In this series, I’ll be covering a career by year and dissecting how their year and/or career has gone. There’s a lot of options and this might eventually get really in-depth, but it shall be fun. I decided to start first with Bret “Hitman” Hart because he was “the guy” when I was growing up as a WWF fan. In the case of the Hitman, I decided to start with the year where he made a splash as a singles wrestler, after a tag run with Jim Neidhart. The year was 1991.
1991 started with Bret Hart being the WWF Tag Team Champions with Neidhart known as the Hart Foundation. Throughout the month of January, they would routinely defeat Power and Glory on the house show circuit to retain the titles. They had a couple of title defenses against the team of Dino Bravo & Earthquake along with a defense agains the Nasty Boys. After winning a battle royal, the Nasty Boys would become the number one contenders to the tag titles and challenge the Hart Foundation at WrestleMania VII.
Leading into WrestleMania, Bret Hart defeated Brian Knobbs in a singles match on the Road to WrestleMania VII special that aired on March 17th, 1991. On March 12th, 1991, the Hart Foundation lost to Legion of Doom in a dark match during a Wrestling Challenge taping in Biloxi, MS. The match went over twelve minutes and is included on the Road Warriors DVD and the Wrestlefest 91 tape.
At WrestleMania VII, the Nasty Boys won the WWF Tag Team Championships from the Hart Foundation after Jim Neidhart was hit with a motorcycle helmet that Jimmy Hart, the former manager of the Hart Foundation, had brought to the ring for the match. Shortly after Mania, the Hart Foundation would breakup as Bret Hart would venture off into a singles role.
It didn’t take long for Bret Hart to get his career on a groove. During the first TV taping after WrestleMania, Bret would use a new finishing move, the Sharpshooter. The Hart Foundation would team a couple of times following the Mania, which included a tag match agains the Rockers at the Tokyo Dome, which the Hart Foundation won.
On the house show circuit, Bret Hart would have several matches with the Barbarian, coming out on top each time out. Bret would have his biggest singles match competing against Ted DiBiase on the 29th edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event. The result was a double count-out. Bret had very little problem defeating Barbarian throughout the month of April. His success against Barbarian would lead to Bret challenging WWF Intercontinental Champion Mr. Perfect starting on April 26th, 1991 in Providence, Rhode Island. Hart would protected in the matches, managing to win by count-out.
During a tour of England starting in late April into May, Bret would team with Jim Neidhart to defeat Power and Glory, and Demolition. After the tour, Bret was back to his singles run. The month of May saw Bret primarily compete against the Barbarian and was victorious each time they met.
Bret would get back in the ring with WWF Intercontinental Champion Mr. Perfect on June 10th at a house show in Wheeling, West Virginia battling to a 20-minute time limit draw. Bret would also have victories over Paul Roma, Haku and Brooklyn Brawler during the first half of the month. The second half of the month, Bret would have a few matches with Barbarian and Warlord along with one match against newcomer, IRS.
July would start with the final time the Hart Foundation would team in the WWF for six years. Bret and Jim challenged the WWF Tag Team Champions the Nasty Boys at MSG on July 1st. The Hart Foundation lost the match by disqualification when Bret was caught using the motorcycle helmet on the champions. Bret would have a few singles matches with IRS throughout the month of July.
Bret would also battle Earthquake on July 13th in Milwaukee, Wisconsin winning the match after hitting Quake with Andre the Giant’s crutch. Bret would team with Virgil to defeat the team of Ted DiBiase and IRS on July 14th in St. Louis, Missouri for the WrestleFest 1991 event. This was before the official formation of Money Inc. Bret would pin DiBiase in the match.
Leading into SummerSlam, Bret would mainly compete in singles matches against The Barbarian or team with Virgil against Ted DiBiase and IRS. He would continued his dominance on Barbarian while trading victories with DiBiase & IRS, with Virgil eating the pin in those matches. On August 24th, Bret competed against Sgt. Slaughter at the Philadelphia Spectrum winning by disqualification. However, the night before SummerSlam, Bret lost to IRS in Albany.
On August 26th, 1991 at SummerSlam in Madison Square Garden, Bret Hart won his first WWF Intercontinental Championship forcing Mr. Perfect to submit to the Sharpshooter. Following the event, Bret would defend against the Warlord, who was replacing an injured Mr. Perfect. On September 7th, 1991 in Providence, Rhode Island, Bret won a non-televised King of the Ring tournament defeating IRS in the finals.
Bret found himself involved in a segment with the Mountie, who would end up using his shock stick to electrocute Bret after Jimmy Hart tossed water onto the Hitman. The incident was due to Bret not wanting to defend the WWF Intercontinental Championship against a jailbird. It was taped during the September 30 taping for Wrestling Challenge and aired on November 2nd, 1991. Despite the segment not airing until November, Bret defended the WWF Intercontinental Championship against the Mountie during the final weeks of October.
Beginning in November, Bret found himself fighting off the Berzerker on the house show circuit. Bret’s first match with Ric Flair took place on November 13th during a Superstars taping in New Haven, Connecticut. Flair won the match by count-out when Mr. Perfect Bret off the apron back to the floor when the referee was distracted. During the same taping, Bret was award the 1991 Wrestler of the Year award.
At Survivor Series in Detroit, Bret was the captain for the losing team consisting of Roddy Piper, Virgil and Davey Boy Smith losing to Ric Flair, Ted DiBiase, The Mountie and the Warlord. Following the event, Bret continued to successfully defend against The Mountie. Bret also successfully defended the championship against Skinner at This Tuesday In Texas on December 3rd. On December 12th in Hartford, Bret defeated Tito Santana, who had won a battle royal to earn a shot at Bret’s WWF Intercontinental Championship. The following night in Long Island, Bret teamed with Big Bossman in a losing effort against the Mountie and IRS when Bossman was pinned.
Bret ended the year battling Ted DiBiase in singles matches, which included a match at Madison Square Garden that ended in a time limit draw.
Bret Hart was heavily protected throughout 1991 especially leading up to his match with Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam. Bret did an excellent job at portraying the fighting champion character and his work throughout the year was really good. I enjoyed the Mania tag match with the Nasty Boys, which I feel is often forgotten about when it comes to good Nasty Boys matches and his match with Perfect at SummerSlam was the perfect way to catapult him into the upper card. It was shocking to me how many times he wrestled the Barbarian throughout 1991. I don’t seem to recall them having any overly good matches to warrant their continued matches on house shows. Possibly just because Barbarian was a good hand in the ring, at the time.
What would say about the year for Bret Hart in 1991?
Thanks for reading.