One Count Kickout – Bret vs Shawn: Reaction and Review
Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, while two amazing competitors who always took it to a new level in the ring together, had one of the most controversial, fiery and public feuds in the history of wrestling. Their chemistry in the ring was as undeniable as the venomous words they spit at one another in the late 1990s. Their rises to fame paralleled one another and these two men who shared so much in common, and began as friends, became two of the most bitter rivals in WWE history. Their feuds, whether works or shoots, are legendary.
Bret and Shawn came into the WWE at the dawn of a new era where the muscle heads of old were on their way out and as the “big” men cleared the way it was both Bret and Shawn who paved the road for the smaller, more technical and talented workers we watch today. They were innovators in their time whose styles meshed so well together. During a time when the WWE was battling to stay afloat as ratings hit a low it was these two men who stoked the fire that eventually gave birth to then modern age of wrestling. Though they would go their separate ways in the early days of the Attitude Era, they were two key components in getting the ball rolling toward that more realistic promo style and hard fought match template.
Their anger, hatred, distrust and distaste for one another ultimately culminated in what has been regarded by many wrestling fans as the most controversial incident in the history of this business: The Montreal Screwjob. This moment in time, this Survivor Series match, galvanized the wrestling world, set the plate for Vincent McMahon to become “Mr. McMahon,” saw Bret Hart exit out to WCW and for Shawn Michaels to become the greatest heel throughout the entire country of Canada. Now, for the first time ever, Bret and Shawn sat down to discuss their history, their feud, their admiration and anger and the Montreal Screwjob.
Never before in the history of WWE DVD releases have they created something as powerful, emotional and amazing as “Shawn vs. Bret.” In a two hour plus interview, Bret and Shawn pull no punches while discussing their history together. Jim Ross moderates as Shawn and Bret sit side by side walking us through the ups and downs of their entire relationship. Through this release we gain a keen insight into that which was taking place behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera. There are funny anecdotes, poignant moments and emotional discussions which bring both men to tears at different points in time.
Jim Ross does an amazing job asking questions, following up and driving this fantastic dual interview on a collision course toward the Montreal Screwjob much the same as these two men found themselves fourteen years ago. This is not a DVD about ego and excuses, it is about exploring the ins and outs of how it all happened and why it was unavoidable. This is about two friends who come to discover that they are both competing for the same spot and as their careers are soaring their relationship is crumbling. Every sharp word and crushing blow exchanged between the two seems to usher them ever closer to the precipice from which both would eventually tumble over – never to be the same.
Neither man makes excuses nor lays the blame completely at the other’s doorstep. There is a mutual acceptance of the hand that both of them played in this drama and regrets from each. Bret speaks vividly about his admiration for Shawn and desire to draw money with him. He explains his vision of their future which he describes as both of them battling off and on for the next ten years after Wrestlemania 12. However, this never came to be and both men admit that they could have done some amazing things together if not for their breakdown in communication and trust. Bret admits that, ultimately, he sought respect from Shawn and Shawn recounts, in touching fashion, his insatiable need to obtain Bret’s approval.
Bret discusses in detail his feelings of being overlooked by “upper management” while he was WWE Champion and they were busy building Shawn. He doesn’t hold back as he explains how frustrated he was when Shawn told him his post Wrestlemania 12 plan of defending the title against Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Triple H and Sean Waltman. Bret admits it was at this point in time he began to doubt the direction Shawn was going and he began to believe that Shawn did not have the right mind for doing what was best for business. They delve into the Kliq, into “Sunny Days” and how each of them were throwing barbs that they thought were works but the other was taking as a shoot. Shawn admits he was taking it more personal than Bret and after a segment taped for Raw, which didn’t make the live showing, Shawn began to believe that Bret was out to sabotage him.
Shawn never shies away from his terrible attitude and drive at the time, even at one moment apologizing through tears for being “such a piece of trash.” Bret also admits that he sometimes pushed things too far and got caught up in their work so much that it became a shoot on both sides. Shawn makes it clear that he looked up to Bret Hart and wanted more than anything for Bret to put his hand on his shoulder and tell him that he was respected, appreciated and great at what he did. Bret assures Shawn that he had it at the time, but admits his failure to properly verbalize this.
Their point counterpoint on the Montreal Screwjob and the days leading up to it is absolutely fascinating. It seems to boil down to this: Bret Hart never wanted to leave the WWE and felt forced out by Vince McMahon which hurt him greatly. During a conversation with Shawn, HBK told Bret that he would never put him over. This conversation caused Bret to decide he would not put Shawn over. When the idea of Shawn going over Bret in Montreal was pitched, Bret shot it down immediately and said he would never put Shawn over unless Shawn was willing to do it for him. Bret admits it wasn’t about losing in Canada and that he offered to drop the belt to anyone else that night – except for Shawn.
Shawn discusses his conversations with Vince McMahon and Triple H in regard to the screw job to come in which he claims it was not his decision, nor his idea, but that he made it clear to Vince he would do whatever Vince requested of him. There was much debate back and forth, Vince continued to try and get Bret agree to put Shawn over but when he could not obtain that agreement, the decision was made to put the screw job into place. Shawn makes it clear that he did what he was asked to do and what, at the time, he thought was right. He says that it was extremely difficult to be that guy and to know all of the heat he would get for it. Bret responds by saying if it was the other way around he would never have done it, he would never have screwed over any of the boys. However, he ultimately blames Vince for it.
It was Vince who promised him it wouldn’t happen, it was Vince for whom Bret had busted his ass all of those years and the idea of all of his hard work being “thrown out with the crap” that truly broke his heart. The Montreal discussion is one of the most phenomenal parts of this DVD release and could be bought if for no reason other than that, but the entire interview is absolutely must see. The interview quickly follows with how their careers turned after Montreal, the tragedies both men faced and their abilities to overcome them.
It is clear that there is a mutual respect between these two and that their reunion is true and complete as they intercut this interview with many different video segments of both men hanging out together in the time since their handshake on the January Raw when Bret returned to WWE. The DVD rounds itself out and ends on a note of hope, on the idea that these two men who walked such divergent paths could come back together and find the friendship they lost so long ago. Bret admits that forgiving Shawn not only relieved him of a great burden but also set Shawn “free” from his guilt. Hope and forgiveness are beautiful things after the emotional rollercoaster of this interview.
Anyone who grew up watching wrestling during the eighties and nineties has been exposed to the magic, controversy and charisma that both Bret and Shawn brought into the ring. These were two of the greatest wrestlers in the history of this business who clashed harder and more angrily than perhaps any since. For anyone who loved either man, who watched their matches, who took a side in the Montreal Screwjob, this DVD is an absolute necessity. In one of the closing moments of the interview, Shawn discusses how this reunion between the two of them is also a reunion for all of the fans who have argued for either man and stood their ground in regard to the Montreal Screwjob. Bret chimes in by saying that this is a relief for both men because it is a “complete peace” that they can move forward from. A complete peace twenty years in the making. Whether you lived it, whether you’ve heard of it or whether you just love a good story, this DVD is one any wrestling fan needs to have in his collection.