The Intercontinental Championship has been said to be the “Workers’” title. In the decade of the 1990s, that was just the case. Names like Piper, Hart, Perfect, Goldust, Von Erich, Michaels, Ramon, Jarrett, Austin, Diesel, Rock, Jericho, and Helmsley personified what it meant to be a worker and what it meant to be a champion.
These men started at the bottom of the business regardless of their upbringing and training. All these men ascended the ladder in the wrestling business to become icons, Hall of Famers, and yes, even heavyweight champions of them. Two names that stick out specifically from this list are Bret Hart and Mr. Perfect. Hart and Perfect were two of the best workers of all time, and their match at the 1991 Summer Slam was the perfect example of how to execute in-ring work and how to pull their audience in not only with their ring work but their promo work leading up to the match.
Coming to you from the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, the scene was set for an epic encounter between Hart and Perfect. These two second-generation wrestlers knew going into this match that it would be talked about for years to come. Their Intercontinental title match has gone down in wrestling history as one of the best matches of all time.
The promos had been done, the stage had been set, and the fans were ready to see one of the most influential and iconic matches of all time.
The world’s most famous arena was the perfect location to hold this match and SummerSlam was a perfect time to host it. The promo by Perfect coming into this match was iconic. Stating that Hart may be the “excellence of execution,” but not perfect was a way to create doubt in the minds of the fans here at the event and the fans watching on Pay Per View.
Hart was at this time one of the most polarizing wrestlers in the WWF and the world of professional wrestling. Hart was being pushed like no other wrestler had been at this point. He could break you down physically with his top-notch submission holds and grappling moves that he learned from his father, Stu Hart in the Hart Dungeon while training. Hart could also break an opponent down mentally as well. With every move that he applied, he would break his opponent down so much that they’d question themselves if they truly belonged in the same ring as Hart.
Mr. Perfect came into the WWF the perfect way. The vignettes came out with him excelling in everything that he did, which set up his wrestling career in the WWF. The fact that he was excelling so much was secondary because Mr. Perfect was just that physically gifted and could back up everything that he’d say he could do. No matter what event he was participating in, he was going to be the winner of it no matter at what cost. Coming from the AWA to the WWF was an easy move for Perfect, as he would break each opponent down by picking a body part and breaking that person down to the point that they simply couldn’t take it anymore. This set up an epic encounter between himself and Hart at Summer Slam 1991.
The pop that Bret Hart received upon his entrance to the ring would rival the Road Warriors. With his parents Stu and Helen watching him compete for his first singles title in the company, Hart would wrestle as if it was the only opportunity he’d ever get again. Even though, looking back at it, we know it wouldn’t be the case.
As both Hart and Perfect made their way to the ring, the fans were on the edge of their seats, anticipating an epic encounter between these two iconic wrestlers. As Hart and Perfect picked apart each other inch by inch, body part by body part, Mr. Perfect’s manager “Coach” would attempt to make his presence felt, but would soon find out how stiff a Bret Hart punch could be. At this point in Perfect’s WWF run, nobody has kicked out of his “Perfect Plex,” so when Hart did, we knew that he was for real and that this was the moment that excelled Hart on the trajectory to becoming one of the most famous icons of the wrestling world for years to come. However, one cannot help but mention the consummate professional that Perfect was; selling for Hart as nobody has before. Thus making Hart look like a million bucks. When Hart ended up submitting Perfect to the sharpshooter, Bret Hart gained a lot more fans for his work this day and going forward.
When current wrestlers talk about matches and wrestlers that shaped their careers and matches that made them want to become wrestlers, this match and these two men are right at the top of the list. Perfect and Hart would go on to become two of the most influential wrestlers of all time on the current crop of wrestlers. If that isn’t enough reasoning to show you how much these two men shaped this business by simply competing in this match, then go back and look at their entire careers and you will see that they have shaped the wrestling business unlike any other wrestlers, then, now, and forever.