Thursday, 4 June 2015

Bret Hitman Hart - The Best There Is

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 549 Minutes
Certificate: 15
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: December 12 2005

After the Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series 1997 resulted in Bret Hart exiting the WWF earlier than expected and under very bad terms, a potential reunion seemed unimaginable. For all the old WWF/WWE names who would return in the years to come (including Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Roddy Piper), it seemed that the Hitman would never go back under any circumstances. But relations improved between Hart and Vince McMahon in the early-to-mid-2000s, so much so that Bret would agree to participate in this career retrospective DVD, the first step towards a landmark return.

(Actually, Bret had stated in more than one interview that he was initially approached to contribute to a release focusing solely on Montreal, which likely would have dumped all over Bret's reputation. Why such an idea seemed a good one is anybody's guess, but fortunately the Hitman managed to persuade Vince to allow common sense to prevail, and so this DVD became a proper career retrospective instead.)

The main appeal of the DVD when it was released was the documentary on Bret's career, from his childhood as one of twelve kids in a family parented by wrestling promoting, to his start and subsequent run in the family-run Stampede Wrestling in Calgary, to him joining the WWF and his 13-year tenure (which covers the Hart Foundation, his title wins, the feud with his brother Owen, the USA-Canada rivalry and his acrimonious departure), to the struggles in WCW and the personal tragedies and setbacks which hit hard in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The DVD ends on a high note by showing how Bret had recovered from his 2002 stroke and looking back positively at his legacy.

There is plenty of enjoyment to be found from reliving the Bret Hart story and looking back at his greatest moments. The downside is that there aren't many major revelations, but I think Bret was in a different place then. For instance, Montreal is covered in a neutral fashion, whereas future documentaries would delve more into the circumstances and the personal feelings of those involved. Plus, Bret hadn't yet made peace with the likes of Shawn Michaels, so whilst the DVD covers Bret's career, the Bret Hart story itself was by no means complete. Still, it is an entertaining and intriguing feature which, more than anything, marked the beginning of Bret Hart finally returning to WWE.

Besides some additional interview segments, the rest of the DVD comprises Bret's greatest matches. And what a highlight reel this is: a few very good Hart Foundation matches are followed by many tremendous matches. Forgotten gems with Ricky Steamboat, Mr. Perfect, Owen Hart, Hakushi and others are interspersed by true classics, including bouts against Perfect (SummerSlam 1991), British Bulldog (SummerSlam 1992), Owen (WrestleMania X) and Stone Cold Steve Austin (WM 13), amongst others. The only downer is the last match against Chris Benoit from an episode of WCW Monday Nitro from 1999. It was an excellent match to pay tribute to the recently-passed Owen, but its power has been diminished by future events involving Bret's opponent that night.

Despite some flaws, I think this is a must-own wrestling DVD. It is a very good look at Bret's professional life to that point, and whilst it does lack in major revelations, those are more than covered in Bret's 2007 autobiography Hitman, some of which are too personal to be included on an official WWE DVD anyway. The match selection is outstanding, and the release as a whole began the process to Bret being inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2006 and returning to WWE proper in 2010. For those (like me) who grew up watching the Hitman, reliving his glory days is a great experience, and as the name of the DVD says, the compilation proves that at his peak, Bret Hart lived up to his moniker of being The Best There Is, The Best There Was and The Best There Ever Will Be.

Overall Rating: 9/10 - Outstanding

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