From August 1991 to August 1992 Bret Hart was regularly holding or competing for the WWF Intercontinental Championship against the likes of Mr. Perfect, the Mountie, Roddy Piper, Shawn Michaels and the British Bulldog. During that time, he held the WWF Intercontinental Championship on two occasions with his second reign ending at the 1992 SummerSlam where he lost to the British Bulldog at Wembley Stadium.
By the fall of 1992, the WWF was looking to go in a different direction in regard to the WWF World Championship. Hulk Hogan left the company in April 1992 and the main event scene featured veteran wrestlers like Ric Flair, Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior. It appeared that WWF officials wanted to go in a younger direction to be the headliner for their business.
On October 12th, 1992 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Bret Hart won the WWF World Championship by defeating Ric Flair after nearly thirty minutes of action. Hart won with his submission move the Sharpshooter. Hart made it clear following his victory that he would be a fighting champion.
Following his title victory, Bret would defeat the likes of Nailz, Rick Martel, the Mountie and Papa Shango on house shows. He would successfully defeat Shango on Saturday Night’s Main Event on November 14th with the Sharpshooter. It was on the same show that Shawn Michaels won the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Bulldog and would challenge Hart at the 1992 Survivor Series event.
Leading into the Survivor Series event, Hart continued to successfully defend the title against Papa Shango and Rick Martel. At the 1992 Survivor Series, Hart was able to defeat Michaels to retain the WWF World Championship after another near thirty minute bout. Following the event, Hart defended against Ric Flair coming out on top in their rematches. However, Flair wouldn’t stop chasing the championship.
Heading into 1993, Hart fought newcomer Yokozuna for the first time winning the match by disqualification in Beaumont, Texas. Bret battled Ric Flair on January 9th at the Boston Gardens winning a one hour marathon match, known today as an Iron Man match.
A new challenger for the WWF World Championship would be the recently debuted Razor Ramon. Ramon had been on WWF TV since August 1992 and had been involved in a feud with Randy Savage, which he came out the winner of. After attacking Owen Hart on an episode of WWF Mania, it led to a title match with Bret Hart at the 1993 Royal Rumble. There wasn’t much depth on the heel side of the roster so Ramon was quickly inserted into the role of title contender when he likely needed time to be promoted to that level. After nearly eighteen minutes of action, Hart was able to force Ramon to submit to the Sharpshooter.
Meanwhile, the 1993 Royal Rumble match had the new stipulation that whomever won the match would get a WWF World Championship at WrestleMania IX. The stipulation has been part of the Royal Rumble ever since. Yokozuna, who had recently made his debut on Halloween in 1992, won the 1993 Royal Rumble when he eliminated Randy Savage from the match. Thus, Yokozuna was in line to challenge Bret Hart at WrestleMania IX.
On house shows following the PPV, Bret successfully defended the championship against Ric Flair, Rick Martel and the recently debuted Bam-Bam Bigelow. Yes, Bret had defended the championship after Flair had lost to Mr. Perfect on RAW that banished him from WWF. In late February, Bret successfully defended against Lex Luger, who had made his debut at the 1993 Royal Rumble, on a few house shows replacing Bam-Bam Bigelow.
Bret also defended the WWF World Championship in the first ever WWF World Championship match on RAW when he defeated Fatu on March 1st. The match is actually quite enjoyable and an underrated early RAW match. On house shows leading into WrestleMania IX, Bret would team with Mr. Perfect to defeat the team of Lex Luger and Razor Ramon.
There is often two sides to the story regarding WrestleMania IX. Bret Hart claims that he was told he would retain the WWF World Championship against Yokozuna. However, the day of the show it was switched to Yokozuna winning the championship. But, it got even more complicated when Vince McMahon decided that the recently returned Hulk Hogan would defeat Yokozuna right afterward to win the WWF World Championship. Bret was under the impression he would work with Hogan at SummerSlam to regain the title. But, as we all know, that didn’t happen either.
Thus, after a nine minute main event Yokozuna won the WWF World Championship defeating Bret Hart after Mr. Fuji tossed salt into Bret’s eyes. This ended Bret Hart’s 174 day reign. Yokozuna would regain the WWF World Championship from Hogan at the 1993 King of the Ring event.
Bret Hart was the top guy when I was growing up as a kid. I remember watching his matches on Coliseum Video releases and always being entertained. Going back and watching his various title defenses during this time showed that Hart carried the company during a transitional period. Most of his challengers in 1993 didn’t have much TV presence, including the man that beat him in Yokozuna. Had they kept the title on Bret a little longer and built Ramon, Bigelow and Yokozuna up on television for an additional six months, I think his title matches would have been far more interesting and compelling.
The whole WrestleMania IX debacle is a slap in the face to Bret Hart and what he tried to accomplish. I know that Bret is a negative guy these days, but that is an event that I believe he has every right to be mad about. The company took so much time to promote the New Generation and gave the belt back to a guy who led the Old Generation. It just doesn’t make much sense to me.
Anyway, I thought Bret had a decent first title run all things considered. He had some entertaining matches with Bam-Bam Bigelow that should be checked out, too.
What are your thoughts or memories of Bret Hart’s first title reign?
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