It’s time to review WWE Greatest Rivalries: Shawn Michaels VS. Bret Hart, the DVD I’ve been looking forward to most this year. It’s released later this month in the United Kingdom (when ordering here) and the United States (over here).
If you’ve followed this website for some time you probably heard this release replaced another WWE had planned, Stone Cold VS. The Rock. I was anticipating that one for months, but in actual fact became more excited on hearing a sit down interview with Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart was in the works. After all, this rivalry became real.
So let’s now look at that main feature, in which Jim Ross conducts an interview with the two WWE Hall of Famers that many would never have thought possible. It lasts just over 2 hours.
It all starts with a nice introductory video package, produced in a “story book” theme referring to the story of Shawn vs Bret. The voice over hypes up their feud saying that as both superstars achieved success in WWE their rivalry grew, evolving to the point of hatred both on screen and off. Nicely done. You gotta be ready to hear them talk after that.
JR introduces the feature and the two men sitting facing him. Almost immediately we hear a reference to Montreal, with JR saying that whilst their careers cannot be defined by Survivor Series 1997 they will certainly talk about it at length today. The feature kicks off with a look at both of their beginnings – Shawn in San Antonio, Bret in Calgary. A video package is shown which looks at how both stars got into the business. We know all this already, seen a few times in DVDs but I guess we need a bit of introductory to make the story complete.
The Rockers vs. The Hart Foundation…
Now the two sit down and discuss Bret’s perception of Shawn when he entered WWF, since Bret was already there. They look back on The Rocker’s bad boy reputation causing friction in dressing room. It’s interesting to hear that despite their rep Bret thought they were good workers and had respect for them, feeling the company needed a fresh team and another for the Hart Foundation to work with. Shawn agrees the reputation in the locker room was justified, as two young guys living their dream but thinks the talent shined through. Shawn recalls The Rockers’ plight to get in a match with the Hart Foundation but they were new, and felt frustrated they couldn’t get to them because of their size. We hear about the un-aired match they eventually had where the ring rope broke loose and both guys agree it was a terrible, anti-climatic pay off. You can see that match still bothers them today.
Heartbreak Kid vs.The Hit Man…
On to the next video package (they’re only short and played at fitting times) which says Shawn showed more charisma and controversy to get the top with his new look and brash attitude following The Rocker’s break up, on to reigning as the Intercontinental Champion. Their ladder match is shown, summarised as Bret vs Shawn being wrestling technician vs risk taker.
Bret talks candidly about being confident in his ring work at the time but not his interview skills, relying more on Neidhart. He credits Curt Hennig as the guy who opened the door for him to be pushed, and once the IC title was on him he felt he carried the flag for the smaller guys in the locker room. Shawn agrees that championship was the work horse title, as they discuss their matches being much smarter than those of the top guys like Hogan and Warrior. They don’t hold back on criticising the main eventers of the day, saying they looked good but it was same old when the bell rang. Good stuff, very honest.
Now Shawn and Bret bring up what many people may not know, that they always got along well from the beginning, to the point that Bret considered Shawn one of his better friends and were very close. You can’t help but feel for Bret and how it ultimately turned out, as he points out he often praised Shawn to management, putting in a good word for him and likes to think he contributed in getting HBK to the top. Shawn agrees here and feels it was both of their missions to get the top and change the business for the better in terms of wrestlers their size.
“Dinosaur” vs Clique…
So no real tension mentioned so far. The interview gets more juicy as Bret talks of how he felt Shawn was the star of the show when he went up against Diesel at WrestleMania, and that Nash was out of his depth carrying the title. It’s here their real life feud heats up as Shawn and Bret explain how they now felt in direct competition with each other and their friendship was no longer the same. Bret recalls feeling like a placeholder or “yesterday’s news” to management, despite having the WWE Championship and quality matches. The seeds are planted for more interesting conversation, as Bret explains this is where his own animosity toward Shawn started to build, and that the Clique had a lot to do with it. He perceived that Shawn was planning to work only with all of his friends, and makess it clear that he felt Shawn was positioning all his friends to get in on the money so didn’t have the right mindset to be the champion.
