wrestling / Columns

The Bret Hart Categories: Hart, Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan

April 24, 2022 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Bret Hart WWF Prime Time Wrestling 10-16-1989 Image Credit: WWE

Now, I have never been one to doubt El Dandy, but I’ve also seldom ever doubted “The Excellence of Execution” himself, Bret Hart.

Bret was always a Wrestler’s Wrestler. He was dedicated to the craft, and he took wrestling as seriously as anyone else who has ever stepped foot in a ring. Wrestling wasn’t just Bret’s career; it was his whole damn life. He was born into it and raised in it. There was never any other realistic option for The Hitman. He was always going to be a wrestler, and he was always going to be stellar at it.

So when The Best There Is, The Best There Was, And The Best There Ever Will Be (and you think Triple H has a lot of nicknames) says that any individual wrestler can basically be broken down into three separate categories to determine how great (or not) there were… it’s got to be true! After all, who else but Bret Hart would be–hell, COULD be–the arbiter of such things?

Bret’s three-pronged look at a wrestler’s impact starts off by judging the talent’s LOOK, or appearance. How convincing are they as a professional warrior? Does their mere physical appearance inspire dread? Is it memorable? Or do you look at the talent involved and quickly dismiss his or her potential? Or do you forget about them entirely when they aren’t on screen?

After Look, which is generally the most objective category, we start to get a little more nebulous. MIC SKILLS, or charisma, can somewhat be a hit-or-miss with folks. In some cases it is absolutely undeniably there… or not there. But in a few cases, a talent I might find wildly entertaining, you may say is barely a presence.

But if you thought Charisma would be a bit scattershot, what about WRESTLING SKILLS, or ringwork? Is flippy shit inherently better than two big guys telling a story through restholds and clotheslines? It’s the most subjective of the three categories, overall. What REALLY makes a good wrestler?

I LOVE subjectivity! It’s the best. I can say things, then you can say things back, and we can resprctfully try to gauge who is right. So much fun! So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some classic wrestlers on Bret’s own scale.


What better place to start than with The [Hit]Man himself? He gave us the categories, so he should be subjected to them first.


LOOK: 5.5/10

CHARISMA: 6.5/10


THOUGHTS: Ironically, I end up with the same 22/30 that Bret gave himself, even if I fudged some of the individual numbers on the way there. Bret gave himself a 7 in look, which is a touch too high for me. When you get into the 7+ range, you should be dealing with folks whose appearance leaves an impact. Bret was a handsome dude, and big for you or me, but he didn’t really stand out. The bright pink attire, sunglasses, and leather jacket were all enough touches to get him on the plus side of average.

Conversely, I think Bret lowballed himself in Charisma with a 5. As a babyface? Sure, I would agree; he was pedestrian. But when Bret went heel, he found a gear in his personality he never showed before. Maybe because he bought into chunks of what he was saying; maybe he just liked being a dick. But Bret’s entertaining heel tendencies raise him up to a solid 6.5 for me.

As for ringwork? Bret Hart is a 10/10 in ringwork or no one is. Not saying he is NECESSARILY the best of all time there, but he’s in the conversation. He didn’t just “do moves”; he told stories. And far too many mid-tier guys can say they had their best match with Bret for it to be a fluke.


No surprises here as we move from Bret right onto the man he compared himself to!


LOOK: 10/10

CHARISMA: 9.5/10

RINGWORK: 3.5/10

THOUGHTS: At 23 on my scale, my version of The Hulkster SLIGHTLY edges Bret’s (who gave himself and Hulk each 22/30). The 10/10 in Look is almost undeniable. Sure his hair is a bit unfortunate, but almost everyone in America can close his or her eyes and instantly picture Hulk Hogan. Twenty-four inch pythons! Yellow and red! The Hulkamania font on his shirt! That moustache!

As for Charisma… is it sacrilege to not give Hogan a 10? He was THE MAN for years, and he had so many catchphrases. He made wrestling huge in the mainstream. He is as close to a 10 as I think you can get without scoring perfection. He can really only be knocked for not being a tremendous ad libber (the guys I will give 10’s to in this series would never get caught flat-footed), but when you have that voice and that intensity and that ability to magnetize folks? Ad libbing is overrated.

And then there is Hulk’s undeniable weak spot: ringwork. Hogan is just not a guy who puts on affairs that are full of counters and psychology. Even his strength–storytelling–usually boiled down “get beat up until I point my finger at the antagonist” (or, in his nWo years, “hit you with a weight belt until the nWo cheats so I can win”). But whereas I am not watching Hulk matches to be astonished, he could usually at least muster “entertaining”. So low, but not as low as Bret gave him.


Bret, then the man Bret compared himself to, then… The Hitman’s biggest rival!


LOOK: 6/10



THOUGHTS: Shawn at his peak, which is virtually any time between “break up of The Rockers” and “developing a permanent wonky eye” was very much in the Bret Hart range of being a good looking dude who isn’t quite believable trading blows with true heavyweights, but has a memorable look and get-up, so it’s fine. It’s FINE. I have a feeling 5.5/10 on Look is going to feel low as I grade more guys and this series goes on, so I reserve the right to bump them both up to a 6/10 later on.

EDIT: After a lot of thought… I gave him the 6. If Shawn is a 5 in Look, that’s going to hurt a lot of guys I want to do later.

Just as Hogan was on the very high end of 9.5 charisma, I see Shawn as near the bottom rung of 10/10, but still… I am fine with a 10/10 here. Every time I start to think about downgrading him, I think of “Who’s your daddy, Montreal?”, and then he goes back to a 10. Shawn was mesmerizing as an entertainer who could shift gears and adjust to any situation. He always had that It Factor.

And I don’t feel bad about giving Mr. Wrestlemania a 10/10 in ringwork, either. He put on some of the best matches you will find in the world, and when his heart was in it, you couldn’t take your eyes off of him. And sometimes even when his heart WASN’T in it (his superball showing against Hogan at SummerSlam).

For me, at 26 / 30, Shawn carries the day, but for a LONG time, HBK was my favorite wrestler, so… I’m biased. Honestly? 26/30 is an all-timer score here I’m not sure we’ll see again but once or twice.

That’s my thoughts; now give us yours! How would you grade these three? And who do you want to see us rate going forward?

I hope you like this new series, and until next time… take care!