WWE Review – I remember one afternoon in 1997 when that year’s Survivor Series was being played as a rerun. I tuned in to the main event when Shawn Michaels applied the Sharpshooter on Bret Hart in hopes of winning the then-WWF Championship Title. Seconds after twisting Hart’s legs for the submission hold, referee Earl Hebner called the bell in favor of Michaels winning the title without Bret tapping out.
A flurry of event took place after that - Vince McMahon and security walked out from backstage to escort Michaels out of the ring, who appeared furious with the decision. Bret, who was alone in the ring, distraught about the whole incident, spat on the face of McMahon. As I was intently watching, wondering whether or not Bret really tapped out and seeing how the awkward finish was unfolding before my very eyes, the show went off the air.
Being in my early teens back then, everything that happened in the latest few moments of the 1997 Survivor Series didn’t make sense to me. Only a couple of years later after reading articles about the incident shone light to that particular moment in WWE history. The Montreal Screwjob, as it would be coined, revealed the brewing animosity between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, not to mention Hart’s contractual obligations to the company prior to him bolting out of WWE was sort of a problem for Vince McMahon as well.
There were books written and documentaries filmed about what really took place, but WWE Greatest Rivalries – Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart is, in concept, a documentary that aims to put all the crap that happened back then to rest.
The documentary, hosted by WWE commentator Jim Ross, is a sit-down interview between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. It’s also important to note that, before the making of the video, both men were only a year removed when Hart approached Michaels to finally bury the 13-year old hatchet, which they did on RAW in 2010.
The video starts by tracing back Michaels and Hart’s beginnings to set up their eventual collision course that culminated in their match at Survivor Series in 1997. The video does great work of portraying the contrasts between the talented Superstars. On one hand, you have Hart, the consummate pro who’s tirelessly shown his love for the company by holding the WWF Championship with pride and honor. On the other, you have a flashy and controversial in Michaels whose brash ways have rubbed guys at the backstage the wrong way.
For professional wrestling fans, their stories don’t really add much to what has been already said, mentioned, and written by other people. The first-half of the documentary treads on the friendly and rather stale relationship that both men have. They were stoked about matching up against each other during the ir respective runs in the tag team division, with Hart teaming up with Jim “Anvil” Neidhart to form The Hart Foundation and Michaels as a relative newcomer as part of The Rockers with Marty Jannetty. Even the segment during their single runs leading to the Montreal Screwjob didn’t exactly provide additional information to the entire debacle.
However, WWE Greatest Rivalries – Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart gets to relive the contrast that both men have, as Hart continues to appear agitated about the Montreal Screwjob while Michaels appears to have put the whole episode behind him. There are times during the interview when Michaels seems to hold back and just shrugs off things Hart mentioned to have happened. I think this is a continual process for Michaels to accept his past self as a complete douche back then for reasons that, sadly, were not disclosed in the interview.
The documentary finally got more interesting by the end, when Hart suffered a stroke that put his life in jeopardy. Without spoiling what happened and was said, it was the most emotional Hart had been in the entire video, which led him to finally drop the “bag of rocks” he’s been carrying all throughout this time.
In conclusion, WWE Greatest Rivalries – Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart is successful in terms of laying to rest their past animosity and moving on to better and greater things. The DVD also features their most popular matches so viewers can relive arguably some of the greatest matches in WWE history, in particular the Iron Man Match at Wrestlemania XII. I wished that both guys ran through the match in greater detail during the interview, but we as viewers are left to watch the matches as they are.
That said, I felt that the whole interview focused on the controversy that surrounded them instead of their rivalry that took place during the time when WWE was on the bubble. The company was not only mired in a steroid scandal, but was also already losing viewership to WCW and the New World Order stable. Despite these distractions, Michaels and Hart were the pillars that WWE held onto for the rest of the period. Although they’re no Hulk Hogan or Ultimate Warrior in terms of popularity during their peak runs, their matches laid the blueprint to what wrestling has become today. Musclebound freaks were replaced by athletic guys that not only boast a wide array of moveset, but could also tell a compelling story in the ring. When all is said and done, that is the legacy that people should remember from Michaels and Hart.
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