Bret “The Hitman” Hart is thought of by many to be the greatest technical wrestler that the world has ever seen and the self-proclaimed “best there is, best there was, and best there ever will be” certainly has the credentials to back that up. For over two decades, Bret Hart wowed audiences all over the world with his impeccable in-ring abilities and put on matches that will certainly stand the test of time.
Never the best in the world on the microphone, Bret Hart was second to none in the ring and learned the professional wrestling business from his father, the legendary Stu Hart. Bret was an extremely accomplished amateur wrestler and was once believed to be good enough to compete in the Commonwealth Games and possibly the Olympics. He also had plenty of exposure to the professional wrestling business as Stu trained wrestlers at his home in the famous “Dungeon”. Bret would spend time in there as well and would eventually join his father’s promotion in the late 1970s, training with Mr. Hito and Mr. Sakurada, two legends from Japan.
He worked with Stampede for eight years before they were acquired by the World Wrestling Federation in 1984. Bret would hone his craft in the tag-team division with his brother-in-law, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, as The Hart Foundation before becoming one of the most successful singles competitors of the 1990s. He had epic feuds with Mr. Perfect, the British Bulldog, Jerry “The King” Lawler and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to name a few and then there’s obviously his history with Shawn Michaels and The Montreal Screwjob. Hart actually spent more time as WWE Champion in the 1990s than any other wrestler before jumping to WCW in 1997. His time there certainly wasn’t spectacular but he was still able to put on some great matches from time to time, a couple which actually made this list.
Bret Hart was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 and matches from “The Excellence of Execution” can be seen at all times on the WWE Network. These are my favorite 15.
15. vs. 1-2-3 Kid – Monday Night RAW
This is kind of a forgotten classic. Back in the 1980s and 90s, it was pretty rare to get a babyface versus babyface match, let alone for the WWE Championship. Sure, there was Hogan/Warrior at WrestleMania VI, but the match between Bret Hart and a young 1-2-3 Kid was on Monday Night Raw. On July 11, 1994, Hart and a 21-year-old Waltman went back and forth for over 20 minutes until “The Hitman” finally made the youngster tap to the Sharpshooter in the middle of the ring. The two embraced after the match as the majority of the crowd, as well as announcers Randy Savage and Jim Ross, gave them a standing ovation.
14. vs. The Undertaker – SummerSlam 1997
In the first of many SummerSlam matches that will appear on this list, Bret Hart and The Undertaker put on a classic that I would and have put in The Undertaker’s top 10 matches of all time. With Shawn Michaels as the guest referee, Bret was playing the anti-American heel at this point and he and ‘Taker put on a show. They battled back and forth and ‘Taker had to deal with run-ins from Hart’s stable, but it really doesn’t take away from the match. The end saw Hart get into it with Michaels (shocking) before HBK hit The Undertaker with a chair that was meant for Bret. Hart got the 1-2-3 and the aftermath was historic. The finish of this match led to the first Hell in a Cell match between The Deadman and HBK, which ultimately led to The Montreal Screwjob. Crazy.
13. vs. Diesel – Survivor Series 1995
If I were to put together a list of Kevin Nash’s greatest matches, this one might be on top of the list. Nash, or Diesel, had been champion for about a year leading up to this WWE Championship match at Survivor Series in 1995. This match was a no-DQ match that saw Bret really control the pace of the match and simply made the big man look great. A surprising finish saw “The Hitman” win with a roll-up counter to Diesel’s Jackknife Powerbomb. It may seem a little slow to some, but a lot of the “big guy” versus “not as big guy” matches in wrestling history may seem that way. It’s just that Bret Hart can make them look a lot better, as was the case here.
12. vs. Mr. Perfect – King of the Ring 1993
This isn’t the only time you’ll see Mr. Perfect on this list. This isn’t the best match that Bret Hart and Curt Hennig ever put on, but it certainly deserves to be mentioned as one of Hart’s finest. The setting was the King of the Ring in 1993 (you know, the event where Hogan dropped the title to Yokozuna instead of Hart) and the match between two of the best to ever wear boots took place in the second round of the actual KOTR tournament. It was a classic display of technical wrestling with submissions and counters and everything you’d expect from these two. Hart won the match and eventually won the tournament which led to his legendary feud with Jerry Lawler.
11. vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper – WrestleMania VIII
It’s no secret that Rowdy Roddy Piper didn’t particularly like losing a match cleanly. Even in all of those years of battle with Hulk Hogan in the mid-1980s, Piper was never pinned by The Hulkster. He also really never won a title until winning the Intercontinental Championship in early 1992 from The Mountie, who had defeated Bret for that same title. A match was set for WrestleMania VIII between Piper and Hart and it delivered. Even with Piper’s brawling style, the mat wrestling between these two was phenomenal and the storytelling in the ring was a thing of beauty. The end saw Hart use the turnbuckles to springboard himself backwards while in Piper’s sleeper hold to get the 1-2-3, marking the first time in a long time that Piper’s shoulders went down for the three count. Great match.
