WWE's Greatest Rivalries: Bret vs. Shawn

I couldn't wait for this DVD to arrive in the mail. First off, I have the 3-disc set. Most of this review will pertain to the first disc, though. What can I say about Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels that hasn't already been said? The purist in me regards these two gentlemen as the most important wrestlers of the 90's. In actuality, The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin deserve that appellation, but as far as in-ring technicians go, the scrappers under today's spotlight did more for the industry than anyone else, especially during the New Generation Era. They made it possible for smaller guys to compete in main events, and not just to send the crowd home happy (although they certainly gave attendees something to talk about at work the next day).

The documentary spans two hours. It's hosted by Jim Ross, and it covers everything that you would want it to cover. Each section is prefaced by a video piece that runs down the major events of their careers. Oddly enough, my favorite chunk of the feature presentation occurs early on in the interview. I'm a tag team mark, so I was transfixed on any anecdote that involved The Rockers and The Hart Foundation. It kills me to know that WWE's tag division will never be as righteous as it was from 1987 to 1991. Goddamn 1991, a doleful year that saw the negation of almost every team that mattered, including my precious Demolition. Of course, The Rockers and The Hart Foundation had to break up, but still...fuck!

I love how frank and direct the interview segments are. Bret and Shawn are sitting right next to each other in point blank range of J.R.'s laconic, straightforward line of questioning. They couldn't squirm their way out of an awkward moment if they wanted to. I was surprised by how emotional things were getting towards the end, but I shouldn't have been. The Montreal Screwjob was a big deal. And that was only the beginning of an implausibly rough patch in Bret's life. The wasted opportunities in WCW, the death of a brother (Owen), the death of a dear friend (Curt), the death of a brother-in-law (Davey), the stroke...I have no idea how he soldiered through such austere adversity.

I admit, I came close to choking up when Bret recalled the day that he lost his smile. Shawn may have popularized the turn of phrase, but for The Hitman, it was all too literal (you wrestling nerds know what I'm referring to). If I sound a tad biased, it's because I'm a tad biased. Every fan has his/her preference, and mine happens to be The Excellence of Execution. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy Shawn's work and I respect his place in WWE history. It's just hard for me to overlook the shameless, infantile shit that he pulled in the mid-to-late 90's. The same goes for his confidante, one Hunter Hearst Helmsley (history tends to trivialize his role in The Screwjob).

The other discs? Worth watching. The tag bouts are electric, even if they share a handful of telegraphed spots. The ladder match is incredible. The other matches speak for themselves (the best being the WWF Championship match at 1992's Survivor Series). If I had to nitpick, I would debate the value of the third disc. Is it really necessary? It consists of a single match and a couple of Hall of Fame inductions. Couldn't they fit that stuff on Disc 2? If not, then add extra material to Disc 3. Give me match commentaries or bystander interviews (Nash, Jannetty, Neidhart, etc.). Again, I'm nitpicking. You need to pick this puppy up.

I fully expect the next chapter in the Greatest Rivalries series to be Bob Backlund vs. Man Mountain Rock.

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