Bret Hart vs Kurt Angle
Who was the best? How about now? WCW vs WWF, Canada vs USA, the match just years apart from potentially happening. What would a confrontation look like? Who would be the better competitor? We may not ever know, but what we do know is how this dream match came about in these two timelines.
1976: Bret Hart Bret Hart began working for his father’s Stampede Wrestling promotion in Calgary Canada. Hart first began helping the promotion by refereeing matches. At a 1978 event in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a wrestler was unable to perform his match, forcing Stu to ask his son to stand in as a replacement. Before long, he became a regular contender, eventually partnering with brother Keith to win the Stampede International Tag Team Championship four times. Hart gained some of his most prominent experience with Japanese combatants and real-life trainers Mr. Hito and Mr. Sakurada. Hart also had high-impact matches against Tom Billington, the Dynamite Kid. In the midst of wrestling alongside his family, Hart made a point not to ride on the shoulders of his elders. Hart faithfully jobbed as requested of him, taking pride in the believability of his performances. As he said himself, “No one could take a shit kicking like Bret Hart”. Although he dreaded partaking in interviews and speaking in front of a crowd, Hart went on to win the promotion’s top titles, including two British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Championships, five International Tag Team Championships, and six North American Heavyweight Championships. Hart also wrestled Tiger Mask in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), a promotion for whom he often wrestled during the early to mid-1980s. He remained one of Stampede‘s most successful performers until the promotion, along with several wrestlers, was acquired by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in August 1984.
1984: The Hart Foundation Hart was asked to start out in the WWF as a singles wrestler with a cowboy gimmick but refused, stating that where he comes from “if you called yourself a cowboy, you’d better be one.” He made his televised WWF debut on August 29, 1984, in a tag team match where he teamed with the Dynamite Kid. By 1985, after acquiring the nickname of “Hit Man“, he requested to join Jimmy Hart‘s heel stable, The Hart Foundation, which included brother-in-law Jim Neidhart. Bret’s agile, technical style – which earned him the moniker “The Excellence of Execution” (coined by Gorilla Monsoon) – created a contrast with his partner Neidhart’s strength and brawling skills. During this time, Hart began wearing his signature sunglasses, initially to conceal his nervousness during promos. In 1986, Hart began his first singles program with Ricky Steamboat, and in a singles match originally planned for WrestleMania 2. The Hart Foundation adopted the nickname, “The Pink and Black Attack“, which Hart continued to use after the tag team’s disbandment. Bret would go on to become an Intercontinental Champion, and then the WWF World Heavyweight Championship in 1992.
1996: ECW As a celebrated amateur wrestler, Kurt Angle had an aversion to professional wrestling, considering it “beneath” him. He was offered a 10-year contract with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) following the 1996 Olympics, but talks fell apart when he told company chairman Vince McMahon that he would be unwilling to lose any matches. On October 26, Angle was convinced by fellow Pittsburgh native Shane Douglas to attend the taping of an Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) event named High Incident. He gave an in-ring interview and provided guest commentary during a match between Taz and Little Guido, but left the building after Raven “crucified” a bleeding Sandman by attaching him to a cross using barbed wire. Angle, shocked by the controversial imagery and afraid that his career prospects were going to be damaged if he was associated with the incident, threatened to sue ECW owner Paul Heyman if he was shown on television in the same broadcast as the stunt.
