Wrestlers Best Year: Bret Hart

Hello and welcome to a new series on Wrestling Obsessive where we look at the greatest calendar year of celebrated workers. 

In our inaugural edition, we shall look at Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Commonly cited by his peers as the greatest performer in wrestling history, Bret Hart had a storied professional wrestling career and is still one of the most famous wrestlers to ever lace up a pair of boots. With this in mind, it can be hard to define “The Hitman”’s greatest year. To determine, we will look at four crucial years for Bret: 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1997. 



Bret Hart, with the WWF championship around his waist, has his hand held high by referee Earl Hebner.

1992 followed on from Bret Hart’s solo breakthrough year, with Bret Hart opening the year as the incumbent Intercontinental champion. 

He lost the belt shortly into the year in a low-key house show effort. He bounced back at WrestleMania VIII, giving “Rowdy” Roddy Piper a rare pinfall loss and winning back the belt. A star-cementing win, Bret has described in autobiography Hitman that it “not only stole the show but many felt it saved the pay-per-view altogether.” 

In August, Bret Hart main evented SummerSlam in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, defending his Intercontinental title against The British Bulldog in an all-time classic. Despite losing, Bret’s efforts – including leading the match in lieu of an intoxicated Davey Boy Smith – proved his workmanship and abilities as a ring general.

October saw Bret Hart topple WWF champion Ric Flair to capture the promotion’s top title for the very first time. “The Best There Is, The Best There Was, And The Best There Ever Will Be” submitted “The Nature Boy” in a Superstars match filmed for Coliseum Video in Saskatchewan.  

At Survivor Series, Bret defended his title in the main event against future bitter rival Shawn Michaels in a bout described by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer as “must-see.” He would close out the year as WWF champion. 


  • Bret proved himself as one of the most reliable and consistent wrestlers on the roster. His match with the British Bulldog won the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Match of the Year and he also had acclaimed bouts with Roddy Piper and Shawn Michaels. 
  • 1992 saw Bret pick up his first world title. Beating the legendary Ric Flair, Hart has called it “the culmination of all the hard work and sacrifice made since I first entered WWE in 1984. Winning the WWE title from Ric Flair in Saskatoon and holding that belt up perched on the second rope looking at the faces of my fans from long ago was the single greatest moment of my career. The moment it happened, I knew no one could ever take it away or deny me that beautiful moment in time.”



  • His 1992 WWF title win (itself the result of an injury to Flair) was hampered from the outset by the untelevised change. This meant that although he was the champion, his crowning was not seen by the majority of fans, depriving him of a proper coronation. 
  • As WWF champion, Bret Hart had a lack of quality opponents. His Survivor Series defense against Shawn Michaels felt mid-card and televised defenses included against Virgil, Kamala, and The Berzerker. 



Bret Hart fresh off his King of the Ring win, wearing his crown and cape whilst holding his sceptre.

1993 was a rebuild year for “The Hitman”. 

At the Royal Rumble, Bret Hart retained his WWF belt in a great match over Razor Ramon. He was subsequently billed as competing in a WrestleMania main event against Yokozuna, which he ultimately lost, after which things broke down.  

After being defeated by Yokozuna, the new champion was himself beaten by a returning Hulk Hogan, who took Bret’s spot. Although “The Hulkster” was supposed to later drop the strap to Bret, he reneged on that promise, reportedly not wanting to put over Hart, who Hogan saw as too small. 

Instead, as Hogan dropped the belt at King of the Ring, Bret put in one of the greatest single-night performances in WWE history, winning the tournament. In this, he faced three very different opponents, triumphing over Razor Ramon, Mr Perfect, and Bam Bam Bigelow. 

This was followed by a memorable feud with fellow king Jerry Lawler. Although a featured feud, it proved to be a demotion back to the mid-card. 

During this feud, Bret transitioned into a feud with Owen Hart, which had its early stages in late 1993. Feeling in the shadow of his more successful brother, Owen started acting out, petitioning Bret for a match, which the older brother refused. 


  • Inaugural winner of the televised King of the Ring. Not only a historic honour, he wrestled over three-quarters of an hour, defeating Razor Ramon, Mr Perfect, and Bam Bam Bigelow in a sterling display of his in-ring stamina. 
  • A WrestleMania main match billing showed how far Hart had come.



  • Being ‘screwed over’ by Hulk Hogan undoubtedly harmed Hart and pushed back his big title win for another year. A huge step backwards, it robbed a deserving in-ring talent of being able to demonstrate his skill at the top-level of the card. 
  • 1993 saw a huge demotion down the card for Bret. The man who was billed as a WrestleMania main eventer was wrestling the likes of Doink The Clown and a group of masked knights at subsequent Pay-Per-View events.



A backstage interview with Bret Hart, with wet hair and classic fringed black jacket, hoists the WWF title over his shoulder.

At the 1994 Royal Rumble, Bret, alongside brother Owen, failed to unseat tag champions The Quebecers, after which Owen attacked his brother, kicking out his injured leg. Later on, Bret was crowned a co-winner (alongside the more heavily-pushed Lex Luger) of that year’s Royal Rumble, guaranteeing him a WrestleMania world title shot. 

After having arguably the greatest WrestleMania opening match ever against Owen, WrestleMania X saw Hart win the WWF championship from Yokozuna in the main event, before being held on the shoulders of his colleagues. 

The brotherly feud between the Harts would span the entirety of 1994 and the central feud of “The Hitman”’s title reign. At King of the Ring, Owen won the namesake tournament just had Bret had the year before, calling himself “The King of Harts”.  