10. vs. Chris Benoit – WCW Mayhem 1999
It’s only fitting that two of the greatest wrestlers to ever come out of Canada wrestled in the finals of a tournament for the vacant WCW World Heavyweight Championship in Toronto. The word “technical” is going to be used a lot on this list, and this is one of those times. Hart and Benoit put on a technical wrestling clinic. Even run-ins from Goldberg, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash couldn’t take away from the beauty of one of Bret’s best in WCW.
9. vs. Shawn Michaels – Survivor Series 1992
While their Ironman match and The Montreal Screwjob usually gets all the press, this match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels should not be a forgotten piece of their storied rivalry. Hulk Hogan was essentially gone from the World Wrestling Federation, (minus that little comeback in 1993) and a new generation of superstars were looking to make a name for themselves. Enter Bret Hart, the new WWE Champion, and Shawn Michaels, the new Intercontinental Champion. In a preview of the battles that would come for the next five years, these two put on a very good match with lots of energy that really showed that each could stand on their own in the singles division.
8. vs. Chris Benoit – Owen Hart Tribute Match
In what was probably the last truly great match of Bret Hart’s career, perhaps it’s only fitting that it was the match dedicated to his brother, Owen Hart, who had tragically passed away only a few months earlier…in the very arena in Kansas City in which this match between Bret Hart and Chris Benoit took place. This was simply a great match between two great competitors that showcased why they were two of the best in the business. Hart would pick up the victory by making Benoit tap to a Sharpshooter, but the result certainly didn’t matter on a night like that. Emotional all the way through.
7. vs. Mr. Perfect – SummerSlam 1991
Remember how I said there was a better match between Bret Hart and Curt Hennig? This is it. At this time, Bret was really trying to make it as a singles competitor and this match catapulted him into the stratosphere. It was always great watching these two go at it, and there’s yet another match from 1989 that was great as well, but this one takes the cake. For nearly 20 minutes, Hennig and Hart battled back and forth and in the end, Bret Hart won his very first singles title in the World Wrestling Federation as he captured the Intercontinental Championship. Excellent match.
6. vs. Owen Hart – SummerSlam 1994
Some people might actually rank this match above a match I have listed later on, but I like it in this spot. Some have called this steel cage match between Bret Hart and Owen Hart the best cage match in history…and it was the old blue cage as well. It is a very great match. In front of most of the Hart family, Bret and Owen went at it for more than half an hour. Up the cage, down the cage and in the middle of the ring, the brothers easily had the match of the night (not that hard for that particular pay-per-view) and one of the best matches of both of their great careers. Bret won in a great finish before the ring filled with members of the family in a chaotic scene. Classic Hart family.
5. vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Survivor Series 1996
While this may not be their most famous match, this Survivor Series match between Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin is a classic in its own right and is likely the reason the other match was scheduled a few months down the road (don’t worry, I’m getting there). This wasn’t Bret’s best technical match, but it wasn’t supposed to be. That’s what made it so great. As Austin, a huge heel at the time, was more of a brawler and Hart was more of a technician, they sort of flipflopped styles that night and it made for great entertainment. The finish is very similar to the finish of the Hart-Piper match as Bret turned Austin’s Million Dollar Dream into a pinning predicament using the ropes. Excellent start to an excellent feud.
4. vs. British Bulldog – SummerSlam 1992
This match was the headliner (the first Intercontinental Championship match to headline a pay-per-view) for SummerSlam in 1992, but it had a WrestleMania main event type of feel to it. In front of more than 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium in London, Bret Hart and his brother-in-law, Davey Boy Smith, or the British Bulldog, put on an absolute classic that many consider to be the greatest match in SummerSlam history. This is easily the best match of Bulldog’s career and cemented Bret Hart as one of the new faces of the company. And that’s a match he lost.
3. vs. Owen Hart – WrestleMania X
Speaking of a match he lost, this is the Bret/Owen match that I feel is the best between the two brothers, the main reason being that this is one of the best pure wrestling matches I’ve ever seen. The buildup to this match was beautifully done and there’s never been a better match to open a WrestleMania. The obvious chemistry between the two really shines through here as they battle back and forth for over 20 minutes. The way Owen works Bret’s leg and the way Bret sells it should be shown to every wrestler trying to make it. It was classic storytelling and a classic match.
2. vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania XII
This match was an amazing display of endurance and a big part of the legendary rivalry between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. An Ironman Match hadn’t been put on display like this before and these were the only two in the company at the time that could pull this off. And did they ever. In one of the greatest WrestleMania matches of all time, The Excellence of Execution and The Heartbreak Kid wrestled for a full hour and then some. In the end, this will always be known as when the boyhood dream came true for Shawn Michaels, but it takes two to tango and it took a guy like Bret Hart to make this match happen.
1. vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin – WrestleMania 13
There are so many great things about this match. It’s absolutely brilliant and I would put it on top of a “Best Matches of Steve Austin” list as well. Everyone remembers the iconic image of Stone Cold Steve Austin covered in blood as he passed out to Bret Hart’s sharpshooter, but getting to that point was so much fun and so well done. That night in Chicago changed the face of wrestling forever. Both men came into WrestleMania 13 getting some cheers and some boos, but before the night was over, the full double turn had been completed. It was an epic match and in my humble opinion, the greatest match in the Hall of Fame career of Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
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