Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Best of the Hart Brothers in Britain - DVD Review

A long time ago, when British wrestling was a regular fixture on Saturday afternoon television numerous stars from around the world came to these shores to compete under the Joint Promotions banner.

Perhaps the best known of these stars were Bret and Owen Hart. The various Hart brothers became regular visitors to these shores thanks to the working agreement between Joint Promotions and Stampede Wrestling.

So now we’re going to take a look at a DVD of four of the Hart brothers in action, a collection which is available to buy from the British Wrestling DVDs site. The collection in question is The Best of the Hart Brothers in Britain. Most of the bouts on here are contested under the traditional British rounds system, best out of three falls.

First up was Owen, as he took on Steve Logan.

The match was joined in progress, and Logan quickly got the first fall after blocking Owen’s hop toss attempt. Owen got the equaliser just 55 seconds later, rolling up Logan for the pin.

The final round saw both men putting on an excellent display of back and forth action, with both men going for numerous pin attempts before the time limit expired, with the referee declaring the bout a draw. The amazing thing here is that Owen was just 18 years old at the time.

Ross was up next, taking on the much travelled British legend Marty Jones.

Jones was one of the many who made the journey to Calgary. Vince McMahon Senior also offered him a job in New York around 30 years ago as well. He was also a damn fine wrestler, capable of having a five star match with a broom handle.

This one also began “in progress” and saw Ross and Jones putting on a great sequence of moves. Things got a little heated in the second round though as Ross connected with some shoulder barges in the corner, a move which was illegal under British rules.

Jones got the win in the third. As Ross came off the ropes Jones connected with a drop kick to the chin. Ross was out of it and was unable to beat the referee’s ten count.

The only tag team match of this collection saw Owen and Ross taking on Rocky Moran and future WCW and WWE star Dave “Fit” Finlay.

This was part of a one night tournament, with the Harts representing Canada and Finlay and Moran representing Northern Ireland. Finlay was also the World Mid-Heavyweight Champion at the time.

This was a short match filled with plenty of action, with the Irishmen heeling it up to good effect, using many of the old tricks, such as punching their opponents in the face while on the referee’s blind side.

These heinous tactics allowed them to get the first fall, with Moran pinning Owen with a victory roll. Owen managed to equalise moments later, pinning Moran with a bridging back suplex.

However, and much to the annoyance of the fans, Finlay got the winning pin for his team when he took Owen down with a Samoan drop.

Smith Hart was up next, making his only appearance in this collection against John “The Bear” Elijah.

Smith was billed as “Cowboy” Smithy Hart here, complete with hat, in a nice piece of racial stereo-typing. Hey, we Brits though all North Americans were cowboys back then! We did share your views on Russian wrestlers though.

It’s an entertaining match, but it’s obvious from the outset that Smith didn’t have the skills or charisma of his younger brothers.

Elijah used his power to great effect here, quickly getting the first fall after body slamming Smith when the visitor tried a cross body block. Smith evened the score with a body slam of his own, which came as something of a surprise given the build of the big bear.

The final fall went to Elijah. After dropping Smith across his knee with a back breaker he lifted Smith up for what could only be described as an upside down bear hug. With no means of escape Smith soon submitted, giving Elijah the overall win.

It’s Bret’s turn to take on Marty Jones next in another match joined “in progress”, and like Smith he went by the “Cowboy” moniker. This match was an eliminator for the World Mid-Heavyweight title, vacated by the death of the legendary Mike Marino.

All the trademark Hitman moves where here in what was a great contest. It’s a shame the earlier rounds were missing though.

Jones took the first fall with a folding press. Bret upped his game afterwards and took Jones down with a pile driver for the equalising fall.

Jones then took Bret apart, and it looked like he wouldn’t be able to continue at one point. He then made a slight comeback until Jones took the winning fall with a roll-up.

Then it was on to one of my all time favourite matches, against featuring Marty Jones as he took on Owen.

Owen was nicknamed “Bronco” here in a match that took place three years after his previous appearances on this disc. It was also for the World Mid-Heavyweight title, which was vacated by German star Bull Blitzer, the father of former WCW star and dancing fool Alex Wright.

A couple of the early rounds are missing here, which is a great shame because this is a tremendous match, an excellent piece of storytelling featuring two masters of their art.

Owen took the first fall, pulling off a tremendous sequence of moves that ended with Jones of the receiving end of what would become known as a hurricanrana. Could it be that here, in 1987, Owen was using this move before Scott Steiner came up with the Frankensteiner?

We then got the great story of Jones trying to work his way back into the match, becoming more and more frustrated when Owen thwarted his efforts, until he finally evened the scores with a folding press and bridge.

Then both men went all out in their attempts to get the winner, with Jones eventually taking the win and title with a small package.

“Cowboy” Bret was back next, taking on a man hyped as one of India’s greatest wrestlers, “Tiger” Dalibar Singh, a man who could outwrestle Raja Lion and the Great Khali at the same time with one arm tied behind his back….and on one leg….and blindfolded.

An interesting aside to this, and an example of attitudes back then. Our announcer Kent Walton, the legendary figure that he is, told the television audience that they’d be able to recognise Bret because of the colour of his skin. Imagine if Michael Cole said something like that in a John Cena/R-Truth match.

This was a few weeks before Bret’s match with Marty Jones, and it’s a great technical battle, filled with tons of solid action as Singh dominated early on before Bret began to work his way back into the match.

Sing took the first fall, pinning Bret after a hip toss. Bret quickly equalised, slamming Sing as he came out of the corner after a posting. Singh ended up getting the winner with more or less the same move.

The final bout of this collection comes in the form of fan cam footage as Owen faced British great Danny “Boy” Collins for the vacant World Middleweight title, although Owen looked a whole weight class bigger than Collins. I’m also guessing that this was from one of Mad Eli’s MEGA Promotions show, as he made an appearance after the match.

This was a very entertaining battle, as technically sound as any you’ll see, but as the match went on the exaggerated mannerisms of referee Mal Mason began to annoy me.

For instance, when Owen had Collins in a Boston crab Mason would go over the Collins, check on him, then move over to Owen so he could wave his finger in his face and shout “no!” I can see why Chris Jericho got so annoyed with him in Germany a few years back.

Collins took the one fall needed here after taking Owen down with a pile driver.

In conclusion - this turned out to be a very enjoyable trip down memory lane.

It was great to see some early matches from Bret and Owen, and while Ross’ performances were also quite good I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with Smith’s efforts.

As for the quality of the footage it varies from match to match, with some taken from the original broadcasts in the 80’s, and some from repeat showings from various channels in the past few years.

So in all this collection gets the thumbs up and comes highly recommended, although be prepared for the varying footage quality.

The Best of the Hart Brothers in Britain is available to buy online at www.britishwrestlingdvds.vze.com.