We're dipping into the ever-growing pile of DVDs sent to me by the good people at Fremantle Media and Fetch Publicity for our next review. It's a three disc set dedicated to the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be as we take a look at Bret "Hitman" Hart: The Dungeon Collection.
As is the custom with these things we'll begin with.....
We begin in Stampede Wrestling, and our man defends his British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight title against the Dynamite Kid in a best of three falls match.
Given that I grew up watching the old World of Sport show it isn't surprising that I'm reminded of those good old days here, especially considering how big a star Dynamite was over here, and how Hart was a regular visitor to these shores around that time as well.
The coverage begins about halfway through the match. By this time Hart is one fall up, having worked over Dynamite's right leg, and both men are suffering from bloodied noses.
The match is okay. There's plenty of solid action as Dynamite, with his manager John Foley in his corner, pulls out a few heelish tricks when he begins working over Hart's leg. Hart never says die though and keeps coming back into the match.
But when Dynamite executes a suplex that takes both of them over the top rope the referee calls for the bell immediately, with the Brit disqualified and Hart retaining his belt.
Our man travels to Georgia Championship Wrestling as he takes on Buzz Sawyer.
It's a spot of good old fashioned television studio wrestling here. The footage is a bit ropey at first as our host, the late, great Gordon Solie explains that this is a scientific showcase with a ten minute time limit.
And that's just what it is. The two men maintain physical contact for the first few minutes as they exchange various holds, and as the match goes on I have to admit it's somewhat refreshing to see an outing without a punch of a kick in sight.
Both guys put in good performances here, and there are quite a few pin attempts, and in a way it seems right that this match ended in a time limit draw.
Our man is back in Stampede Wrestling, and now he's challenging Leo Burke for the North American Heavyweight title.
Once again the match is joined "in progress", with the recently-turned Burke taking the upper hand against Hart. However, it isn't long before the future Hitman makes his comeback, putting Burke on the back foot a little.
But after taking Burke down with a shoulder block Hart accidentally ran into the referee when Burke moved out of the way. The champion then delivered a knee to the head of the fallen official, but a few moments later he found himself on the receiving end of a Hart piledriver. Hart then went for a cover, and with a second official making the count Hart was declared the champion.
Or so we thought. As the first official regained his senses he ruled that although Hart had won the match he'd actually disqualified Burke for attacking him, meaning that the title hadn't changed hands.
It's on to WWF territory as our man takes on the Dynamite Kid once again.
The Hitman is in full heel mode here, beginning his night's work by complaining about an imaginary hair pull before Dynamite took control with a series of high impact moves.
It wasn't long before Hart took control though, and the science is definitely out of the window here as he mixes in a few nefarious tactics, including tying the Brit up in the ropes. It didn't do him much good though when Dynamite foiled his attack and the Hitman went crashing into the ropes.
From there these two exchanged a series of fast-paced moves before Dynamite took Hart down with a reverse sunset flip for the pin.
That wasn't the end of things though. As the Hitman complained to the referee about an imaginary handful of tights he was joined by his Hart Foundation partner Jim Neidhart, and when their complaints fell on def ears they attacked Dynamite. This brought Davey Boy Smith down to the ring for the save, who ended things by press slamming Hart, sending him scurrying for cover.
Under the guidance of Jimmy Hart, and with evil referee Danny Davis in his corner, our man teams with his Hart Foundation partner Jim Neidhart to defend the WWF Tag Team titles against the Islanders, Haku and Tama.
The first thing I noticed here was that the announcers obviously hadn't done their homework, because they kept calling Haku Tama and Tama Haku.
As for the match it was pretty decent. The island boys looked good early on before Tama took the punching bag treatment as the Harts showed just how good they were as a unit back then.
Eventually Tama managed to get the hot tag to Haku, who proceeded to clean house, but when he tagged Tama back into the match so he could take the Hitman down with his top rope body block and into a cover Davis jumped onto the ring apron.
