Brains, brawn and titles galore, one superstar who touched the hearts of all WWE fans during his career - Bret Hart.
Last Updated: 05/09/08 11:54am
Brains, brawn and titles galore, one superstar who touched the hearts of all WWE fans during his glittering 13-year career was Bret "Hit Man" Hart.
Hit Man introduced himself to the WWE in 1985 as a low card wrestler who based his game around technical perfection and cat-like speed.
Bret's potential was spotted by manager Jimmy Hart who quickly paired him with Jim Neidhart to form the destructive "Hart Foundation".
The duo crafted their way to their first taste of WWE gold in 1987 when, with the help of referee Danny Davis, they overcame the British Bulldogs to win the Tag Team title.
Many teams tried and failed to snatch the gold away from the Hart Foundation, and despite losing it to the Rougeau Brothers later in the year, they claimed it back the following day due to a dispute over the win.
Their nine-month reign was eventually brought to an end by Strike Force and the next notable moment in The Hit Man's career came at WrestleMania IV during a controversial 20-man Battle Royal.
With just Bret and Bad News Brown remaining in the ring after working in tandem to eliminate the competition, Brown double crossed Hit Man and eliminated him.
This incident triggered the start of the Hart Foundation's face turn. Bret and Bad News Brown squared up in some singles action before eventually dropping Jimmy Hart as their manager because he sold their title shot to the Fabulous Rougeaus Brothers.
Jimmy then swore, and got his revenge when Demolition defeated the Hart Foundation at Summer Slam 1988.
Up until 1990 the Hart Foundation continued their status as a major tag team, but were rarely given a title shot. However, they got their chance at Summer Slam of that year where they defeated Demolition in a two out of three falls match-up.
Bret and Neidhart doggedly held on to their gold for seven months, however a defeat to The Nasty Boys at WrestleMania VII saw Bret pursue his singles career - the Hart Foundation splitting up as a result.
The Hit Man immediately showed his individual talent by defeating Irwin R.Schyster to be crowned King of the Ring in 1991.
The victory gave Bret a chance to move further up the WWE ladder as he was given a shot at the Intercontinental title against Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig at Summer Slam later in the year.
A gargantuan battle ended with the "Excellence of Execution" locking in his infamous Sharpshooter to claim the win.
Bret defended his title with honour against such fierce opponents as Ted Dibiase however, his self-confidence got the better of him in 1992 as the Mountie took the IC crown away from him.
At WrestleMania VIII, Bret regained the title against old friend Roddy Piper in a fantastic match-up.
Summer Slam 1992 saw one of the greatest ever matches take place at Wembley Stadium as Bret attempted to defend the gold against his brother-in-law, the British Bulldog - a match which threatened to divide the family.
In a match which had absolutely everything, it was the Bulldog who snatched the gold in front of a partisan London crowd of over 80,000.
The defeat triggered a new focus and goal in the Hit Man's mind - the WWE world heavyweight title. His goal was reached with an epic victory over Ric Flair at a non-televised event in Saskatoon.
A completely different challenge awaited Bret at WrestleMania IX though -Yokozuna. With the 500lbs giant locked in the sharpshooter, Mr Fuji threw salt into the eyes of the Hit Man and the Japanese monster claimed the win.
That was only the start of the drama, with Hulk Hogan protesting the result, Yokozuna challenged Hogan, who went onto become the third WWE champion of the evening.
The next chapter in the Hit Man's career came at King of the Ring 1993 when he came through a gruelling tournament to battle past Bam Bam Bigelow in the final.
With Bret set to activate his number one contender right, Jerry Lawler stepped onto the scene at the Hit Man's coronation ceremony as the pair began a feud of their own.
However, it was a feud with younger brother Owen Hart which was to dominate the next phase of Bret's career. At Survivor Series 1993, Bret inadvertently played his part in eliminating his brother during a match-up against Shawn Michaels and his knights.
Despite the Hart family winning the fight, Owen was furious with his brother and demanded a one-on-one bout - Bret, however would not allow it.
The pair appeared to have put their differences to one side at the end of 1993 as they formed a tag team pairing, only for their feud to reignite after they lost to tag team champions the Quebecers at Royal Rumble 1994.
With Bret's troublesome knee in bits, the referee ended the match to the fury of Owen who took is anger out on Bret, and more specifically his knee as he blamed his brother for the defeat.
Despite his injury, Bret fulfilled his place at the Royal Rumble, and subsequently made it to the end, where Lex Luger awaited. Amazingly both men hit the floor simultaneously, which gave them both a shot at the world title at WrestleMania X.
