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Ask 411 Wrestling: Which of Bret Hart’s WWF Title Reigns Was Best?

October 18, 2020 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Bret Hart WWE Shoot

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

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Lee in Liverpool is gonna attack in his pink and black:

Which of Bret Hart’s five WWF title reigns is the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be?

Well, his fourth reign was only a day long and was ended by Sid of all people, so I think that you can immediately throw that one out.

I also don’t have much of a problem disqualifying the Hitman’s first reign from contention. There was nothing about it that was actively bad, necessarily, but it was supremely uneventful. Probably the most memorable part of the beginning, when he unseated champion Ric Flair out of nowhere. However, after that, the WWF Title played second fiddle to other wrestlers for one of the first times in its history, as the promotion was focused more on the Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage than on Hart as top babyface. Though he and Shawn Michaels did have an underrated twenty-six minute title match at the 1992 Survivor Series, his only other defenses before he lost to Yokozuna at Wrestlemania IX were against Razor Ramon, Fatu (?), and Virgil (??). Even his house show programs, which were more important than television at this time, weren’t anything to write home about. His regular opponents were Flair, Bam Bam Bigelow, and Rick Martel, and I’m sure all of those matches were good to great, but they didn’t make any waves.

Though it’s not as easy to eliminate as reigns five and one, probably the next title run that I would knock off the list is the third reign of the Pink & Black Attack. This is the run that involved Bret winning the championship from Diesel at the 1995 Survivor Series and losing it to Shawn Michaels in the Iron Man Match at Wrestlemania XII. In between those bouts, the only really memorable match that he had was against the British Bulldog at In Your House 5. There were some Raw matches in there with HHH, Tatanka, and Goldust, as well as an obscure bout against Buddy Landel of all people on WWF Mania of all shows, though none of them were anything write home about.

That leaves us with just two contenders, Hart’s second stint with the belt and his fifth and final reign as champ. Even though these two reigns are only about three years apart, they feel like they’re taking place in totally different eras of the WWF, as the second reign falls squarely within the middle of the New Generation whereas the fifth is transitioning into the Attitude Era. The crown jewel of Bret’s second reign is his feud with his brother Owen going into full tilt, as the two had their classic steel cage match at Summerslam as well as a lesser-heralded battle on the first episode of the Action Zone television show and many months of house show matches including a few iron man bouts. It was also during this time that Bret had his well-remembered Raw match with the 1-2-3 Kid and a couple of TV matches with Bob Backlund that were not classics per se but were above average and the first of which resulted in Backlund “snapping.” There was also another Raw match with Kwang of all people and house show runs with Jim Neidhart and King Kong Bundy.

Reign number five is interesting because it has perhaps the most variety of opponents. Bret’s Raw matches during this time were against Vader, Goldust, HHH, Ken Shamrock, and Faarooq as well as a tag bout with the British Bulldog against the Headbangers. On pay per view, you had Bret winning the championship from the Undertaker at Summerslam, a singles match against the Patriot at In Your House: Ground Zero, a tag team flag match with the Bulldog against Vader and Patriot at In Your House: Badd Blood, and, of course, the infamous Montreal Screwjob against Shawn Michaels. His house show programs were against the Undertaker as well as some three-ways involving Triple H and Ken Shamrock.

Between those two, I think that I have to give the nod to the 1994 reign. Though the 1997 title reign involved some of Bret Hart’s best-ever character work and promos, he didn’t really have a classic match during that period (though nothing was bad) whereas he did turn in memorable in-ring performances in 1994.

Of course, if you disagree, feel free to give your thoughts in the comments – not that I had to invite you to do that. You were going to anyway.

JuicyDeez has a gross nickname but a fine question:

A few friends and I were talking rasslin’ the other day and Vince came up. One of those friends had no idea how muscular he was, especially at his age and so it brought up the question… Has Vince always been jacked?

There’s not a ton of photo or video evidence out there, but the answer is more or less yes. Even if you look back at footage of Vince in the 1970s on WWWF television, you can tell that he’s a guy with a naturally large frame and he’s certainly not in bad shape, but his suits leave the particulars of his physique to the viewer’s imagination.

The rumor was that McMahon always wanted to be a wrestler himself but was forbidden to do so by his promoter father. However, he kept himself in a shape where he would not have looked out of place in the ring. You can see some evidence of that in this 1980s photo in which Vinnie Mac is wearing a speedo and holding what appears to be the world’s largest tampon.

