- Brian Fishbach
30 Years Ago Today: Bret Hart Won His First WWE Championship
Pro wrestling fans around the world today celebrated the 30th anniversary of Bret "The Hitman" Hart winning his first world championship in WWE (then WWF).
On October 12, 1992, reigning champion Ric Flair, with Mr. Perfect as his 'executive consultant' in his corner, succumbed to Hart's finishing move, The Sharpshooter in a 26 minute bout.
The title change was not broadcast on live television—practically unheard of amongst the big dogs of televised professional wrestling today. The title change was part of a taping of "WWF Superstars" at Saskatchewan Place (now the SaskTel Center) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada—the home town of Hart's father and legendary wrestling coach, Stu Hart.
At the time, Hart was about six weeks removed from losing the Intercontinental Title to his brother-in-law, The British Bulldog, at Wembley Stadium in London, England.
According to Cagematch.net, during his first reign, Hart would defend against The Berzerker, The Mountie, Papa Shango, Virgil, Kamala, Fatu and Yokozuna (at a Wrestling Challenge taping in Atlanta).
Hart's in-ring technical prowess made him well-known for making his competitors look great.
"Bret was the guy who carried the WWF past Hulk Hogan," said comedian and life-long wrestling fan Seth Lazear (Twitter). "Along with being a star, he helped make stars out of Shawn Michaels, Diesel and Stone Cold Steve Austin."
Hart also won a rematch with Flair in Green Bay, Wisconsin two months after winning the title. On Pay-Per-Views, Hart would have title defenses against Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series 1992, and Razor Ramon at Royal Rumble 1993.
His first title reign would end after 174 days at Wrestlemania IX against Yokozuna at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.
Comedian and life-long WWE fan Sean Carlucci (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) spoke with Rock Music Life about his reflections on Hart's first WWE championship victory. Carlucci is also the creator of Carlucci Wrestling Memes.
"Back when this happened, there was no social media, no internet, not even 'Monday Night Raw,'" Carlucci told Rock Music Life. "So, when it did happen people had no way of knowing until it was mentioned on syndicated TV the following weekend. I still remember tuning in to either 'Superstars' or 'Wrestling Challenge' the weekend after the title changed hands and being blown away by the news. Even though Bret just main-evented 'SummerSlam 92' a little over a month ago, nobody really expected him to be the next champ, or even in the title picture for that matter. To say it came out of left field was an understatement."
"When something like that happens, where a mid-carder gets to be champion out of nowhere, it could be a little too much too soon, which I think is what happened with Diesel a few years later. Fans can’t always, or don’t like to, accept who the company is picking to be their next big star. Although, with Bret, for me at least, it was believable and I bought into him being the champ 100%. I can’t fully explain why, maybe it was just a great underdog story, maybe it’s 'cause his match quality was always great, or maybe it was just a gut feeling." —Comedian Sean Carlucci
Carlucci's sentiments reflect those of many young wrestling fans of that time.
"Looking back, it’s awesome, plain and simple: Bret’s my all-time favorite, and that first title win, which began his HUGE push, played a big role in my childhood," Carlucci said. "I had the Bret Hart glasses, the poster of him with the belt, a Bret Hart shirt, his Hasbro action figure, so that night was the beginning of something special that laid the groundwork for years to come through my childhood. It might sound weird to say, but my childhood may have been different if that night didn’t happen, and he never became champ."
Another life-long pro wrestling fan, Reid Otto, reflected on the anniversary of Hart's momentous victory when he was 9 at the time.
"As a kid, I wasn’t aware of the politics of pro wrestling," Otto told Rock Music Life. "While I was not old enough to realize that Hogan was dodging him, I was old enough to appreciate the fact that Bret made technical wrestling entertaining. A lot of guys never really lived up to their monikers, but Bret did. To me, his legacy expands farther than his in-ring prowess. His promos were highly underrated, as he showed believable emotion, especially in his feud with his brother Owen."
Hart would face his brother Owen in the opening match of Wrestlemania X in 1994. He would defeat Yokozuna in the main event that night to begin his second reign as WWE Champion.
Hart himself took to Instagram to share his reflections.
"It's safe to say that 1992 marked a turning point in my career," Hart wrote today. "Winning the IC title from Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania VIll. Main eventing in front of 82,000+ with Davey Boy Smith at 'Summer Slam.' This moment 30 years today, however, was the culmination of all the hard work and sacrifice made since I first entered WWE in 1984. Winning the WWE title from Ric Flair in Saskatoon and holding that belt up perched on the second rope looking at the faces of my fans from long ago was the single greatest moment of my career. The moment it happened, I knew no one could ever take it away or deny me that beautiful moment in time."
Here is a transcript of the commentary between ringside commentators Lord Alfred Hayes and Gorilla Monsoon at the moment Hart became WWE Champion for the very first time:
Gorilla Monsoon: "Now he's going for the sharpshooter. He's got em turned over!"
Hayes: "Flair's getting up."
[Mr. Perfect steps on the apron and Referee Earl Hebner confronts him]
Hayes: "He's trying to... distract the referee—"
[Flair nods to submit]
Gorilla Monsoon: "Oh he did not! We've seen history made! Let's get the official word.
Howard Finkel: "Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of this bout and new World Wrestling Federation champion, Bret 'Hit Man' Hart!"
Gorilla Monsoon:"It's pandemonium here in Saskatoon. Bret 'The Hitman' Hart just gained the World Wrestling Federation Championship! This is what it's all about. A man who has devoted his entire life to this moment right here, and no-one more deserving than Bret "Hit Man" Hart."
You can re-live the moment of Bret Hart's first WWE Championship victory in the two official video clips of the match below: