The “Montreal Screw-job” may be one of the single most important moments of the WWF/WWE “Attitude” era. It created the biggest villain in wrestling history, Vincent K. McMahon, which ultimately shifted the balance of power in the “Monday Night Wars”. It was one of the few times you’ll ever see a professional wrestler being worked by his own people, which made it surreal at the time it happened. The documentary “Wrestling with Shadows” covers this story from Bret’s perspective, but this DVD set takes it to another level with Shawn Michaels in the mix. Greatest Rivalries: Shawn v Bret isn’t focused solely on the Montreal happening, as the DVD fleshes out both men’s entire careers working with and around one another. WWE hasn’t always been known for their great shoot productions, but this DVD (and the Legends of Wrestling panel show) go a long way in respecting the viewer. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels have been through a lot together, and this DVD is the definitive story of their intertwining careers.
Disc 1 (Jim Ross interviews Shawn and Bret together)
There’s no better person to conduct these interviews than Jim Ross. Ross oozes the business from every part of his being. I was surprised to see both Bret and Shawn getting a little teary-eyed at different points during this. I didn’t expect as much honesty as all three men brought into the production. I feel like Bret Hart was the more informative participant in the interview. Shawn wasn’t without sharing, but Bret was on full shoot mode. The WWE have mastered cutting video with interviews, and this DVD is no different. Each portion of this rivalry is covered masterfully from a visual standpoint, as it is in the dialogue. The majority of moments mentioned by Shawn and Bret are shown on the screen as they’re being discussed. There’s plenty of good quotes and brutal honesty (mostly from the Hitman), and this is far and away the highlight of the compilation.
Disc 2 (Late 80′s- Early 90′s Matches)
The second disc is the real meat and potatoes disc of the set. You come for the interview, but you’ll stay for the matches, as that’s where the re-watchability lies. There are some choice picks on this one, and it’s nice to see them all in their complete duration. Neidhart and Janetty may not be the focus of the disc, but it’s nice seeing them worked into the collection.
The Rockers vs. The Hart Foundation (Madison Square Garden – 25th November, 1989) (****): Bret and Neidhart wrestling in the corner to see who would start off displays the Hart Foundation’s attention to detail. Gorilla Monsoon called out the Hitman for his hair being too greasy, the man was one of the best wrestling perspectives there ever was. Hillbilly Jim on commentary isn’t something I’ve heard too much of, but as a HBJ mark it was awesome. Jim Neidhart is one of a kind, and deserves a lot more recognition as one of the all-time wrestling personalities. Bret threw some mean European Uppercuts at Shawn, and the MSG crowd took notice. These two were already going hard in ’89. All four guys found a chance for an entertaining exchange with one another. Tag Team wrestling at its finest. The Draw finish angred the crowd, but was brilliant booking. Two babyface teams can’t find the finish line, and have a heated brawl to boot.
The Rockers vs. The Hart Foundation (Tokyo Dome – 30th March, 1991) (***): Despite not speaking Japanese, I still enjoy the commentary. The Hart Foundation work decidedly more heel in this compared to the MSG match from ’89. This match doesn’t have as quick of a pace, and doesn’t feature much intensity. The bright side is this match features a definitive ending, Hart Foundation winning, but it doesn’t have the personality of their previous encounter on the disc.
Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship: Bret Hart (C) vs. Shawn Michaels (Portland, Maine- 21st July, 1992) (***): It’s a pleasure getting to see Sherri at ringside for this one. Gorilla Monsoon and Lord Alfred Hayes had wonderful chemistry in the booth. The added element of the ladder psychology keeps the HBK/Hitman rivalry diverse. I still get a kick out of Michaels’ finisher being a Back Suplex during this time. Sadly for Shawn he had to take his crazy ladder bump over the top rope and out. The match isn’t long, but it’s cool to see these two work Shawn’s trademark match.
WWE Championship Match: Bret Hart (C) vs. Shawn Michaels (Survivor Series – 25th November, 1992) (****): Both guys cut a quality promo before the match. Mean Gene put over Bret in his interview, and Bret couldn’t hide his smile, as he was ecstatic being the champion. The commentary duo of Vince McMahon and Bobby Heenan added another layer of greatness to the proceedings. There was never a more technical WWF/WWE Champion than Bret Hart. Some guys make wrestling feel more like a show, but Bret created the atmosphere of a sporting event. Shawn is no slouch either, and that’s what makes this a “Greatest Rivalry” selection. I enjoyed seeing Bret dominate the early going as the masterful face. I feel like that’s not as common in today’s wrestling landscape. The consistency is refreshing. Both men actually seem like they’re trying to execute a gampelan, and not just going down a list of maneuvers. HBK’s over-the-top salesmanship is rivaled only by Ric Flair on the all-time scale. They work a Ref Bump into the match, but it’s not one that factors into the outcome. These two only put on great matches, and this was no different. This may not be their most epic meeting, but it probably stole Survivor Series ’92.
The set also features…
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestling Challenge – 10th February, 1990)
Intercontinental Championship Match: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (Syracuse, New York- 29th April, 1992)
Steel Cage Match: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (Utica, New York – 1st December, 1993)
Disc 3 (Mania XII – Present)
WrestleMania XII Iron Man Match: Bret Hart (C) v Shawn Michaels (*****): Long match (obviously). A little slow at first, but the back and forth is solid, and the ending is classic. HBK kicked a time keeper’s head off. Bret slowly turns heel the whole match. This is the type of match that will never happen at Mania again. After hearing Bret and Shawn discuss the match it makes you respect it even more. It’s amazing that they planned the entire thing, and that it all went off without a hitch. The ending of this match is burned into my memory, but the bout itself may be the greatest match in wrestling history. It’s not on the level of importance as Andre/Hogan Mania III, but it’s easily on the level of quality that Steamboat/Savage put out on that same Mania III.
Their Hall of Fame inductions and Bret returning to Raw are also included. All three are great moments in these men’s careers. Shawn and Bret are the epitome of Hall of Famers. Then in the Blu-Ray special features we’re treated to the Montreal Screwjob, and a few more non-match segments including the likes of the Hart Foundation. The only thing this set doesn’t contain is the documentary “Wrestling with Shadows” that chronicled this whole situation all those years ago.
There are no two people who deserved to kick-off the “Greatest Rivalries” collection more than Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. While both men had plenty of epic feuds, they will forever be connected due to their time at the top of Vince McMahon’s WWF. This DVD set aims to provide closure for a hectic period in wrestling history, and I think it does a fantastic job in accomplishing that. There’s not too many guys you can watch work for an entire DVD set, but HBK and the Hitman never disappoint. There’s excellent wrestling all around, and it all comes in different forms because these two never put on the same match twice.
Final Verdict: Must have for any wrestling fan! Come for the controversy, stay for the craftsmanship.