Night Wolf the Wise needs to adjust his practices to meet my standards:

WWE has multiple times over the years crossed the line when it comes to their storylines. One of their most controversial segments saw Stone Cold break into Brian Pillman’s house and Pillman point a gun at him. USA Network threatened to cancel Monday Night Raw, forcing WWE to apologize for their actions. How many times has WWE almost had their shows canceled as a result of their storylines?

First, I don’t believe the claim that WWF Raw was almost canceled as a result of the Austin/Pillman gun angle is accurate. If you read the November 25, 1996 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which contained follow-up coverage on the angle, it is reported that the USA Network was actually informed of the contents of the angle well in advance and they only vetoed two aspects of what was originally planned, the first being Pillman’s wife Melanie getting knocked to the ground and the second being Pillman actually firing the gun on-air (though it would be revealed later that he was shooting blanks). With USA having reviewed and approved the angle before it aired, it seems highly unlikely that they would have threatened canceling the program over it.

Putting that aside, has the promotion ever nearly had its TV canceled for content-related reasons? Not that I’m aware of. I do recall that, when Mankind and Goldust were early in their runs, there were some individual television stations carrying syndicated WWF programming that would refuse to air segments involving those wrestlers, due to Mankind making his opponents vomit from the mandible claw and the homoerotic overtones of Goldust’s character, but that’s far from an outright cancellation of the show.

Precious Paul Valiant wishes he could go back to watching shows on closed circuit television:

When advertising upcoming “special events,” announcers say they are “only on the WWE Network” – they’re still on PPV too, right? Even during the TLC pre-show, Renee said TLC was “only on the WWE Network.”

How do they get away with this lie? Do PPV carriers not care that WWE is implying that viewers can’t order the shows on PPV, taking money away from them?

You are correct, most major WWE shows are still available on traditional pay per view in addition to being streamable on the Network. In fact, as of this writing, the most recent NXT Takeover event was even put on PPV, the first time a show from that brand has shown up in such a format. Are pay per view companies upset by the fact that the E is no longer promoting their services?

If they are, I haven’t read anything about it, though they’re apparently not so upset that they’ve stopped doing business with the company.

However, I think that the bigger issue here is that, even if the PPV providers are upset, WWE just doesn’t care. Though their main source of income once was pay per view, nowadays anything that they make off of either PPV or WWE Network subscriptions is dwarfed by what they make off of television rights fees, so this is not their priority. Even to the extent that it is a priority, they made the active decision to cannibalize their PPV business in order to sell the WWE Network many years ago. It’s just something that they are no longer focusing on, instead favoring fans directly accessing their major programs through the over-the-top service.

Edward has an unusual taste in matches, but I’m not going to judge him for it:

The first PPV I ever went to live was No Mercy 2000. I was really looking forward to APA vs T&A but that match was a no contest. Do you think that was done because of time/someone was injured/just to advance the storyline?

The answer is not just that someone was injured. As it turns out, TWO someones were injured. Bradshaw was walking around with a broken rib at this point in time, whereas Faarooq needed arthroscopic knee surgery. Thus, they ran an angle in which T&A laid out the Acolytes backstage in order to prevent the match from every really happening.

The APA didn’t wrestle again until December 11 (No Mercy was an October PPV that year), so they had a nice little break out of the whole deal.

Tyler from Winnipeg is banging his head in the background of a Stuck Mojo video:

Whatever happened to Reese of Raven’s Flock?

Reese’s real name was Ron Reis, and he was a college basketball star at Santa Clara University in California, graduating in 1992. He almost immediately hooked up with Big John Studd and started training with Studd and Killer Kowalski in Boston to become a professional wrestler. Because of his size – a legitimate 7’2” – and the fact that he was connected with two legendary wrestlers immediately got him some buzz.

He made his debut on March 12, 1994 in Brantford, Connecticut on a show for the IWF, the independent promotion associated with Kowalski’s wrestling school. (Fellow Kowalski trainees Perry Saturn and Triple H – as Terry Ryzing – were also on the card.) According to the March 28, 1994 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the WWF trio of Pat Patterson, Terry Garvin, and Bruce Prichard were all at the show in order to scout Reis, even though nobody knew how good he was going to be as a wrestler at this point.

However, the Fed representatives apparently didn’t like what they saw, because Reis never signed with the WWF and instead spent a year kicking around the independent scene under a few different names before being picked up by WCW and assigned to their Power Plant to gain more in-ring experience.

