The event was Wrestle Mania X. The venue was one of the most famous arenas in the world, Madison Square Garden, New York. The Main Event saw Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart battle the 500-pound Yokozuna for the coveted World Heavyweight Championship.
Yokozuna defeated Lex Luger earlier the same evening, to retain the championship and had to face Bret Hart in the main event as Lex and Bret had jointly won the Royal Rumble earlier that year.
As the wrestling tradition goes, the winner of the Royal Rumble has the right to challenge the World Heavyweight Champion at the grandest stage of them all, Wrestle Mania. Bret had also squared off against his younger brother Owen the same evening in one of the best technical wrestling matches ever, albeit unfortunately ending up on the losing side.
Cut to the main event and a battered and bruised Bret took on a much-motivated sumo giant and the going wasn’t easy. Yokozuna dominated the major part of the brawl but Bret, not one to give up, saw his opportunity and pinned the champion 1-2-3. In a matter of seconds, the fortunes turned and Bret was the champion. As a 10-year-old, I was thrilled watching that match and seeing Bret win, further substantiated my belief that good always overcomes evil.
After the match, all the face wrestlers (good guys) headed to the ring and celebrated with Bret with Lex Luger and Macho Man Randy Savage hoisting the Hitman on their shoulders.
The Hitman catchphrase ‘The best there is. The best there was. The best there ever will be.’ had resonated with me more than ever that evening and he was truly the embodiment of what a face and a champion in wrestling is. Wrestling was always in the Hart family blood, with Bret being a second-generation wrestler who trained at the famous Hart Dungeon run by his father Stu.
He was possibly the best technical wrestler of his generation and his famous in-ring pink tights with the black vest attire were priceless. What’s more his gesture of putting his famous glasses on a lucky kid before every match was the cherry on the cake for the kid and the viewer alike. Gorilla Monsoon, the WWE legend best described this ‘that youngster will remember that moment for the rest of his life’.
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Bret for the major part of the 90s was the face of WWE beating all the big names in the business the likes of the Undertaker, Mr. Perfect, Yokozuna, Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels to name a few. Unfortunately, the one downer for me when it comes to the famed career of Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart was the Montreal Screwjob in 1997, which resulted in him leaving the WWE for good.
The perpetrator was none other than WWE chairman Vince Mcmahon whose relationship with Bret had strained and Shawn Michaels illegally beat Bret Hart by applying Bret’s own maneuver the sharpshooter in which The Hitman never tapped but Vince rang the bell.
Bret was screwed out of the championship and the WWE. I was in tears. This was one of the worst nights for me in WWE. But as the saying goes ‘Nothing lasts forever’ and so is the case with strained relationships when Bret and Vince finally buried the hatchet with Hart being inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Such was the resilience Bret showed in the ring and life when in 2002 he successfully recovered from a paralytic attack he had suffered when he fell in a pothole while cycling, flipping over the handlebars, and landing on the back of his head.
His recovery was a testament to his fighting ability and he truly epitomised what a warrior is. Championships and Bret have always had a legendary love affair with The Hitman being a 5-time World Heavyweight Champion, 1-time United States Champion, 2-time Intercontinental Champion, 2-time Tag Team Champion, 2-time King of the Ring, 1-time Royal Rumble winner and a 2-time Hall of Fame winner.
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Truth be told, these accolades certainly cement his stature as the excellence of execution and for me, Bret will always be ‘The best there is. The best there was. The best there will be.’
Thank you, sir, for your colossal contribution to Professional Wrestling and we wish you a happy 63rd.