As New Generation Week progresses, we here at Eyes On the Ring found ourselves in a pretty heated discussion about the topic of Bret vs Shawn as far as a rivalry goes. We talked their two matches for the WWF Title at separate Survivor Series events and their iconic Ironman match. Some of us on the team feel as if the Ironman match is supremely overrated (Nathan, but he's always wrong so... yeah), but others recognize the sheer greatness of that match. Today, we look at both the rivalry and who is the better wrestler between the two. Let's get into it.
Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels was one of the rivalries that went from being strictly professional and competitive to personal and even breaking kayfabe. Two legends whose respective careers are so similar that their clash on the biggest stage in pro wrestling was inevitable. Shawn and Bret went toe to toe in a wrestling match for the ages. First time ever, two wrestlers competed at Wrestlemania in a 60 minute ironman match. After 60 minutes of a wrestling classic, Shawn would not submit to the sharpshooter, resulting in the match going into overtime. Shawn would eventually win the match and his very first world title. The rivalry would get more intense and personal as time went on. Shawn would fake an injury so he wouldn't drop the belt to Bret at Mania 13. Shawn bringing up "Sunny Days" and challenging Bret's personal character. I think it's always good when wrestling storylines bridge reality and soap opera and it worked. From my memory, crowds were hot and invested in both characters and the rivalry. It all came to a boiling point when Survivor Series 97 rolled around. The infamous Screwjob caused a heated rivalry to explode into catastrophe. Personal shots would be thrown by Bret on WCW and Shawn continued his shots at Bret on Raw (example: Getting the Rock to say that he was The Best There Is, The Best There Was....). Bret would hold a personal grudge against the company and Shawn until 2010 where they both buried the hatchet on Monday Night Raw. From a matchup, chemistry, and storyline perspective, the rivalry between Shawn and Bret is one of the most controversial and respected rivalries in the pro wrestling industry. If I had to choose one.... man, I would edge it to Bret. I love both, but I'll go with Bret.
Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels is one of the best rivalries in WWE history between two of the best wrestlers in WWE history. If I had to pick one over the other though? I'm taking Bret. To me, he was the better overall wrestler. In ring, he was about as sound as it gets. The Tim Duncan of the wrestling world, wasn't the flashiest, but he did it about as well as it could be done. HBK was great in the ring, but he wasn't up there with Bret. Now HBK post-back injury was one of the best, if not THE best, but for the purposes of New Generation week? Bret Hart is the man.
I was still in the midst of a Hulkamania hangover when Bret's run began. His slow methodical approach in the ring didn't appeal to my short attention span as an early teen. Combine that with a not-so-larger-than-life personality and I started to lean toward watching WCW at the time. Then, the rivalry began. Shawn Michaels had the perfect alter persona/style to make these two click. They dragged me back in, and while the idea of a one-hour match had me bored to tears back then, their match at Wrestlemania squashed all my fears. But as great as that match was, the juiciest part of their rivalry had to be on the brink of the Attitude Era. Those promos back and forth were gold. It added an element that was missing from earlier in the rivalry. Take the workout vignettes prior to the Iron Man match.... Yuck! I laugh whenever I see those nowadays! I would have loved to see Bret stick in the WWE and this rivalry continue throughout the decades in some capacity, even it was as competing GMs. Or even Shawn jumping ship to WCW and continuing their rivalry with the competitor. That would have been must see! I would lean towards Shawn in this regard during this era.
When comparing both Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, it's really hard to do so because of the fact that they were both great wrestlers in their prime. Shawn Michaels is considered perhaps the best overall performer in all of WWE, while Bret Hart ranks up there as one of the best if not the best technical wrestlers of his era. Honestly though when I think about Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels and which one of the two was the better wrestler during the New Generation Era, the answer that comes to mind is Bret Hart.
The reason being because while Shawn was a very good wrestler, he often refused to put people over and if he didn't want to wrestle someone he would hurt his knee or lose his smile etc etc.
We have to remember that the Shawn Michaels I am referring to is way different than the Shawn Michaels of today (or so we are told), but Bret Hart was always willing to work with anyone and never once questioned putting someone over (well except for the Montreal Screwjob Incident which also involved Shawn Michaels, but that's another issue entirely).
While Shawn had the WWE World Title, the ratings were in the toilet and as I said earlier he didn't want to drop said title to certain people, so he decided to vacate it. Bret Hart on the other hand did his best to work with everyone he was given and make the best out of it. He even got a watchable match out of Diesel at King Of The Ring 95, something Shawn Michaels couldn't do against the very same person at that year's Wrestlemania, in fact, they weren't even in the main event.
So there you have it, my answer as to who was the better wrestler in the New Generation Era is Bret Hart, due to the fact that he never had a bad match with anyone and he always showed up ready to work in working condition while wanting to have the best match possible on any given night.
Nathan, as usual, is wrong. Shawn managed to get two damn good matches out of Diesel in my opinion, one at Wrestlemania 11, and one at In Your House in April 1996. When talking the rivalry, Shawn vs Bret was truly something special and is the essential feud that marks the era. If talking who was better? I'm always going with Shawn. Shawn was hands down the best wrestler of this era and while Bret was right there with him, Shawn was more entertaining and solid. Bret could truly go like no other and technical wise, he had an advantage but as an overall package, Shawn edges this for me.
What about you? Shawn vs Bret? Who is your pick?