Oddly, on a few occasions in the interview Bret vividly remembers conversations with Shawn on topics like this one, that Shawn now doesn’t recall happening. Either way, Shawn can see with the attitude he had back it made him take care of his buddies first, whilst he and the Clique alienated themselves in the looker room because they just “didn’t give a damn”.
Fact vs Fiction…
They reveal that tensions between them going into Iron Man match at WrestleMania were subtle rather than anything major, and they were more excited about that opportunity foremost. Their comments about the match itself, particularly Brets, show they felt it was a masterpiece, perfectly executed as they planned and talked about before hand. Interestingly Bret clarifies that he felt happy for Shawn winning, and when queried by JR about leaving the arena quickly after, he says it was all to keep up the pretence. They confirm they wanted the overtime and sudden death at the end of the match, and think people’s perceptions of their hatred here was overblown. Bret says although Shawn did say to Earl “tell him to get the hell out of the ring”, it was already the plan for Bret to walk out looking pissed, so it wasn’t anything that triggered bad feeling. Bret paints a good picture here that he was striving to let everybody think there was big heat between them because of those events and the lack of handshake, to keep money in the story. Both men joke that ultimately they “worked themselves into a shoot” as it later became real.
Host JR introduces the edgier attitude of WWE now, from around 1996 onwards. Time for another video package as the feature now shows a great one documenting this period of their feud, particularly focusing on their promos including the infamous “Sunny days” comment, through to the build up to their match at in Montreal at Survivor Series 1997. These are great to look back on and I feel are an integral part of re-living their rivalry, which makes it unfortunate there is only these flashbacks to the segments on the DVD.
Fittingly, JR discusses how promos at the time had a fine line between fact and fiction. Another juicy topic is brought up with Bret not believing Shawn was hurt when he had the knee injury, but rather felt he had a lack of commitment, quitting on the team at a time WCW was looming. He admits now that he doesn’t feel it was fair to judge that but the things HBK did (like a back flip in the ring) made him and a lot of others think he faked it. Shawn is not very clear in his response concerning the injury but says it was real to him, as told by a doctor, and thought he couldn’t wrestle at the time which made him emotional. It sounded like a case of one doctor saying not to wrestle again, whilst others may clear him.
Bret remembers his feelings of being shafted by Shawn as he was working with Stone Cold at WrestleMania 13 when he had just done the same at Survivor Series, with the opinion there wasn’t much left to their story. Awkwardly Shawn jokes that maybe they were put together simply to “tear the house down”. Whilst the match was indeed fantastic, Shawn’s comment here feels quite dismissive. Shawn agrees their feud was getting personal now, as he had been furious hearing Bret might have said something about his parents “not being proud of a son like him” (Bret says it was always in character, Shawn couldn’t tell the difference). HBK admits he didn’t want to work with Bret, that he felt it was a backward step. He recalls feeling he was held to a different standard than everybody else back then, and what he wanted most was Bret’s validation so was frustrated he didn’t get it.
In the interview here Bret accepts accountability for a lot of what he said in promos but makes it clear what he was saying was always in character, though in delivering them so seriously Shawn took it to heart. It’s very insightful to hear that Bret thought it was ok to keep doing that, laying the groundwork in the feud, because his ultimate goal was to put Shawn over as the next guy. If they are both being completely honest here in the interview, it sounds to me they both wanted the same thing without knowing it. Similarly, Bret thinks Shawn was attacking him in real life rather than the story so in the end both guys were saying stuff in promos that were legitimately offending each other.
An ugly turn…
In a nice touch JR asks what the difference is between Hart putting sunglasses on kids at ringside, and Michaels bringing them in the ring to dance. Bret says there’s a big difference because Shawn was doing uncomfortable strip tease style dances with them. Bret is very adamant about this and Shawn looks totally uncomfortable. We get the picture that the “Montreal Screwjob” may not have happened at all if Bret had given Shawn the recognition he longed for, earlier than he planned to. It’s clear Bret just kept up to everybody that they actually hated each other to make more money and Shawn’s comments give the impression he knows that he didn’t have the emotional ability to look at anything as strictly business back then. Bret refers to the Sunny days comment as crossing lines into his personal life, and the start of it becoming ugly. Bret and Shawn reveal they even tried a number of times to get together to talk things through before it spiralled out of control. Luck wasn’t on their side in cases like Shawn being angry his super kick to Bret in the wheel chair on Raw didn’t make air, thinking Bret sabotaged the segment to make himself look better, when actually according to Bret in this interview he didn’t.
