W.A.F. Reviews: The Bret Hart vs. Diesel Feud
What, did you think movies would be the only part of the review series? Where’s the fun in that? For as much as I love movies, there’s another love in my life. One that has been with me since the early 1990s, and has guided me through the independent scene. I first discovered professional wrestling when I was incredibly young. I would sit there and watch guys like Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, Ric Flair, Macho Man Randy Savage, Yokozuna, and others tear the house down on a weekly basis. I couldn’t get enough of it. So for this review, I decided to take a look back at one of my favorite classic feuds from the past. The feud between Bret “Hitman” Hart and “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel!
Before we get into the feud itself, lets look at where both of these gentlemen were at this point in their careers. Kevin Nash had just come off a fairly monotonous run in WCW, portraying a multitude of different characters including Master Blaster Steel, Oz, and Vinnie Vegas, before leaving WCW in 1993. When he arrived on the scene in the World Wrestling Federation, he took the name Diesel, and was introduced as Shawn Michaels personal bodyguard.
Bret Hart, on the other hand, had already had a run with his father’s promotion, Calgary Stampede Wrestling, before moving on to the WWF and forming a successful tag team with Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart known as The Hart Foundation. In 1991, Bret accomplished his first singles dream when he defeated “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig at SummerSlam for the Intercontinental Title. In October of 1992, Bret would reach the ultimate prize when he defeated Ric Flair for the World Wrestling Federation Championship. The story of Bret Hart vs. Diesel would begin in the year 1994.
1994 was a big year for both competitors. Diesel had a successful showing in that year’s Royal Rumble, which was actually won by two men: Hart and Lex Luger. Hart would go on to WrestleMania X, where he would compete twice. First, in a loss to his younger brother, Owen. His second match of the night saw him defeat the mighty Yokozuna to win his second WWF Championship. What did Diesel do at WrestleMania X? Get involved in the Shawn Michaels/Razor Ramon IC Title Ladder match and be thrown out by the referee. Pretty easy to see Bret had the better night.
Now most people would assume the first official matchup between the two happened at the 1994 King Of The Ring, but actually, the two met right before WrestleMania X. The match was included as the main event of WWF WrestleFest ’94, one of the Coliseum Video compilation tapes. In that encounter, Big Daddy Cool gained the victory after interference from both Shawn Michaels and Owen Hart.
The ’94 King Of The Ring was the first official PPV of Diesel and the Hitman. The match was touted as being Champion versus Champion, as at the time Diesel was the Intercontinental Champion, and Hart the WWF Champion. Only Bret’s Title was on the line. To attempt to counteract Shawn Michaels being in the corner of Diesel, Bret brought Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart to be in his corner. The encounter was hard-hitting, with Diesel using his size and power to try and put away the Hitman. The match ended with no clear-cut winner, after Neidhart attacked Diesel and the referee called for the DQ.
By the end of 1994, Bret Hart had lost the WWF Championship to Bob Backlund at Survivor Series, and Diesel had split from his partnership with HBK. On Nov. 26th in Madison Square Garden, Diesel defeated Backlund in a record 8 seconds to win the WWF Championship! Soon, a match was set between Hart and Diesel for the Title at the 1995 Royal Rumble, which once again saw no clear-decisive winner after interference from Shawn Michaels, Owen Hart, Jeff Jarrett, the Roadie, and Bob Backlund!
1995 saw Diesel reign supreme as WWF Champion, turning back challenges from Shawn Michaels, Sycho Sid, King Mable, Yokozuna, Owen Hart, and the British Bulldog. Meanwhile, Bret would face off with opponents the likes of Jerry “the King” Lawler, Hakushi, Jean Pierre-Lafitte, and Isaac Yankem. When the 1995 Survivor Series rolled around, Bret Hart once again found himself in the spot of the challenger, attempting to dethrone Diesel. To make things more interesting this time around, the match was made No-Disqualification. This match is widely regarded as the best of the Bret/Diesel series, and I completely agree. Bret was able to be more aggressive than what fans were used to seeing from him, and the spot when Diesel sent Hart through the announce table still looks awesome! When it was all said and done, we finally had a decisive winner after Bret caught Diesel in a small package pinfall victory and gained his 3rd WWF Championship!
The next time these two would face off with the World Wrestling Federation Championship at stake, it would be in February 1996 at In Your House: Rage In a Cage, where the two would be inside the old-fashioned blue-bar cage. As it looked as though Big Daddy Cool was going to win the match and become WWF Champion once again, the Undertaker made his presence known, coming up through the ring and pulling Diesel down to the underworld with him, payback for when Diesel cost him his chance to be WWF Champion a month earlier at the Royal Rumble. This would be the final PPV encounter between Bret Hart and Diesel, as Hart would take an 8-month break from the WWF after WrestleMania XII, and Diesel would head back to WCW with Scott Hall to form a little group known as the nWo.
The main reason I love this feud is the simplicity of it. It wasn’t like today where a feud is rushed through multiple months, with both guys involved trading wins back and forth between them, including trading the Title. It was a slow burn. The way they had two screwy endings to their first couple PPV matches made the Survivor Series ’95 matchup that much more special. I love the way Diesel’s character was in different places for each match. For the KOTR ’94 match, it was clearly Diesel as the bad guy, Bret as the good guy. Then at Rumble ’95, both were in the position of good guy. When Survivor Series happened, Diesel was becoming a tweener, while Bret was still the aggressive good guy. Then at In Your House in 96, Diesel was back to clearly being the bad guy again, coming full circle.
What do you think of this feud? Did you enjoy it? Were you able to watch it as it happened back in the ‘90s like I was? Be sure to let us know in the comments below! Until next time…