(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31355189?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=wrestlemania&contentId=67740536&watchlistAltButtonContext=series )
Is there a finer WrestleMania opening bout than Bret Hart vs Owen Hart from WrestleMania X? The only match that comes close is Daniel Bryan vs Triple H from ‘Mania XXX. But the quality on show here from the two Canadian brothers is unparalleled. I’d be tempted to put this one into my personal Top 10 WWE matches of all time. Yes, it’s that damn good! The brothers takes each other to the limit, and show the crowd what real wrestling is all about. Bret continued to prove that he was one of the best, and Owen proved that he was a big time player.
Brother against brother is a tale as old as time. There’s always a rivalry between brothers, be it explicit or implicit. The rivalry between Bret and Owen ostensibly began at Survivor Series 1993. Owen blamed Bret for the former’s elimination in a traditional Survivor Series match. They resolved the issue. But at Royal Rumble 1994, Owen turned on his brother after a tag team match by kicking his leg out of his leg. Or, at least that’s what Owen said he did after the match. It’s a classic promo botch. That and the questionable finish of the Royal Rumble itself led to Hart vs Hart.
At the beginning of the match, Owen poses and cheers after everything he does. Bret seems to get the upper hand, but there’s a clear hesitation on his part. The commentators mention that Bret doesn’t seem to have that desire for victory he has in other matches. His brotherly affection holds him back, but nothing holds Owen back. It’s believable that this gives Owen the advantage over Owen. After a spinning heel kick, Owen controls a good portion of the match by working on his brother’s back. He even copies his brother’s set-up for the Sharpshooter (back breaker, side Russian leg sweep, etc). For the first half of the match at least, Owen appears dominant. Of course, that makes Bret’s comebacks thrilling.
And this entire match is thrilling. There’s barely any wasted motion here. The submissions are short-lived and merely part of the story the two brothers are trying to tell. Their easy chemistry creates a fluid and engaged technical masterpiece. Every move leads onto the next one like a reader turns the page to continue the story. It takes Bret time to find that killer instinct. Even when he finds it, he injures himself with a crossbody over the ropes and onto his brother outside the ring. It injures his knee; the knee that Owen assaulted during Royal Rumble 1994. Owen is determined to win at any cost, and targets the knee. This leads to a final stretch that constantly leaves you guessing who will win.
I won’t spoil the winner for you. The finish flows from the rest of the match, however. When I look back at matches from the late 80s/early 90s WWE, I always judge them on how they live up to today’s standards. This match would blow away the competition on a modern day WrestleMania. There’s a little bit of everything here, from brawling to technical wrestling to high-flying to big moves. Owen manages to execute a Tombstone Piledriver without breaking Bret’s neck, for example. It’s not merely a sequence of unrelated moves, but a carefully constructed story about a brother fighting a brother. It’s relatable. It’s classic. And this match is a clear classic.
VERDICT: 10/10. This match is almost perfect. From story-telling to thrills to excitement, Bret and Owen fail to put a foot wrong. The best WrestleMania opening match, and one of the best WrestleMania matches of all time.
Does this match belong in the WWE Network’s Best 100 Matches To See Before You Die? Leave your comments below!
Click here for my review of #17 Ricky Steamboack vs Ric Flari (NWA World Title, NWA Wrestlewar 1989: Music City Showdown)