So while Tama connected and pinned the Hitman the referee was trying to separate Davis and Haku, and while this was going on Neidhart came back into the ring and reversed the covers, so when the referee turned his attention back to the match the first thing he saw was Hart cover Tama. One three count later and the Foundation had retained their titles.
Our man returns to singles action as he travels to Milan to face Andre the Giant.
The footage here is taken from the live Italian television broadcast. It's not of the best quality at first but you do get a good feel for what the match is all about.
It's your typical Andre match from around this time. Back then his health problems meant that he wasn't the wrestler he once was, but he was still capable of putting in a few good minutes. The Hitman's offence mainly consisted of blows to the big man's back and the occasional counter knee to the head, and there was the spot where Andre was tired up in the ropes.
But despite the Hitman's best efforts the Giant came out on top in the end, taking him down with a chokeslam out of the corner before dropping the big elbow on him to take the three count and win.
Our man faces one of his all-time favourite opponents in the form of Mr. Perfect.
These two are probably better known for their pay per view encounters a few years later, and although this match was quite good I have to admit that it wasn't a patch on those two.
There were some nice technical exchanges early on, but the next few moments saw Perfect stalling for time on the outside before he got back into the ring and took the upper hand with some underhanded tactics.
The match then developed quite nicely, with Perfect working over Hart's leg and the Hitman working over Perfect's arm after kicking him into the ring post.
But just as the match was kicking into overdrive and as the Hitman was going through his trademark moves the bell rang as the time limit expired and the match was declared a draw.
Hart then took to the microphone to challenge Perfect for another five minutes. It was a challenge the Perfect one was unwilling to accept, although he was willing to get back into the ring to attack Hart from behind. It was an attack that ultimately failed though, and Perfect was soon sent scurrying back to the locker room.
Our man is back with his Hart Foundation partner Jim Neidhart as they take on Slick's Big Boss Man and Akeem, the Twin Towers.
The first thing that struck me about this one was the Tower's entrance music. Whatever happened to the greatest entrance song ever, Jive Soul Bro? Sadly it was absent from this piece, replaced by some stock music that just didn't fit in properly.
As for the match it's a very enjoyable affair. We had the battle of the goatees at the beginning as the Boss Man and the Anvil tried to match strength with each other before the Hitman tagged in and took the punching bag treatment. Seeing the two big men working together again brought back some good memories, and it's a shame that they were never given a title run.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Hart took a ton of punishment from the Towers until he made it back to his corner. Neidhart then came in and proceeded to clean house, but as the brawling began and the bodies flew around ringside the referee counted the Harts out, giving Slick's boys the win.
That wasn't the end of the proceedings though. As the Towers celebrated the Harts attacked them from behind before they handcuffed Slick to the ropes. His boys tried to rescue him but ended up on the receiving end of a couple of nightstick shots. The referee then pleaded with them to give him the key to the cuffs. Hart refused, dropping the key into his tights before heading back to the locker room.
As the WWF heads to Tokyo and joins All-Japan for the Wrestling Summit, our man goes up against the second Tiger Mask, the late Mitsuaru Misawa.
It's an altogether different style of match here, with both guys adopting the slow methodical approach and mixing it in with a little fast-paced action every now and then.
It began with TM2 working over Hart's arm before the Hitman came back and used a chin lock to wear the masked man down. Along the way they deviated from their chosen forms of attack, and at one point it looked like the Hitman had injured his knee after leap-frogging TM2 while he ran the ropes.
But when it turned out to be a dastardly ruse so he could lure his man into a false sense of security the crowd turned on him in the usual respectful Japanese way.
The action then settled down again as they went back to their tactics of choice before the Hitman brought out his trademark move set. But just as they were moving up a gear or two the bell rang, and the referee declared the bout a draw.
Our man is now the Intercontinental Champion as he defends his title against the Nature Boy himself, Ric Flair, accompanied here by his executive consultant Mr. Perfect.
