get this: apparently, Vince was wanting a horrific beating, a savage beating, not to pay off the blood feud between himself and Bret, but so the crowd would actually feel sorry for him and turn him babyface.
You know, like happened in Bret’s last WrestleMania match?
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
This is usually where I write some zippy one-liner to end on a happy note, but sorry, I just can’t with this one, because this is one I won’t ever forget…for all the wrong reasons.
Enjoy WrestleMania this weekend, kids.