The final straw…
Now some more cool insider talk as it’s discussed how the plan was for Bret to go against Shawn at WrestleMania 14. Bret recalls approaching Shawn to tell him this news (Shawn doesn’t seem to remember) and said he had no problem putting HBK over in that match. Bret explains Shawn replied bluntly that he wouldn’t feel the same way about putting Bret over, which felt like “throwing shit in his face”. By the sounds of it this was the final straw leading into Montreal. After this, Vince proposed dropping the belt to Shawn at Survivor Series, so Bret declined it given what had just happened. You get the impression from what Bret says that Vince had began siding with HBK here because although Vince was on Bret’s side when he told him about what Shawn had said, in a meeting Vince set up he didn’t bring up that incident and simply said to Shawn they are putting the belt on him. Bret felt from then on that situation pushed him out of the company and it was one of darkest days of his life signing the WCW contract. Bret is quoted to have said “I’ll drop belt to anybody you want, but not Shawn in Montreal” and he kept declining dropping to Shawn in Canada because of Shawn’s attitude in their verbal encounter. Other ideas were suggested at various times but Bret kept getting the call it was back to the original. Watching the interview at this point you get the feeling Bret was already expecting foul behaviour at the PPV.
Shawn’s clarifies that rather than being involved from the beginning about what would happen in Montreal, he was instead waiting for updates on how the match was going to go down. Now for the part in the interview that I may have found most intriguing. Shawn recalls himself, Triple H and Vince discussing how to get Bret to drop the title, and that Triple H’s reaction to Bret’s stance was “F that, we’ll have to do business for him”. By the sounds of it Vince and Shawn were supportive of that notion and then ‘plotted’ how to go about it. Shawn was worried all the backlash from the accident would go down on him. His comments here suggest this was all quite last minute, rather than a long term plan and before he knew it the night had come. He says that he couldn’t know exactly how it would go down until they were in the ring together.
So now I ask myself if Bret can already sense it is coming, why did it actually happen? One reason may be how Bret describes meeting with Earl Hebner in Detroit over his concerns of Shawn screwing him the next night in Montreal, to which Earl responded he swears on his kid’s lives he would never do it, with tears in his eyes. That gives great insight into why Bret was confident he wouldn’t be screwed if Earl was refereeing the match. He also says that he thought there was no real reason for them to do it anyway, given the other options available. Bret assumes now that Earl was told to do it right before the match. Shawn says although the perception of him back then was he was a bad person, he still was a human being and the whole situation of knowing before hand wasn’t fun.
Pulling the trigger…
Shawn gets emotional here recalling it, and it’s genuine I feel. Bret points out that the two even had a good conversation about respect and their careers prior to the match, which made it more puzzling. You feel for Bret even more as he says he was very reluctant to even sign with WCW, having never even made the meeting with Bischoff, and thought he did everything right for WWF. Shawn recalls the guilt of doing it, but was assured by the boss it would be ok after it. Boldy Shawn admits here in the interview that he did not have any desire of calling it off because he felt like a soldier doing what he was told. He recalls it as easily the lowest point of his career and denied all responsibility for it, on Vince’s orders, saying that Vince wanted to take as much responsibility as it could. Bret didn’t believe Shawn had nothing to do with it but didn’t want to react on Shawn just in case what he said was true.
Now for Bret recalling the moment it happened. Bret gets very emotional and speechless. JR takes over talking about Bret’s reaction after it happened, punching Vince backstage. You can see Bret felt very betrayed and humiliated by Vince, and he refers to the feeling like his heart being cut out in the ring, after years of wrestling sick or hurt for Vince and never missing a day. He makes it clear that he would never have screwed Shawn if the shoe was on the other foot (Shawn sitting next to Bret looks very apologetic) because he considered himself one of the boys first. Bret still doesn’t know why it couldn’t be sorted out with everybody sitting down, since he had never refused to do a job in the past. He explains now how is forgiving of Earl as he believed what was said in Detroit and can understand the pressure of being told by the boss to do something right before the match.
