It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Yes, it’s Voices of Wrestling Secret Santa time again, everyone. The brainchild of JR Goldberg (@wrestlingbubble), VOW Secret Santa sees all participating website contributors give their fellow contributors, the greatest gift of all: wrestling matches!

VOW Secret Santa Archives:

SEPTEMBER 24, 1995

Reviewed by Jeff Martin (@HEATcomic)

Gifted by Alex Wendland (@AlexWendland)

Whoever selected this match for me clearly knows my brand in the staff chat, which is “guy who won’t shut up about how great Bret Hart is.” And it’s a good thing Bret Hart is great, because it’s 1995 in the WWF and Quebecer Pierre is a pirate, so he’s gonna have to carry this thing.

And, notably, he does!

This match has developed a reputation as something of a hidden gem. It’s also one of the few big Bret Hart matches from the New Generation era that I haven’t seen, so well done, secret Santa! The quality of the match largely comes down to Hart’s ability to make his matches feel like fights while also incorporating a lot of offense that still feels modern viewed in 2021. The match opens with the kind of suicide dive that earns the name, which is the best kind. Dives ending in gentle pushes into the padded railing? Nah, get that garbage outta here. I want to see a maniac nearly eat shit while still making enough contact to believably knock over a huge dude. More on dives and eating shit in a minute.

The set-up for this match is dumb – it’s about Jean-Pierre Lafitte stealing Bret Hart’s jacket because “pirate” is interpreted as “kleptomaniac.” Amusingly, this match ends up being worked with more blood feud anger than some actual blood feuds of more modern vintage. The thump of the old WWF ring mats accentuates each punch, of which there are a lot, in an extremely satisfying way. Unfortunately, the frequency of the punches is largely due to the fact that Pierre shows a complete lack of creativity on offense. Bret Hart sells his ass off, but Pierre’s control period stinks. It’s just punches and a few headlocks punctuated by bursts of Hart attacks. Just when I think maybe this match is only viewed positively in the context of 1995 WWF, the high spots start coming hard and ill-advised.

In a series of moves that serve as a crystal ball into Pierre’s future, he lands a crushing top rope leg drop, misses the Cannonball (a flipping senton splash off the top, not the corner flip we now know by that name), and then embraces death with a tope con hilo that is actually just a 300-pound man doing a flip over the top rope and landing flat on his back on the floor. The splat noise is so loud it feels like it should be accompanied by a Mortal Kombat-style blood explosion. In combination with a quickened pace, some rugged Bret Hart offense, and a bunch of near falls, the back half of the match heats up a slow start and ends with the always welcome Sharpshooter applied out of a double-down.

Bret Hart has better matches than this one in 1995, but he never gets more out of less than he does here against Pierre. Let’s face it, nobody else dragged four stars out of a singles match against Jean-Pierre Lafitte.

This was a fun watch, but I have NO idea who it’s from because, as I mentioned earlier, I won’t shut up about how great Bret Hart is. So, shot in the dark… Rich? I mean, he’s the guy who literally sent me the link, so why not.