It's a pretty decent encounter from these two. Of course there's the usual Flair mannerisms in the form of a couple of over-exaggerated bumps, but overall it's a match filled with some nice action.
The Hitman took control early on, but the momentum soon changed when Flair used a few underhanded tactics, such as going for pins with his feet on the ropes, and when he locked in his patented figure four he tried to use the ropes again to gain extra leverage. Luckily for Hart he managed to roll over and take the pressure off his legs.
Hart came close to getting the submission when he locked in his own hold, the sharpshooter. But with the help of the sneaky Mr. Perfect Flair managed to make it to the ropes, and it wasn't the first time that the consultant gave his client a helping hand.
The action took them out to ringside for a few moments, but when they were trying to get back into the ring Perfect pulled Hart off the apron while the referee was otherwise distracted. This meant that although Flair managed to beat the count the Hitman didn't, which gave the Nature Boy the count out win.
Our man faces a grave challenge at Madison Square Garden as he goes up against Paul Bearer's Undertaker.
This was vintage stuff. For me this was the Undertaker's best gimmick, the almost unbeatable dead man who never felt any pain, with the creepy mortician by his side with the golden urn in hand.
The Dead Man more or less dominated this one, attacking the Hitman after he'd given his shades to a young fan at ringside. He went on to have a few fleeting moments of offence, but as was the case with almost everyone he faced back then the Undertaker simply rose up and beat the hell out of his opponents.
The only real momentum Hart had was towards the end of the match when he finally took the Dead Man down with his trademark set. But when he locked in the sharpshooter Bearer distracted the referee, and when the Hitman tried to get to the evil one the Undertaker attacked him from behind, sending Hart and the referee down.
Then, with Bearer holding onto the referee, the Undertaker took the urn, and although his first attempt to use it failed he soon clobbered the Hitman with it, and when the referee turned his attention back to the match the first thing he saw was the Dead Man going for the winning pin.
It's another trip to Milan for our man as he takes on possibly the best big man ever, Bam Bam Bigelow.
I really enjoyed this one. These two were perfect for each other, as was evident throughout this entire bout. It was an excellent back and forth encounter, and a timely reminder of just how good Bigelow was.
Hart had some success early on, but a couple of meetings with the ring post courtesy of the tattooed one saw Bigelow take control, working over the Hitman's back to good effect.
Hart made a few comebacks, but they were very brief affairs, such was Bigelow's control. But when the big man missed a diving headbutt it was the signal for the Hitman to ramp it up a little. Mixing speed with a little guile Hart did a good job of taking Bigelow down. He then climbed on top of Bigelow's broad shoulders and took him down with victory roll for the winning pin.
With Jim Neidhart and Shawn Michaels in their respective corners our man defends his WWF title against Intercontinental Champion Diesel at the King of the Ring.
It's been a while since I've seen this battle of champions, and I'd forgotten just how wild and dramatic it was. The action wasn't too bad either!
It began with the Hitman working over Diesel's legs before he applied a figure four, but the big man quickly took over, and with the odd cheap shot from HBK at ringside he looked pretty good as he worked over Hart's back in preparation for the jack knife powerbomb.
But the tide turned suddenly when Hart rammed his head into the turnbuckle that Michaels had exposed. Diesel looked out on his feet before Hart took him down time and time again.
Eventually Michaels' attempts at interference led to the Hitman clobbering him and sending him flying off the ring apron, and when he turned his attention back to the match Hart dropkicked Diesel out of the ring.
As Big Daddy Cool tried to recover on the floor Neidhart moved closer to make sure Michaels wouldn't become a factor. But when Diesel saw him he clobbered him from behind, and while all of that was going on Michaels got back into the ring and clobbered the Hitman with the title belt. It wasn't enough to get the pin though.