1997: Montreal Screwjob Although Hart had signed a 20-year contract back in 1996, the WWF was in a rough financial position by late 1997 and could no longer afford to honor the contract. Although Hart was arguably the biggest wrestler in the world during the mid-1990s, McMahon also felt that the value of his character was beginning to wane, and he encouraged Hart to approach the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) about a contract, hopefully one similar to their original offer. This was despite Hart’s reluctance to leave the WWF and willingness to re-negotiate. Hart subsequently signed a three-year contract with WCW. His final match with the WWF would be a title match against his real life rival Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series in Montreal. Hart did not want to end his WWF career with a loss to Michaels in his home country particularly with the context of their nationality-fueled feud; and offered to lose, forfeit or otherwise give over the belt to Michaels in any other way that McMahon wanted. McMahon agreed to Hart’s idea of forfeiting the championship the next night on Raw Is War or losing it a few weeks later. Although Hart stated to McMahon he would not take the WWF World Heavyweight Championship with him to WCW TV and despite insistence from then-WCW President Eric Bischoff, that Hart would join WCW with a “clean slate”, McMahon was still concerned and paranoid; this led to him breaking his word in what eventually came to be known as the Montreal Screwjob. Even though Hart did not submit to the Sharpshooter, referee Earl Hebner called for the bell as if he had, on McMahon’s orders. This resulted in Hart “losing” the title to Michaels. The night ended with an irate Hart spitting in McMahon’s face, destroying television equipment, and punching McMahon backstage in front of Gerald Brisco, Pat Patterson, and McMahon’s son Shane. Hart also confronted Michaels backstage about the match finish. Many behind-the-scenes events leading up to the Montreal Screwjob were filmed for the documentary Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows, released in 1998. WWE has described the Montreal Screwjob as “arguably the most controversial, most jarring moment in the annals of sports entertainment”. Hart’s likeness would continue to be featured in WWF media into 1998, including the title video of Raw (brawling in a ring within a warehouse), and the WWF War Zone video game.
1997: WCW Hart’s three-year contract with World Championship Wrestling included a salary of $2.5 million per year (a $1 million annual increase from his WWF contract), as well as a light schedule and a measure of creative control over his television character. A day after the WWF’s Survivor Series pay-per-view, Eric Bischoff, while with the New World Order (nWo), announced that Hart was going to be coming to WCW and joining the nWo.
1998-2001: Monday Night War Angle’s opinion of professional wrestling changed when he began watching the WWF’s Monday Night Raw in 1998: he observed “world class athletes doing very athletic things”, and developed an admiration for Stone Cold Steve Austin‘s talents as an entertainer. Angle later conceded that his negative attitude toward the industry was misguided and “stupid”. With the WWF’s original 1996 offer now rescinded, Angle had a tryout with the company, and was signed to a five-year deal by August 1998: the contract offer came three days after his tryout. He trained under Dory Funk Jr., with whom the WWF had developed the Funkin’ Dojo training camp in Stamford, Connecticut, and began wrestling in front of a live audience in under a week. Angle’s first match took place within WWF developmental territory the World Wrestling Alliance (WWA) on August 20, in a losing effort against his other trainer, Tom Prichard. He wrestled multiple matches for the WWA in August and September, and continued to take bookings outside of the WWF, participating in a battle royal at the National Wrestling Alliance’s (NWA) 50th Anniversary Show on October 24, and performing for Pennsylvania Championship Wrestling (PCW) and the East Coast Wrestling Association (ECWA) in February 1999. Meanwhile in WCW, Bret Hart suffered an injury but then captured the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. By year 2000, Kurt Angle would capture the WWF European Championship and the Intercontinental Championship, and only months later the WWF Championship. Angle would go on to become the Grand Slam Champion and eventually form Team Angle, then also become the World Heavyweight Champion. Meanwhile Bret Hart sustained an injury by Goldberg. WCW terminated Hart’s contract via FedEx letter on October 20, 2000, due to his ongoing incapacity, and he announced his retirement from professional wrestling soon afterward. Hart and several critics considered his storylines during his tenure to be lacklustre. Former WCW wrestler Chris Jericho attributed this to backstage politics and creative mayhem. Hart cited his “steel plate” segment with Goldberg and his tribute match to Owen, against Chris Benoit, as his two worthwhile moments with the company. He said he was “proud” to have been WCW World Heavyweight Champion for a short time prior to his injury. In 2001, Hart became the on-screen commissioner of World Wrestling All-Stars (WWA), a role that ended prematurely due to a 2002 stroke, which temporarily required him to use a wheelchair. In his first major appearance since recovering, Hart traveled to Auckland, New Zealand to appear at another WWA event in May 2003.
2006: WWE’s ECW Kurt Angle was drafted to WWE’s resurrected ECW brand. Angle was granted an early release from his WWE contract because of health reasons. Angle stated that he asked for his release from WWE because he could not take time off and was working hurt, severely on some occasions. He also stated that when he quit, WWE lost their top talent, as he was at the very top of the payroll. Meanwhile, on April 1, 2006, Hart was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Stone Cold Steve Austin.
