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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

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Classic Rivalries: Bret Hart versus Owen Hart

By @TrueGodImmortal

There are some rivalries and feuds that are championed. You hear about them all the time. Austin vs Rock. HHH vs Rock. Flair vs Dusty. Vince vs Austin. Hogan vs Savage. Hogan vs Andre. The list goes on. One rivalry that doesn't get mentioned as much is the battle of the Hart brothers, Bret vs Owen (RIP). This feud cemented Owen as one of the best in the WWF at the time, and gave him his first true test at a main event feud.

As 1994 began, it was obvious the Hart Family was having a bit of a trouble staying close. After Survivor Series 1993, dissension was teased between Bret and Owen, with Owen even attempting to mock Bret by using the sharpshooter and wearing his shades. At the behest of their parents, Bret and Owen made peace for the holidays, and set themselves up for a tag team title shot against The Quebecers. Bret was dealing with a knee injury during the bout, so the referee stopped the match, which cause Owen to lose it and attack Bret, officially kicking off the feud. What confused most after this, was that Bret still competed in the Royal Rumble match, and ended up as a co-winner with Lex Luger. This would set Bret on the path to a title shot at Wrestlemania 10, so where does that leave his feud with Owen going into the granddaddy of them all? Apparently, still in tact.

While the booking here might have been a bit overzealous, Bret was set to compete in the main event against the winner of the Yokozuna vs Lex Luger title match earlier in the night at Wrestlemania. Still, however, despite Owen turning on Bret, Bret had yet to accept the challenge to fight. It was after Owen cut some passionate promos against Bret that he finally accepted, setting the stage for Bret to wrestle twice at Wrestlemania 10. Bret vs Owen had a big fight feel to it, and they would be the opening match for Wrestlemania 10, which would set the tone for the night. The question lingered however... How would this turn out? Was Owen truly ready for the spotlight? Could Bret vs Owen steal the show? Or will the chemistry between the two brothers not be there on this big night?

What we got at Wrestlemania 10 in Bret vs Owen was not only a classic, but it is without a doubt, the greatest opening match in the history of Wrestlemania. The only match that comes close to that would be the Daniel Bryan vs Triple H match at WM30, but this match still beats it. Bret and Owen put on a clinic, with Owen surprisingly picking up the victory and seemingly winning the feud. Bret went on to win the WWF Title later that night and began a long lasting reign. Was this the end of the Bret vs Owen feud? Was Bret now to move on? Owen refused to let that happen.

At the King of The Ring 1994, Jim Neidhart, Bret's former tag partner in the Hart Foundation, sat in Bret's corner as he defended the title against Diesel. After the match was over, Diesel and Shawn Michaels beat down Bret, but Bret received no help from Neidhart, who left him to fend for himself. To clear up any confusion, Neidhart appeared later to help Owen win the King Of The Ring tournament, earning Owen a title shot at Summerslam and rekindling the Bret vs Owen rivalry instantly. It appeared that Neidhart appearing in Bret's corner that night was a set up by Owen. With Owen as your new King of The Ring, the stage was set for a rematch between the two brothers, but this time for bigger stakes: the WWF Championship. While I'm sure no one would have complained about Owen vs Bret for the title in a regular 1 on 1 match, they upped the ante by making it a steel cage match for the title. To be honest, steel cage matches seemed like they usually were designed for brutal feuds between big guys and brawlers instead of for two smaller technically inclined wrestlers. As Summerslam drew near, that same question of "will they deliver" began to arise...

And they damn sure did.

You'd think there was no way to top a classic like their encounter at Wrestlemania 10. Well, they did. The cage match at Summerslam is one of the greatest matches in Summerslam history and one of Bret's top five all time greatest matches. I'd dare say its Owen's greatest match of all time. Over 30 minutes of action, along with the entire Hart family, including Davey Boy Smith (British Bulldog), getting involved. After the great Summerslam match where Bret retained the title, Owen vs Bret continued in tag team form on RAW as Owen and Neidhart teamed up against Bret and Bulldog for a while. I'm certain that if WWF had the amount of the PPVs then that we do now, we'd have seen a tag team main event between those teams, along with a separate Neidhart vs Bulldog feud. After the tag team feud fizzled out a bit, we saw the feud continue via Owen being in Bob Backlund's corner as he won the WWF Title from Bret in a strange match where instead of your opinion tapping out in submission, the person in your corner had to throw in the towel. Owen, always crafty, forced his mother to throw in the towel for Bret, causing Bret to lose the match and title. Backlund ending up losing the title to Diesel days later in 8 seconds. 

I want to make a small mention here that I think WWF messed up by not having Owen be the one dethrone Bret and take the title from him. I also think they could have had Owen will the belt from Bret, have him lose the belt to Diesel on a RAW via interference from Bret, and continue with the storyline. This would make sense as the rivalry started to wind down around the Royal Rumble 1995 where Bret got a title shot at Diesel but Owen interfered and cost him his shot at regaining it. I think the dimension of Owen winning the belt from Bret, losing it to Diesel because of Bret's interference, then costing Bret his own title match would have been a great succession and a way to keep the feud alive for one final big encounter.

We never got that one last big encounter truly, and while Bret and Owen had more matches against each other in the following months, we missed out a bit on that one last big match to close out the feud. That doesn't take away from what we did see, and that was a classic rivalry. Both Bret and Owen worked their asses off to create something magical and that's exactly what they did. When its all said and done, Bret vs Owen was not only a classic rivalry but one of the best ever. If you've never witnessed this rivalry, thank God for the WWE Network and get to watching it. You will be amazed.

Next time on classic rivalries, we take a look at the best rivalry of this most recent era, CM Punk vs John Cena.


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