Greatest Rivalries: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
There’s always a certain level of intrigue involved in a new WWE documentary release and the first title in WWE’s Greatest Rivalries series was no exception. While many people know the history that exists between Bret “The Hitman” Hart and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, there is always plenty of interest about the inner workings of the WWE. Greatest Rivalries: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels provides an honest and at times emotional account of the Hall of Famers’ feuds in the company and it certainly does not disappoint.
The main feature of this box set is a two hour kayfabe breaking interview with Hart and Michaels conducted by Jim Ross. Interlaced with high quality video packages introducing each of the pivotal points on the journey, the interview runs in chronological order.
Ross starts with a discussion of both superstars’ introduction to the World Wrestling Federation in the tag team division: Hart’s as a member of the Hart Foundation with Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart and Michaels’ as a member of The Rockers with Marty Jannetty. This is the first of many parallels that are expertly drawn between the two very similar careers.
I particularly enjoyed the discussion of the adversity that both wrestlers faced convincing the big men to sell their moves in both the tag team division and latterly in transition to singles competition. Tag teams such as the Natural Disasters and singles stars such as Hulk Hogan possess a clear strength advantage, but smaller are wrestlers able to provide a technical side of the game, performing moves that the big men could not dream of executing.
The conversation then moves onto one of my favourite wrestling matches of all time, the sublime Iron Man Match at Wrestlemania 12 for the then WWF championship. This discussion is one of the highlights of the whole interview, providing an insider’s view of how the match was worked. Michaels is notorious for spending vast amounts of time fine tuning details of upcoming matches with his opponents. As a viewer, I feel it is a nice addition to get some insight into this.
The next major topic is one of the most infamous nights in the history of the company, the “Montreal Screwjob” and the events leading up to it. This is the reason a huge share of the viewership purchased this title and very few people will be left disappointed. While there are many people who know parts of this story (or at least claim to), so much is revealed that even the most clued up wrestling fan will learn something new. Ross inspires an extensive and detailed conversation about the build-up to Survivor Series 1997 and the intricacies event itself. All parties involved speak more honestly and earnestly than anyone could have realistically expected, keeping you gripped the whole way through this great saga.
The interview could easily have lost the audience’s attention following the discussion of such a monumental even. However, the level of genuine emotion shown by Hart while talking about difficult subjects such as; his brief stint in WCW, his reconciliation with Vince McMahon, Hart’s induction into the hall of fame and finally the moment Hart and Michaels reunited on Monday Night Raw, keeps the viewer to be entirely immersed in the story.
As a whole, this interview is incredibly insightful and completely compelling from start to finish. Controversial subjects such as the” Montreal Screwjob” are discussed a lot more openly than I was expecting and while not all the details are revealed, given the delicate nature of the subject this is no surprise.
Hart speaks passionately about the whole ordeal without it ever becoming tawdry and Michaels seems to genuinely regret the part he played at Survivor Series 1997.
It must also be said that Jim Ross does a great job in the role of interviewer, asking the right questions and encouraging debate between Michaels and Hart without making it even slightly about himself. This is something very few people in the WWE would have been able to achieve. Without Jim Ross’ flawless use of tone and timing, as well as his vast knowledge of the subject matter, this release would not have been so insightful.
We have all come to expect an incredibly high level of production from all WWE releases, this is no exception. The video packages do a fantastic job of outlining the history of the rivalry to viewers who are new to it or unaware of some of the workings, without dumbing down the subject matter the members of the audience who were watching the story unfold at the time. A perfect balance is struck, showing enough footage to get a feel of the matches without detracting from the matter at hand and leaving you ready to put disc 2 in as soon as the main featurehas finished.
Greatest Rivalries: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels comes with a shed load of extra Hart/Michaels matches. Anything that is discussed in the interview or shown in the video packages is included in the Blu-ray edition.
The most notable inclusions are;
Iron Man Match at Wrestlemania 12,
Both Wrestlers’ Hall of Fame Inductions,
WWF Championship Match at Survivor Series 1997
Outtakes from the interview itself.
There are also many more segments and promos from Raw, as well as, other tag team and singles matches featuring Hart and Michaels. While the quality is lacking in some of the early footage, this is to be entirely expected.
The selection of extras as a whole is excellent; you would be hard pushed to find many matches missing from this collection. One possible improvement would be an alternative commentary by Hart and Michaels added to some of the old matches, which the WWE has used in some of its other releases.
It is important to mention that there are some major omissions from the DVD format of the title, the biggest of which is the 1997 Survivor Series match. This is the only major downside from the entire package. This means that is well worth forking out the extra money for the Blu-ray if you can.
Even though the Iron Man Match and the Survivor Series Match are both extremely good, the highlight of all of the bonus features for me is the ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship from 1992. It is fantastic to see two of the most recognisable wrestlers developing into the characters we know and love. Michaels had only just made the transition to singles competition, while Hart had only won his first singles title at the previous Summer Slam. In this match we see two of the best wrestling minds, still trying to prove themselves as singles stars, in a match that just seemed to work perfectly.
I also particularly enjoyed watching some of the early tag team matches. The matches exude quality and innovation. It is obvious why The Rockers and The Hart Foundation were able to elevate the division to main event status. Fans of tag team wrestling will be left with a pleasant feeling of nostalgia watching these matches. it is real shame that the state of the WWE tag team division today means we are unlikely to see matches of this quality for some time.
It is hard to find anything that does not warrant its inclusion to this collection. However, I feel that the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies may be the least exciting addition. I am unsure whether this is because of the availability of the both inductions on other WWE releases, how recently the events happened or a combination of the two. That being said any inclusion does not detract from the package as a whole and due to the nature of this title, inclusion is almost certainly justified. Besides, anyone who has watched their Wrestlemania 27 DVD recently can always reach for the skip button on their remote.
The inaugural title in the Greatest Rivalries series is a brilliant way to introduce a new concept of WWE releases. It is in depth, insightful and most of all entertaining and even better with Jim Ross in the interviewers chair. Quite simply put, this is the best shoot release by the WWE so far. Despite the omissions from the DVD set, this comes highly recommended from me.
I look forward to the development of the Greatest Rivalries series and highly anticipate the next release.