The duo’s most famous encounter occurred at SummerSlam in which the incumbent defeated his younger brother in an iconic steel cage bout.  

After 248 days as the titleholder, Bret finally dropped the belt, with arch-nemesis Owen Hart helping Bob Backlund to snatch away the championship. 


  • Bret’s 1994 Royal Rumble win showed that although the WWF were not 100% on board with Bret as their champion, his popularity amongst fans propelled him to where he could not be ignored. 
  • Again, Hart main evented a WrestleMania, this time with a marked celebration which designated a new era for the Federation. 
  • Bret’s memorable feud with brother Owen was highly-regarded, including their SummerSlam encounter getting a rare five-star rating from Dave Meltzer.  
  • Bret Hart obtains the top spot on Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s PWI 500 rating. 



  • WrestleMania X match with Yokozuna for the WWF title was lacklustre.



Bret Hart, in John Lennon sunglasses, has the WWF belt around his waist and flag over shoulder.

After mingling in the mid-card in 1995 and being largely absent in 1996, 1997 marked the next great year for “The Excellence of Execution”. 

In January, Bret was the runner-up in the Royal Rumble and would have won had the referees seen Steve Austin get eliminated. This intensified a rivalry the two had started late the previous year. 

February saw Hart capture his fourth WWF championship, capturing it in a four corners elimination match over Steve Austin, Vader, and The Undertaker. However, thanks interference from rival “Stone Cold”, he would drop the title to Sycho Sid the next night on Raw.  

At WrestleMania, Hart had what is often considered a career-best as he clashed with Steve Austin in a bloody “I Quit” brawl. Bret went into the match having become increasingly bitter and whining (famously calling his treatment “bullshit” in a near-unprecedented use of the term on WWF TV) whereas Austin was increasingly popular for his cool, swaggering style. In the end, “Stone Cold” passed out, his face a crimson mask, rather than submit, with the WWF pulling off a ‘double turn’, switching Austin face, and Hart heel for the first time in nearly a decade. Hart described the bout as: “Probably my all-time favorite…it was just a real masterpiece.” 

This new persona gave Bret the ability to do character work unlike he had previously. Whilst drowned in boos in the US for his outspoken anti-Americanism, he was revered north of the border in his native Canada. He headed up a new five-man iteration of The Hart Foundation, who ran roughshod over the promotion, feuding with Steve Austin, Dude Love, and Vader. 

At SummerSlam, Hart won his fifth and final WWF title belt, beating The Undertaker after guest referee Shawn Michaels accidentally knocked out the champion with a chair. He subsequently headlined Terry Funk’s retirement show, beating the outgoing old-timer.  

As we all know, in November, the WWF screwed Bret. After the WWF conceded they could not match Bret’s WCW offer, “The Hitman” seemed Georgia-bound but the company were worried Bret may not drop the belt on his way out. A secretive plan was hatched for Shawn Michaels, with whom Bret had long been at odds behind-the-scenes, to take the belt off Hart through a screwy finish. What is now known as the Montreal Screwjob ended Bret Hart’s WWF run, with him leaving the promotion immediately afterwards. 



  • Bret Hart won a fourth and record-tying fifth WWF championship reign. 
  • An iconic WrestleMania 13 match against Steve Austin, largely credited with helping to propel “The Texas Rattlesnake” to the lofty heights he would reach over the next few years. A star-making performance, Bret gave Austin the match that would go on to make him perhaps the biggest name in wrestling history. 
  • Bret’s heel character work in 1997 showed a new side not seen before. Often seen as uncharismatic and strait-laced, it established a new side to Hart that kept things fresh in an evolving industry. 



  • The Montreal Screwjob. Although Bret had a revolutionary 1997, the long shadow of the event served to undermine the previous solid work of one of the company’s most loyal and dedicated stars.
  • His eventual WCW debut was disappointing. The biggest free agent – and perhaps wrestler in the world in late 1997 – did not wrestle but debuted on Nitro and merely guest refereed  Starrcade in a match between Eric Bischoff and Larry Zbyszko. 


Best Year: Synopsis

To conclude, 1994 seems to be the flagship year in Bret Hart’s career. 

In that year, he was properly celebrated as WWF champion for the first time, with his WrestleMania main event win followed by his coronation by the babyface locker-room, seen as ushering in a new era serving to place greater emphasis on those who demonstrated exemplary in-ring ability. 

Indeed, exemplary in-ring ability was what Bret displayed in that year, wrestling brilliantly against wrestlers from 1-2-3 Kid to Diesel and having exciting storylines with Bob Backlund and Owen Hart, the latter of which Hart has particularly reminisced on since his brother’s untimely death. This is not even mentioning his Royal Rumble win, with his popularity with live fans helping dictate his trip to the mountain top. 

1997 was too a positive time for Bret, particularly character-wise, with Bret reflecting in his Hall of Fame induction that his time in the new Hart Foundation was “the happiest days of my life.” Yet the infamous Montreal Screwjob provides such a cloud over Bret’s work that year, with the event causing Bret to sever ties with the WWE and not make any real amends for over a decade. With such an earth-shaking event, it is hard to see any work over the previous several months being able to override the negativity surrounding the main event of that Survivor Series. 

If we are looking for peak Bret, it is 1994 when he was at the top of the card, carrying the company on his back, and leading the pack in promoting a new era for the professional wrestling industry.

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Written by Griffin Kaye

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