Neidhart's fiery temper, or so it seemed, would get the better of him a few minutes later. After a brief skirmish with Michaels at ringside he dived into the ring just after Diesel took Hart out with the powerbomb, and as the Anvil attacked the challenger the referee called for the bell immediately, giving Diesel the disqualification win.
Then, after the referee sent Neidhart packing from the ring Diesel and Michaels attacked, and it was only after several referees and officials came down that the attack halted.
Oh, and the reason Neidhart saved the title for the Hitman, later that night he sided with younger brother Owen as he won the King of the Ring tournament.
It's family feud time as our man faces his own brother Owen in a no holds barred match on Monday Night Raw.
The heat was certainly turned up to eleven in this one. This was basically one big fight with a few wrestling moves thrown in for good measure as Bret and Owen continued their year long feud.
The Hitman took the lead early on with a few good old fashioned right hands, and for a while it looked like their brawl would take them backstage, but this being before the Attitude era they were only behind the curtain a few seconds before they returned to the ring.
Once there Owen took control with a few tactics that would have been underhanded in a normal match, but once again the heel exposing the turnbuckle plan backfired when the Hitman rammed his head into the post. Owen would go on to have another meeting with the post a few moments later, courtesy of a slingshot.
That move proved to be the beginning of the end for the King of Harts. The Hitman locked in the sharpshooter, and Owen submitted within seconds. The pain didn't stop there though. Bret kept the hold locked on, and it took three referees to talk him into releasing his brother.
Our man attempts to regain his stolen ring jacket when he faces evil pirate Jean-Pierre Lafitte at In Your House 3.
There was a very simple reason for this rivalry. Hart wanted revenge because Lafitte had stolen his ring jacket, and he wanted it back. He also had the audacity to steal the sunglasses the Hitman had given to a young kid at ringside, the cad!
As for the match it certainly was a different style of encounter for Hart. It was the tale of the technical versus the brawler. JPL simply tried to beat the proverbial out of the Hitman. At times his no-nonsense offence looked effective, but there were also times where it was a little bowling shoe ugly.
Hart tried to match his countryman blow for blow at times, and although he had some success he found himself on the receiving end more often or not. Eventually he managed to take the upper hand as he came out with his big guns, but even then JPL stopped him in his tracks. When the Hitman came off the second rope for his elbow drop JPL countered with a boot to the face.
Both men then turned the heat up a notch or three. JPL missed with a couple of high flying moves, including his cannonball finisher, although he managed to keep the Hitman at bay most of the time. But after a double clothesline left both men laying in the ring Hart went for the sharpshooter, initially applying the hold while they were still on the mat before getting back to his feet to synch in the hold, with JPL giving up to give the Hitman the submission win.
Oh, and before you ask, yes he did get his jacket back.
Our man travels to South Africa as he faces the man who would go on to become one of his biggest rivals ever, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
This was one of Hart's first matches following his near six month layoff after losing the WWF title to Shawn Michaels, and with the feud with Stone Cold not even luke warm what we had here as a pretty decent technical encounter.
Austin was in full heel mode right from the beginning, arguing with the fans and threatening Owen Hart at the commentary table before the match began. You see, back then discrimination wasn't a part of Austin's game. He hated the baby faces and the heels!
As for the match Hart controlled the action early on, frustrating Austin with his technical expertise, but a few short cuts enabled Austin to take control as he showed that he was more than a punching and kicking machine.
Some of the familiar Stone Cold stuff was there, fists and fire from the Thesz press and all that, but on the whole this was a good technical battle.
The end came when the Hitman's blocked Austin's Stone Cold stunner attempt. A brief scramble between the two followed before Hart took the pin with a small package.
Our man is the WWF Champion once more as he defends his title against the Patriot at In Your House: Ground Zero.
I'd forgotten how good this match was. It was right at the height of the second coming of the Hart Foundation, and Hart was at his best as the beloved hero in his native Canada and the hated heel south of the border.