Now a video package highlights how both wrestlers’ careers progressed following Montreal, with the misfortunates of Bret with Owen’s death, concussion and his stroke. It also shows how Shawn was forced to retire. It talks of the reconciliation between Bret and Vince, Bret’s Hall of Fame induction and then Shawn’s five years on. Lastly how 12 years after Montreal Bret and Shawn’s are face to face again on Raw.
So back to JR to discuss how all that went down. First, Bret’s experience in WCW and how he felt it was everything he feared, a company with no heart. He reveals that he was very bitter about what happened so didn’t watch anything WWF put out at the time and had no idea what he’d do if he saw Shawn in the street. It’s a very heartfelt listen as he recalls all the blows he had during this time period, losing his friends and feeling he had lost his smile for real following the stroke. He feels the stroke was probably related to the stress of it all, and perhaps it was a wake up call to put the past behind him. We hear the very moving story of whilst in hospital getting a call from Vince which Bret appreciated greatly, motivating him to keep strong, and he sensed the hatred had dramatically reduced right there. Bret wanted to be remembered for his contributions, not have them hidden away, which led to the DVD release. He feels despite it all he had his own influence on what happened in Montreal, and wasn’t completely innocent himself.
Bret credits Shawn vs Taker at WrestleMania as the stand out match that made him very proud of the two and the company as a whole which led to him making plans with WWE to come back. Bret says he wasn’t doing it to make a profit and does not regret it, but feared the “old Shawn” might come out again after a few weeks. He was uncertain of coming back because of this, but Shawn was respectful and made the peace. Bret feels like he lifted a big rock off Shawn and set him free. The two are both emotional in reliving this time.
Shawn says the reason he waited so long to call Bret was because he was scared, and had no idea how to start a conversation. They agree the TV segment where Bret and Shawn were face-to-face for the first time since the incident, was the real first reconciliation between them. Shawn regrets how he was back in the day, not having the mental ability to act different, and certainly not having his “head screwed on”. Shawn again proposes that the main reason for his behaviour toward Bret was his need for Bret’s respect and affirmation
The conclusion and message you get out of the interview is that of reconciliation and finding peace. Bret says it helped confirm the incident was legit, and is another step in the two becoming friends again. Shawn feels the sit down discussions were healing and the two have now come full circle. They both feel they couldn’t make peace half way and they can now sit and genuinely talk to each other, having a laugh like it used to be in the beginning of their friendship.
The two hour interview feature is truly great viewing. Listening to them even for another hour wouldn’t have hurt! It becomes more of a feel good story of reconciliation between the two (so don’t expect an impromptu fight with JR refereeing), but certainly covers a lot of juicy topics along the way. Shawn and Bret agree on most things when reflecting back, but Bret certainly doesn’t hold back on what he felt and it’s HBK who seems a little more dismissive. The fact that the interview covers their whole story makes it very special and they paint a great picture of exactly how their animosity evolved.
It was particularly interesting to hear how the decision was made for Montreal between Shawn, Vince and Hunter and also Shawn’s admittance that he had no second thoughts about doing it. You could certainly say a lot of the interview is focused on Bret Hart, but perhaps rightly so given that he was at the center of the Montreal Screwjob. He delivers what he is saying perfectly and is a joy to listen to. Shawn is great too, and despite him not recalling some of the moments that Bret does, it does seem he’s just legitimately forgotten about them.
For the amazing main feature and the career spanning matches included on disc 2 and 3 I’m giving this a 9.5 rating. However, WWE has chosen to exclude the Survivor Series 1997 match and some some classic promos from the DVD edition and make them exclusive to the Blu-ray. Whilst that is smart to push Blu-ray sales, the DVD feels a little incomplete without them. Therefore the Blu-ray would probably get 10/10 from me because it has that match. That said, both versions could do with having lots of their old promos rather than a small handful.
Buy your copy…
UK/Europe – (released October 14th, 2011) at Silvervision.co.uk