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Guest column: Hitman was always SummerSlam's best performer
By BRANDON STONE - For SLAM! Wrestling


The Hitman got his due on the cover of one of the DVDs in the WWE Summerslam: The Complete Anthology.

WrestleMania is without a doubt the WWE's premier event, where the company's top feuds, matches, and superstars take centre stage. However SummerSlam is just around the corner, and although it may be considered the little brother to the big event it has had its share of great moments. The post-Mania and summertime storylines often get wrapped up often making it an event worth watching.

This article isn't about listing the best over-all matches or moments from SummerSlam's history but rather to make an argument as to who consistently shined on its stage.

WrestleMania has several superstars whose names are synonymous with the event: Hulk Hogan (headlining the first 9); Shawn Michaels ("Mr WrestleMania"); The Undertaker (the Streak). Arguments could be made that others like Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Edge, and even Cena, also belong in that category based on the matches and feuds they had at the "Showcase of the Immortals."

Then there is Bret Hart.

He was involved in some of Wrestlemania's greatest bouts (#10 vs Owen Hart; #12 vs Michaels; #13 vs Austin) which could all be in someone's Top Ten for the event. However he doesn't seem to have the association that the others do with its history. Perhaps it is due to the way he left and the amount of time he was away, that the WWE didn't quite push those matches for a while.

But we're talking SummerSlam here.

If those other names are synonymous with Wrestlemania, then Bret Hart's should be with SummerSlam.

It can be argued that many of the same names that excelled at WrestleMania did so at SummerSlam as well. Hogan, Michaels and Undertaker had their share of main events and big matches in August. Consider though that even if Bret wasn't in the main event at SummerSlam, he likely had the best and or longest match on the card. For nine of the SummerSlams between 1988 and 1997 (he only missed one), The Hitman put together some of the best encounters at the time (with a few exceptions).

In '88 at Madison Square Garden, the Hart Foundation lost to Demolition for the tag titles. Not as good a match as Bret's family and friends (Bulldogs vs Rougeaus) had to open the event but a title match late in the card nonetheless. In '89 the Hart Foundation opened the show against the Brain Busters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard) in what was the longest match on the card and much better "wrestling" than the Hogan-Zeus main event at the other end. The Hart Foundation's last tag match together at SS was a rematch with Demolition for the tag titles in '90. The two-out-of-three falls match was the longest on the card and won by the Harts, who would hold onto the titles for almost seven months.


SummerSlam '91
Bret really began his run as a singles competitor in the time leading up to SummerSlam '91, where he faced off against Mr. Perfect. Overshadowed at the time by the Randy Savage/Elizabeth wedding and Hogan/Ultimate Warrior-Sgt. Slaughter feud, this match should be considered one of the greatest of all time. Mr. Perfect was working hurt but his match with Bret went back and forth to the end, and was considered by Curt Hennig himself as one of his best matches ever. Despite being second on the card it was by far the longest of the night and was for the Intercontinental Title (still important at the time).

One year later, Bret would somehow top himself when he faced his brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith at Wembley Stadium in London, England. While Mr. Perfect was just as technically gifted as Bret, Davey Boy, at this point, was not exactly known for his "wrestling" abilities. Despite this, their main event match for the Intercontinental Title (a rare occurrence to headline above the Heavyweight Title) has been called one of the greatest matches of all time, the match of the year, and the greatest SummerSlam moment in history. By no means am I trying to slight Davey Boy, but I think most people know who carried this match and made it the must see event that it was.

The '93 SummerSlam didn't have another Bret Hart classic match but the company called on him to do something I think he has done for them more than any other superstar: wrestle multiple times in one night. His opponents were Doink the Clown and Jerry Lawler (both matches ended by DQ) and although they weren't technical wonders, Bret once again put together something better than the headliners: Undertaker-Giant Gonzalez and Luger-Yokozuna.

Hart returned to form in '94 versus his brother Owen in a steel cage. This family feud lasted a long time and had many great matches (including the one at WM 10) and this night was no different as they stole the show once again. Undertaker versus Undertaker (Brian Lee as the duplicate) was the main event, but these two battled for more than half an hour with many near escapes that left the crowd gasping. Bret triumphed and kept the Heavyweight Title but things continued after the match when the whole family got involved in a brawl.

SUMMERSLAM HISTORY
SummerSlam in '95 wasn't one of Bret's better nights and the Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon ladder rematch was definitely the highlight of the event. Hart faced Isaac Yankem with Jerry Lawler in what was still surprisingly an okay match. No offense to Kane's skills and this early gimmick of his, but Bret was able to make something watchable out of what probably shouldn't have been.

Bret didn't compete in the '96 event as he was taking some time off, but returned in '97 for what would be his last SummerSlam. The odds were stacked against Bret in this one as he faced a red-hot Undertaker, a vicious pro-American crowd (as he played the pro-Canadian role) and his nemesis Shawn Michaels as the special referee. The Hitman and Deadman battled for just less than 30 minutes in and out of the ring until an accidental chair shot from Michaels allowed Hart to get the pin on Taker. Hart would then be gone a few months later, as everyone knows.

I know I said the '97 match was his last at SummerSlam but technically he competed in 2010 as part of Team WWE versus the Nexus. He was DQ'd for using a chair and as many of us know he isn't able to physically compete as he used to. I am a proud Canadian and a Bret Hart fan and the Hitman doesn't need my arguments to justify his place in wrestling history.

SummerSlam is a big deal for the WWE, maybe even second to WrestleMania, and my thoughts are that Bret Hart was a major reason behind the event's history and success. Bret had a knack of making anyone he faced look good and he did so for a decade one Sunday night every August. He doesn't need the title of "Mr, SummerSlam" because "The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best There Ever Will Be" says it all.

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  • Order WWE SummerSlam - The Complete Anthology DVD Set
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    Brandon Stone is from Prescott, Ontario, and is a proud fan of Canadian wrestling history, style and its performers.