Monday, November 7, 2016
Mullet Monday: Heartbreak Edition
Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels, Survivor Series, 25 November 1992 (WWF)
This is the summit of Hart's and Michaels' intertwining careers, the one where the two made history. In my opinion, they are the most exciting superstars of WWF/WWE to this day. Most wrestlers look overwhelmed by the McMahon style of overkill showmanship--or, at best, a mere by-product of it (I'll resist naming names since, not being a WWE fan, I doubt my opinion holds any weight whatsoever), but Bret and Shawn, here at this point in their careers, rise above the dazzle and flash and deliver traditional pro wrestling excitement.
From the opening lockup, during which the two wrap themselves in each other's weighty arms and reel into the corner like they've already been brawling for 20 minutes, sparks are flying. The spirited spitefulness suggests what I sometimes call, longingly, a male catfight. Next, they wildly careen into the ropes. It's as if the ring is too much of an encumbrance for them, as if there's not space enough to contain the ferocity the two of them emit. It takes a few more minutes before they settle down to the center of the ring for some close-up grunting and arm-twisting, the centerpiece of arena rasslin' some forty or fifty years earlier.
Both men share heel and babyface qualities--or at least have equal numbers of devoted fans on hand, but it's Shawn who's first drawn to dirty (or dirty-ish) tactics (e.g., desperate hair-pulling), while Bret maintains a steady but dangerous calm. It's that composure that's the secret of Hart's mystique, that sense of unruffled professionalism tinged with the sobering knowledge that this guy hurts others guys for a paycheck. In contrast, Michaels is the cocky young hothead, whom Bret patiently and forcefully restrains so that he can more easily clean the kid's clock. Altogether, it's a splendid and almost perfectly paced work.