The action began when Hart attacked the Patriot before the bell, and his brawling tactics served him well until the masked man came back into the match and began to work over his man's arm.
The Hitman soon took the upper hand, working over the Patriot's legs, which included using the figure four around the ring post. When I first saw that hold all those years ago I thought it was so cool.
Anyway, as the match continued we had a cameo appearance from Davey Boy Smith, who pulled the Hitman out of the ring during a cover. This brought Vader out as he helped the Patriot take care of the Bulldog. The big man also whipped Hart into the ring steps.
After this slight distraction Hart expected to get the disqualification win. The referee let the match continue, and when the Patriot's uncle slam and patriot missile moves failed to put the Hitman away he resorted to using the champion's own finishing move, the sharpshooter. However, Hart was able to counter the move with a sharpshooter of his own, and it wasn't long before the Patriot submitted to give the Hitman the title retaining submission win.
That wasn't the end of things though. Hart attacked the masked man after the bell, and after breaking the Patriot's flag pole he proceeded to choke the man out with his own stars and stripes flag before decking Pat Patterson with a big right.
Our man is now in WCW territory as he defends the United States title against Booker T on an edition of Monday Nitro.
This was one of those short and sweet television matches that pushed all the right buttons, and it's a shame that these two weren't given a bigger program against each other. Mind you, this is WCW we're talking about here.
Booker was extremely aggressive at the beginning until the Hitman took control and spent a great deal of time working over his man's legs. But instead of going for the sharpshooter Hart opted for the figure four instead, and even though he used the hold twice it didn't get the job done.
Booker soon came back into the match, and after some nice back and forth exchanges the challenger went up top, but when he came down with his Harlem hangover leg drop Hart had moved.
A few moments later the Hitman tried to use his title belt. Booker countered this particular attempt with a boot to the face as Hart came down off the second rope, but a brief scramble later saw Hart clobber Booker in the head with the belt while the referee was otherwise distracted. A three count later and the Hitman had retained the title.
It's the final match of the collection, and our man goes up against Sting in the semi-finals of the WCW World title tournament at Mayhem.
The second short and sweet match in a row was a good example of both men's work, but it really could have done with being a bit longer.
Both the Stinger and the Hitman put in good performances here as they looked to progress to the final, with Sting throwing in a few heelish moves just to antagonise the Canadian fans.
This included trying to use the referee as a shield when Hart came off the top rope. The ploy worked to a point, because when the Hitman came down he clobbered both wrestler and referee at the same time.
With the official out of commission Lex Luger came down to the ring and grabbed Sting's baseball bat before clobbering his buddy in the knee. Upon seeing this Hart attacked the Total Package and put him in the sharpshooter.
When the referee regained his senses the first thing he saw was Hart and Luger, and after putting two and two together he called for the bell and disqualified Sting.
Hart protested though, and after a brief conversation with the referee the match was re-started. Hart immediately went on the offensive, but after Sting countered his top rope move he immediately put him in the scorpion death lock.
But not for long though. Hart clobbered Sting's injured knee so he could counter with the sharpshooter, and the Stinger tapped in seconds to give the Hitman the submission win.
In conclusion - regular readers will know that when I celebrated my 40th birthday back in 2011 Bret Hart was the number one wrestler in my 40 for 40 list, which is why I really wanted to get a look at this collection.
After about seven hours of viewing and over four thousand words I think I can safely say that this set is pretty good. The match quality ranges from good to great, with some matches that could have been better, but overall this is a decent collection from one of the best wrestlers I've ever seen.
So if, like me, you're a long-time Hitman fan then this is the collection for you. It's the perfect companion volume to the previous Hitman release, and it's for those reasons that I'm giving this the big thumbs up.
With thanks to Fremantle Media and Fetch Publicity for supplying a copy of this release. Bret "Hitman" Hart: The Dungeon Collection is available to buy online at www.wwedvd.co.uk.