We’re getting so close to Montreal in Bret Hart’s book, but first he has to deal with the rest of the Kliq: Diesel, Razor, and of course his WrestleMania 12 opponent Shawn Michaels.
Stu loved to talk about the tough guys of the business. In his opinion, Haku, Earthquake and The Steiners were the toughest guys around right now.
Stu Hart might not have been the most eloquent man in history, but he seemed to have a pretty good eye for toughness. Just go ahead and do a search for “Haku stories”. He bit a guy’s nose off! Earthquake (John Tenta) was not one to take crap from anybody, as Koji Kitao memorably found out. And the Steiners had amateur wrestling bonafides, and worked so stiff in the ring that many jobbers refused to work with them in the WWF. So Mike Enos (Blake Beverly) had to serve as a “personal job guy” for the Steiners, working under various masks.
What touched me the most was when Earl Hebner said to me, blinking back tears, “If anybody ever says you’re not a total pro, I’ll punch them in the mouth.”
Oh boy here we go. Not the first instance in this book of someone coming to Bret with tears in their eyes, and definitely not the last. This would be when Bret was about to drop the belt to Bob Backlund at the 1994 Survivor Series, only to see Kliq member Diesel win it within days.
“Shawn’s a decent guy, but he’s got his little hang-ups,” I replied. “Unfortunately, one of them is being an asshole.”
All the boys were relieved that Shawn Michaels didn’t go on the April 1995 European tour since he was becoming a pain in the ass. HBK annoyed a lot of people with his WrestleMania 11 performance against Diesel, not playing a heel at all and getting himself over at the champion’s expense to the point where they were forced to turn him into a babyface the next night. It would take until October when a Marine in Syracuse before someone truly straightened his ass out. That’s one Marine, not nine.
In an unscripted moment, he stood over top of me, dropped the World belt across my chest, glared down and snarled, “Don’t forget who did you the fuckin’ favor.”
Kevin Nash, ever the professional after dropping the world title to the Hitman at the 1995 Survivor Series. With that said, the direction of the Diesel character from that moment was indicative of changes in the company. Of course, maybe he wouldn’t have failed so miserably as champ had he not been neutered and turned into a smiling jackass.
It was while driving to the Hersheypark Arena on the day of the match that I saw a pharmacy sign and it dawned on me that a little accidental blood would change everything. I bought razor blades and scissors.
At In Your House 5: Beware of Dog, the Hitman went for another of his surreptitious blade jobs to add drama in his match with the British Bulldog. It ended up being something of a gusher and Bret retained the title while wearing a crimson mask, not unlike Ric Flair at Capital Combat ’90. Despite the “no blood” policy, Bret wasn’t disciplined and they even aired the match on RAW during the dull Christmas period later in the month.
I had spoken up for Owen, Jim and Davey over the years, but I never pushed them to the exclusion of everybody else, as Shawn fully intended to do with his clique. I realized then that The Heartbreak Kid didn’t have the heart to be champion.
The fissure between Bret and Shawn really started in earnest in the leadup to WrestleMania 12. In 1995, it was really The Kliq (HBK, Diesel, Razor, 1-2-3 Kid, and HHH) versus everyone else. Bam Bam Bigelow and Shane Douglas were two victims of this, though Douglas was never going to work in the WWF under any circumstances.
It was, to say the least, a shitty night, with most of the wrestlers soiling their trunks.
The WWF went on a tour of India in February 1996 and it was common for wrestlers to get the “Bombay Flu” as Bret described it if they ingested the wrong thing. You know, like water. Poor Bret faced Yokozuna that night, which is disgusting to think about. Courtesy of the fantastic site thehistoryofwwe.com, here is the card in question:
WWF @ Bombay, India – Andhei Sports Complex – February 2, 1996 (12,000)
WWF Tag Team Champion Bart Gunn & Henry Godwinn (sub. for Billy Gunn) defeated the 1-2-3 Kid & Tatanka
Razor Ramon defeated WWF IC Champion Goldust via disqualification when the 1-2-3 Kid interfered
The Undertaker defeated Isaac Yankem DDS
Diesel defeated Owen Hart
WWF World Champion Bret Hart defeated Yokozuna
Also included Ahmed Johnson, Savio Vega, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, the Body Donnas, & Doink the Clown
Done right, Shawn and I could draw money for years with a big rivalry, taking turns putting each other over.
Here was Bret’s idea: Shawn wins at WM12, and Bret comes back to regain the title at WM13. At some point, possibly WM14, Bret loses the rubber match to Shawn and fully endorses him in the ring. But two years is a lot of time and people, relationships, and circumstances change.
As the show went on, many of the boys, tears in their eyes, sought me out to thank me, as was the custom on a day when the belt was to change hands—if you’d carried the belt with dignity and worked hard.
The Hitman got a raw deal on that title reign. He beat Diesel via a surprise inside cradle after goldbricking and then got beat down after the match. He barely escaped the Bulldog the next month at In Your House, and was only saved by DQ finishes in the next two PPV defenses against the Undertaker and Diesel. Still, he was booked better than 2015 Seth Rollins.
I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard Shawn angrily tell Earl, “Tell him to get the fuck out of the ring! This is my moment!”
After the Ironman match (which Bret puts over as his best work, but I felt there needed to be at least one fall apiece to add drama), Shawn had one of his patented temper tantrums in the ring and wanted Bret out so he could do his male stripper posing with the belt routine. He was about to lose three of his friends to WCW and such actions weren’t going to fly as much without his allies around.
Coming up next time: The Hitman goes on The Simpsons, Bret ponders a move to WCW, Vince revises the plan for Bret vs HBK at WM13, and the glass breaks for Steve Austin to walk through the door.