Per the October 30, 1995 Observer the original plan for Reis in WCW was to debut him under the name T-Rex and use him as part of the promotion for the three-ring, sixty-man battle royale at the World War 3 pay per view, with the gimmick for the battle royale being that there would be a seven footer in each of the three rings. The other two men were supposed to be the Giant (a.k.a. The Big Show) and the Yeti, a character who was originally intended to be played by Jorge Gonzalez, the man who had previously wrestled as El Gigante in WCW and the Giant Gonzales in the WWF. However, Gonzalez had medical issues and was unable to make his bookings, so Reis was actually the one given the Yeti role and, along with the Giant, participated in the infamous two-man bear hug on Hulk Hogan at that year’s Halloween Havoc event.

Reis had exactly two matches as the Yeti. One of them was World War 3. The other was a squash match against job guy Barry Hardy on WCW Prime Wrestling. Also around this time, he had a match on WCW Saturday Night against the One Man Gang, where he wore the same gear he wore as the Yeti in World War 3 and against Houston but was for some reason referred to as the “Super Giant Ninja” instead of his more well-known ring name.

After the Yeti experiment failed, Reis wrestled exactly one WCW match under his real name when, according to the May 20, 1996 Observer, he was loaned out to New Japan Pro Wrestling and sent to train in their dojo with the idea that they could turn him into their own giant. He never once wrestled a match for NJPW and was sent back to the United States by August, when he started working for WCW again under the name Big Ron Studd as a tribute to his initial trainer, with no acknowledgment that he had ever been the Yeti. Ron Studd was basically a jobber to the stars, though he occasionally got wins over guys like Buddy Lee Parker or the Roadblock on the company’s b-shows.

In 1997, Reis didn’t wrestle once for WCW but instead bounced around indies in the Carolinas before joining Raven’s Flock as Reese in the early part of 1998. Reese’s highest-profile match was a loss to Juventud Guerrera in a David versus Goliath style bout at the ’98 installment of the Great American Bash. The Flock was ultimately disbanded just a couple of months later when Perry Saturn defeated Raven at Fall Brawl in a match where the members would be “freed” if Saturn won.

Even though he was not being used on television, Reis was still signed to a new WCW contract in 1999, at which point he tried his hand at a bit of acting. Though it was not much of a role, he was reportedly in the background of the made for TV movie The Jesse Ventura Story on NBC and also had a minor role as a heel in a Hulk Hogan action movie, Assault on Death Mountain, which co-starred Carl Weathers of Rocky and Predator fame. However, he was cut by WCW by the end of the year.

In 2000, there were rumors that the WWF and AAA were interesting in bring Reis in, but nothing ever materialized. There was also an effort to make him into a major star in Japan, but they failed spectacularly. Reis was brought in under a mask and used the name Big Bomb Jones (a takeoff on Big Van Vader) to work in the main event of a huge interpromotional Rikidozan memorial show, teaming with Genichiro Tenryu against Shinya Hashimoto and Naoya Ogawa. Reis pinned Hashimoto, who was a hot main eventer at the time, but the bout was so poorly received that Reis was never brought back to Japan.

Reis didn’t do much in wrestling for the rest of 2000. In 2001 and 2002, he went back to his Ron Studd ring name and worked primarily in Dusty Rhodes’ Georgia-based independent group Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling, doing odd things like wrestling Super Crazy and taking part in a TLC match.

2002 was more or less the last year that he did anything approaching a full-time wrestling schedule, and his appearances became sporadic. In 2005, he did one match for the short-lived “Ring of Glory” Christian wrestling company promoted by Vince Russo, and then he vanished for six years before popping up seemingly at random on a 2011 independent show in Louisiana.

Interestingly, 2019 saw more Ron Reis activity in wrestling in over a decade, as he had two indy matches – one involving Brian Pillman Jr. and one involving Mr. Huges and Bunkhouse Buck – and he also briefly reprised his character of the Yeti on the February 18, 2019 episode of Being the Elite:

What has he been doing when not making his sporadic professional wrestling appearances? That’s not entirely clear. He did do several shoot interviews with different podcasts between 2009 and 2011, most of which can still be found online, but the subject matter of most of those interviews focuses on what he did in wrestling as opposed to afterwards.

And there you have it. An overly long overview of the career of Ron Reis, written because I find WCW undercard wrestlers of the 1990s oddly captivating.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected].

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Ask 411 Wrestling, Ryan Byers