At WrestleMania X Bret was in action twice - first a defeat to his brother in what was another epic match in The Hit man's career. However, the evening was to take a significant turn for the better for Bret as he got his revenge on Yokozuna to become the WWE Heavyweight Champion for the second time.
Bret's victory incensed Owen, and determined to get at his brother and the gold, he battled his was to the 1994 King of the Ring crown (with the help of Jim Neidhart) to set up another bout of brotherly love at SummerSlam.
With the WWE determined to stave off any outside interference, the match was to be a steel cage encounter. Both Owen and Bret had some security - Neidhart for Owen and Bulldog for Bret.
'I Quit' match-up
With Owen's stuck after his head had been slammed against the cage, Bret made his way to the top of the cage before jumping down - much to the delight of the on looking Bulldog.
Neidhart, however took exception and dragged Bret back inside the ring as he and Owen set upon the champ with a vicious assault. Bulldog eventually came to The Hit Man's rescue as the Bret/Bulldog and Owen/Neidhart rivalry began.
At the 1994 Survivor Series, an 'I quit' match between Bret and former world champion Bob Backlund resulted in Mrs Hart throwing in the towel on behalf of her son.
With Bret locked in a chicken wing and British Bulldog comatosed in The Hit Man's corner - Owen pleaded with his mother to throw in the towel - thus ending Bret's second reign at the top.
The 1995 Royal Rumble saw Bret earn other shot at the title - this time against Diesel. However, any hopes of regaining the gold for a third time were quashed when outside interference by Shawn Michaels, Owen Hart, Bob Backlund, Jeff Jarrett and Roadie saw the match declared a draw.
The Hit Man had another crack at Diesel at Survivor Series later in the year, and his revenge mission was complete.
Bret's wrestling wit proved too much for the champ, as, with Diesel preparing to deliver the Jackknife, the Excellence of Execution lived up to his name by tricking him and then cradling him for the pin.With the gold wrapped around his waist for the third time in his career, Bret headed to the next edition of Royal Rumble where he defended his belt against the Undertaker - interference from Diesel thwarting The Deadman.
Bret's defence saw him take on Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII in an epic 60-minute Iron Match. In a truly gargantuan encounter, it was HBK who took the honours after the match had been extended with sudden-death rules.
End of the road
The defeat triggered a break from wrestling for Bret, however a challenge from Stone Cold Steve Austin lured Hit man back into the ring before he defeated the "Texas Rattlesnake" at the 1996 Survivor Series.
At the following In Your House PPV, Bret Hart was brought back down to earth when HBK helped world champion Sycho Sid to a win.
Michaels regained the world title at the Royal Rumble 1997, and the winner of the battle royal would face him at WrestleMania XXII.
With Bret Hart determined to get his hands on Michaels, he fought his way to what looked to be another title shot.
However, after eliminating arch-enemy Steve Austin, the ref missed the incident and the Rattlesnake re-entered to eliminate Undertaker, Vader and Bret Hart to become the 1997 Royal Rumble winner.
With controversy raging, a Fatal Four Way between Austin and the men he eliminated was arranged for the following In Your House - the winner becoming the WWF champion after Michaels relinquished his belt.
Hart defeated Austin, Vader, and The Undertaker to become a four-time WWF champion, however, Austin made sure Hart's reign was a brief one by costing him a match against Sycho Sid the next night on RAW.
Bret made his final WrestleMania appearance on the thirteenth edition, and he certainly left his mark on the "granddaddy of them all" in a match against Stone Cold which many regard as the greatest of all time.
This match, which was a Submission encounter, played right into the hands of Bret, and despite Stone Cold refusing to give in to the Sharpshooter, a loss of blood saw him defeated.
Hart made it title win number five at SummerSlam 1997 after spitting in guest referee Shawn Michaels' face. HBK swung a steel chair in retaliation, but in superb WWF fashion, the chair struck The Undertaker and allowed Hart to get the pin.
Hart's final WWF match came in Montreal at Survivor Series 1997 in another controversial and pulsating match-up with Michaels.
Hart did not want to end his career with a loss to Shawn Michaels in his home country so a proposal was agreed between himself and Vince McMahon that he would win the fight and forfeit it the next night on RAW or losing it a few weeks later.
However, in what infamously became known as the "Montreal Screw Job" Vince was worried that Bret would take the belt with him to WCW so he made his move.
As Michaels locked in Bret's trademark Sharpshooter, referee Earl Hebner called for the bell despite Bret not actually tapping out.
It was a cruel way for Hart to bow out of the WWF, however his legacy will live on as one of, if not the greatest, to have ever graced the squared circle.