Across the world, countries with prominent wrestling scenes have wrestlers who could be considered national heroes, those whose names, faces, and voices are etched into the cultural zeitgeist for decades to come. These icons are the sort that even random passers by on the street might know if you said their names out loud, the kind who get statues made of them. Japan has the likes of Rikidozan and Giant Baba, Mexico has El Santo and Blue Demon, and the United States has more than it knows what to do with from Randy Savage to Ric Flair to The Rock.
Unfortunately for Canada, they’re stuck with Bret Hart.
Bret Hart is the wrestling equivalent of rotten tofu. For going on three decades now, this stringy-haired charlatan’s been held up as the greatest Canadian wrestler of all time. He worked an angle entirely built around how much of a hero he is in the land of poutine and Tom Green. Lance Storm spent most of the 90s with the gimmick of “Aggressively Canadian,” but his people only had eyes for the guy who bribes children with sunglasses so they’ll like him more. Well, I’m sick of it. Fluff the pillow, drink some nighttime tea, and let me explain exactly why you really need to sleep on Bret Hart.
First, we’ll go over his wrestling.
This is what’s often considered Bret’s greatest strength. “WrestleMania X with Owen!” his fans shout; “WrestleMania 13 with Austin!” they opine. Oh good for the Hitman, he can get carried to great matches by better workers. He can do a passable-at-best version of Riki Choshu’s finisher, and I’m supposed to be impressed?
Ah, but he carried Diesel to his best match, right? Perhaps Mr. Nash was holding out on us for his entire career, and their match at Survivor Series 1995 was a mere sampling of his true power.
Bret Hart couldn’t even have a good match with Mitsuharu Misawa.
April 13, 1990. New Japan Pro Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling, and the WWF, in a brief fit of madness, agreed to hold a joint show at the Tokyo Dome. Hogan vs. Hansen, Tenryu vs. Savage, Great Kabuki vs. Greg Valentine, this event’s got it all. It also features Bret Hart wrestling the second Tiger Mask, a young Mitsuharu Misawa. Misawa’s one of the absolute greats, a top-tier performer with hundreds of stellar matches under his belt, even before taking off the mask and wrestling under his own name. And Bret Hart dragged this titan of the industry down to an, at-best, two-and-a-half-star match. It’s not even a bad match; a bad match would be interesting. Instead, the pair managed a boring 20-minute draw. Disgraceful, but that’s not the only reason Bret Hart sucks.
We haven’t even gotten to his promos.
This series is called “You Really Need to Sleep On,” but if you listen to one Bret Hart promo, you won’t have trouble with that. Bret Hart’s promos are so boring they should come with a Surgeon General’s warning for putting people into comas. Doing your taxes by hand while listening to a lecture on the science of paint drying would be more exciting than listening to this Calgary-born buffoon wander through the vast, empty desert that is his vocabulary for the best way to say he wants to wrestle another guy in a wrestling match.
Even discounting his wrestling and his promos, I can imagine some of you will defend Bret on the basis that he’s still a cultural icon. He feuded with MAD TV’s Will Sasso! He starred in Lonesome Dove! He was on The Simpsons! Oh come on, that last one isn’t even impressive. Tons of people have been on The Simpsons. Hell, I’ve been on The Simpsons.
As fun as this April Fools’ joke has been, though, in all seriousness, Bret Hart is an all-time great and easily a top-10 in-ring worker of all time with more great matches than you could ever watch.
Sadly, he spent a good portion of his career with wrestlers below his level in the ring like Diesel and a middle-aged Bob Backlund. Just for a quick sampling, if you’ve never seen Bret work, I’d recommend any of his work with Owen Hart, Steve Austin, and Dynamite Kid as examples of what Bret could do when given an opponent on his level.
Also, he gave us this promo, and who am I to doubt that?