2006: TNA Angle went on to sign a contract with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). The new signing was viewed by some as a promotion not having concern for the health of a wrestler. Angle made his TNA debut on October 19, confronting NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Samoa Joe. By 2007, Kurt would obtain the X Division Championship, TNA World Tag Team Championships, TNA World Heavyweight and (IGF recognized) IWGP Heavyweight Championship, becoming a Triple Crown champion. Angle would form a faction called The Main Event Mafia with Booker T & Sharmell, Kevin Nash, Sting, and Scott Steiner. Kurt Angle feuded with Immortal when Hogan and Bischoff came into TNA, and in 2013 was inducted into the TNA Hall of Fame. He would then take the role of a “Director of Wrestling Operations” at TNA. Angle would have a final run in TNA before leaving.
2009 Hart re-signed with WWE in late 2009. On December 28, after weeks of speculation surrounding Hart and his presence in World Wrestling Entertainment, Chairman Vince McMahon announced that Hart would be special guest host on the January 4 Raw. Hart thanked the fans for their continued support, jokingly teased announcer Jerry Lawler about their long-running 1990s feud, and confronted Shawn Michaels and McMahon regarding the Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series in 1997. Hart and Michaels were able to agree on a truce, shaking hands and hugging. While many cast doubts on the sincerity of their reconciliation, both men have confirmed that it was indeed genuine and not part of storyline. Since then, Bret Hart continues to make sporadic appearances in WWE in non-wrestling roles.
2016: Bret Hart’s dream wrestling Kurt Angle In an interview, Bret Hart shared:
“I had him clamped in a headlock. I was breathing hard and I remember telling myself: “This is only a dream, it’s not real.” But the longer I held Kurt in a headlock, I started to believe it was real. I focused on a square inch of fabric on the canvas and studied it.
In my dream, I remember feeling this excitement telling myself that this was real, that I had Kurt Angle in a side headlock somewhere. Then, seconds later, I simply woke up. It was a dream
It would’ve been pretty cool for me to have that one chance to wrestle Kurt Angle one time.”
2017: WWE WWE announced that Angle would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. On the April 3rd episode of Raw after WrestleMania 33, Angle made his first WWE appearance in nearly 11 years after Mr. McMahon appointed Angle as the new Raw General Manager. Angle then made the announcement that his (on-screen) son was Jason Jordan of American Alpha.
“I called [Bret Hart] in 2003 or  and I said, ‘listen, you don’t have to take a bump. Let me do whole match. I’ll do the bumping and feeding. You just stay in there and lets have a great match.’ He didn’t want to do it and I understand now. After he had that stroke and he got kicked by Goldberg or whatever happened – he had a brain injury – he knew he couldn’t have the Bret Hart/Kurt Angle match he wanted, so he wasn’t willing to do it. And I get it because me, at 50, I can still go. But 10 years from now, if Seth Rollins came to me and said, ‘hey, lets do this match. I’ll do all the bumping. Don’t worry about it.’ And I’m thinking it’s not going to be that good because I can’t stay with him. So I understood how Bret felt at the time. And it hurt my feelings a little bit because two years later, he wrestled Vince.”
2018 Kurt Angle made his return to competition feuding with Baron Corbin, the “Constable of Raw”.
Tale of the tape:
|WWF, WCW||Known In||WWE, TNA|
|Stu Hart, Katsuji Adachi, Kazuo Sakurada||Trained by||Dory Funk Jr, Tom Prichard|
|Sharpshooter||Signature Move||Ankle Lock|
|“The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be”, “The Hitman”||Known As||“The most celebrated real athlete in WWF history”, “The Olympic Gold Medalist”|
Who would win this rivalry?
Can it happen?
Bret Hart retired in the year 2000, and had a stroke in the years after, it is unlikely he would risk his health for 1 more match. Kurt Angle, is likely on his last run in 2018. It’s extremely unlikely and no one expects this match as both wrestlers are past their best days. Bret Hart is 61 years old as of 2018. While not impossible, this is a dream match that is highly unlikely.