I finally got round to watching this. I know I’m late to the party. It’s a classic wrestling documentary, with a different twist, and I’m glad you came to The Real Mid Card to hear more about it.
The film is centred around a sit down interview with Jim Ross and bitter rivals Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Shawn Michaels. Every wrestling fan knows the history with these two. The accomplishments, the competitiveness and the hatred. You can learn a lot more from this, as it takes you on two parallel journeys. Two great hands who eventually conquered the world, all the time on a collision course for each other. There were pitfalls and problems, but for the most part this piece tries to leave a lasting impression of the good that both guys left with the business.
They both started out in the industry as great tag team wrestlers. Shawn Michaels tagged with Marty Jannetty in The Rockers and Bret Hart was a part of the legendary Hart Foundation with Jim Neidhart. The two teams stood out from the crowd in a time of giants and cartoons, before eventually working against each other and having some great matches. This compatibility morphed into a feud between the two stand out performers. They competed in the first ever ladder match in WWE history for the Intercontinental Championship, as they both made their way up the ladder in the company behind the scenes. Both guys told Jim of how they would mock the “dinosaurs” of the business like Hogan and Warrior, and how they yearned for evolution.
Shawn is very candid about his demons. I don’t even know how he managed to wrestle on TV every single week, considering the stuff he was getting up to outside of the ring. Bret is also candid in his assessment of that behaviour which caused a lot of tension between Shawn’s “Kliq” and the rest of the locker room. Despite all of this, the two of them competed in one of the best matches in history when they met in the first ever 60 minute iron man match (which went into overtime).
The friendship that they had developed off-screen was beginning to become strained at this point as they started to go from friends to competitors. Bret spoke of how he felt like a leader of the locker room, and that he had to try and do something about the behaviour of Shawn’s crew. That doesn’t stop him from heaping praise on his opposite number and himself, rightly describing the iron man match as “the perfect match” in terms of execution, timing and psychology.
Bret went away for a little while shortly after that, and started to lay the seeds for another feud down the line. Unfortunately though, as he put it, they “worked themselves into a shoot”. Upon his return, both men started cutting very intense, fuelled promos on each other which were very close to the line. I know that they weren’t the first to cut shoot promos, but this was very cutting edge for it’s era.
As the rivalry became more intense on-screen and in reality, everything built up to the Montreal Screwjob. This is the part that all the viewers are waiting to see – Bret and Shawn discussing face-to-face the events of that fateful night in wrestling history. They went very in-depth about all of the problems leading up to Survivor Series, including Bret’s refusal to put Shawn over. Apparently he had offered previously to do just that in a conversation, and ol’ HBK had basically told him that he would never do the same for him. You can see The Hitman’s point. They go through in detail who knew the plan, the timing of everything and the emotions behind the whole thing.
My only criticism of the film would be that they don’t spend enough time discussing the aftermath of Survivor Series. They touch on Bret’s horrific time in WCW, and the exact opposite experience that Shawn had upon his return to WWE, but not enough for me. After an illustrious career, The Hitman became marginalised and mediocre in Atlanta, while HBK won more big titles and had some of the most memorable matches of his (or any) career. You can tell that Bret is still a little bitter about how everything went down, but who can blame him after everything he had gone through with Owen, etc?
It was pretty touching to hear about how Vince made an emotional, stirring pep-talk to Bret on the phone, after his stroke. He then inducted one of him into the Hall of Fame and the two reunited. After everything that they went through together before Montreal, it was the best thing for both of them to finally put that night to rest. We got to see how he and Shawn did the same thing on Raw. The two of them were almost in tears talking about how everything had come full circle and how they can now all leave with friendships and great memories.
Maybe I’m a sap, but that made me happy. I don’t like to see genius guys hating each other like that. It’s not necessary. A lot went down, but it’s best for everybody to put it to bed, and it would seem that they have, with Bret appearing on Raw during the Championship Ascension Ceremony this past week alongside Triple H.
This film was very insightful, compelling and emotional. A true story of rivalry, bitterness and friendship, and probably one of the best WWE productions I’ve seen. A big thumbs up and a recommendation from me.
Thanks for reading,