Monday, August 8, 2022

Wrestling Moments: Summerslam 1992, August 29, 1992- Wembley Stadium

It should be clear at this point that I am, and ever have been, an old softie. Three of these moments are finishes that looked like they would create or amplify feuds, but instead led to reconciliations.

I love a happy ending.
This is another one I found later, but any excuse to celebrate the family I enjoyed watching for multiple reasons over the years is a good one.

Bret "The Hitman" Hart went back and forth, gaining and losing the Intercontinental Title before his run for the Championship belt. One of those losses was to "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith.

As I've become more a fan of the storytelling, and the wild behind the scenes shenanigans of this form of entertainment, their match up at Summerslam serves as a major turning point to the changing face of Professional Wrestling.

As a youth I remember always enjoying tag team matches between the British Bulldogs and the Hart Foundation.  As I continued my education in the weird world of wrestling, I found out why.

Stu Hart, patriarch of the Hart Wrestling family and former owner of Stampede Wrestling in Canada was one of the greatest wrestling trainers in history. He taught actual wrestling skills, along with performance, in the basement of his home, nicknamed "The Dungeon."  The title was easily explained by the screams coming from anyone "stretched" by Stu during his training sessions, but by all means, keep using the word "fake."

Stu and his wife of fifty-three years, Helen, had twelve children. The boys all became wrestlers (or referees or some aspect of the business) the girls all married professional wrestlers.
(Honestly, I'm not sure if this is 100% true, but it's wrestling. Some poetic license is allowed. I'm pretty sure it's accurate, that's close enough.)

Multiple grandchildren have also gone on to work in the ring, sometimes together as "The Hart Legacy."  (That's the Bulldog's son on the left.)  Appearances by them is one of the few times I'll watch modern wrestling.

Old Man Aside- Constant high spots, aerial moves and finishers are no match for good storytelling. It doesn't matter if a leg drop isn't really going to hurt that much, it's the whole story leading up to it, and the history of no one kicking out of it that makes the crowd believe it is a "finisher."  The Harts and their family and friends always had fantastic technique and storytelling ability. 

As part of the deal when the WWF acquired Stampede, certain family members came along with the package and got pushes from Vince McMahon and company. The battles between the Hart Foundation and the British Bulldogs were always my favorites. I learned later that they were fantastic because the teams had close relationships, and years of training and working together in Stampede.

Brett, obviously, was Stu's son. His tag team partner in the Foundation, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart was his brother-in-law married to Elizabeth Hart.
(Jim's daughter is Natalya, is the only woman ever trained in The Dungeon. 
Watch her compete some time it shows, and not only because she uses her uncle's finisher, the Sharpshooter.)

Aside- (yes...another one) As a more knowledgeable fan now, watching Bret's skill in the ring is always a highlight. However, back in the day, I was much more a fan of "The Anvil's" power, maniacal laugh, and general lunacy. My sister informs me his behavior is completely normal for a former shotputter.

For their opposition, Davey Boy Smith and Tom "The Dynamite Kid" Billington were cousins who came over from England to train in The Dungeon and work for Stampede. Smith married Dana Hart. 

Stu's training provided athletic skill and polish in the ring, Vince and the WWF provided goofball add ons to make the feuds more fun.

Heels often had managers to help with their cheating ways, and the unrelated Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart was given to the Hart Foundation for extra yelling and tomfoolery.  (Bret has always been on the quieter side, while still skilled at cutting promos...
Anvil, not so much quiet, but it was a great combination when they all got into it.)

Faces rarely had managers, but to help with promos the soft spoken, accented Bulldogs were paired with the great Captain Lou Albano, 
assuring there would be no moments of silence. The Captain was one of the main contact points of the Rock N' Wrestling Connection with Cyndi Lauper (thanks to a chance meeting on an airplane), helping drive the WWF into the international spotlight. 

They were also given Matilda, an actual bulldog, as a mascot for "reasons."
Yes, they were extremely goofy and silly "reasons," usually involving Bobby "The Brain" Heenan getting bitten on the butt, but they made me happy.

With all those extras, and the four performers' talent, training and history together, their battles couldn't be anything but epic.

Over time, injuries, excesses and moving away from tag team matches in general led to Bret and Davey Boy headlining in singles competition.  

But by this point, kayfabe was starting to fade, and fans knew more about the back stories of wrestlers in general.

Therefore the real world connections between The Hitman and The Bulldog were focused on. It was a feud that was "tearing the Hart family apart."  Dana was often interviewed and shown ringside full of concern for both her brother and husband. Stu and Helen were in the audience at Wembly.

The match was a classic of technique against power, but both had excellent ring abilities and much experience with each other. 

Bret was known as both "The Excellence of Execution" and "The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be."
Humility is not a hallmark of the professional wrestler.

Davey Boy sadly went more fully down the steroid path many of his co-workers did, greatly enhancing his already massive build.

As the local hero, the British Bulldog was able to use his prodigious strength to crawl to the ropes to escape Bret's sharpshooter finisher. (Which I [the cranky old man] have pointed out incessantly meant something in those days.) In the end and in front of his "home town" crowd, he took the Intercontinental Belt.

In what has become a tradition in these posts, (see "old softie" above) instead of attacking his brother-in-law following his loss, Bret congratulated him and there was a reconciliation with the two of them and Dana as they all celebrated in the ring.

Yes, the Hart's are another example of wrestlers facing far too much tragedy from many sources. Those stories have gotten a great deal of publicity and are easy to find for those who so choose.
I'm going to stick with focusing on the good stuff this week.

Next week, these posts sadly come to a close.

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