DVD Review: Hitman Hart - Wrestling With Shadows (10th Anniversary Collector's Edition)
Wrestling DVD fall into two distinct categories. There are those that present us with wrestler bios and matches (these are usually done in character). However on the other hand there are DVD releases that take us behind the scenes and let us into a world that very few fans ever get to see.
One such release that falls into the latter category is this one. Hitman Hart - Wrestling With Shadows takes us on the road with legendary wrestler Bret Hart, taking in every aspect of what would be a remarkable year for him. In 1997 Bret was not only the most popular man in the WWE, but he was also the World Champion. But when rival company WCw came calling Hart took the decision to remain with the WWE and forgo a large pay rise, for 20 year contract with Vince MacMahon's company.
The real story here was that as the year progressed McMahon decided to withdraw this multi-year deal and force Bret to open up negotiations once more with WCW. As Hart drew near his final days with the company McMahon grew even more cagey about the situation.
By November 1997 Bret was still the WWE Champion and he was more than happy to lose the belt before he moved on to pastures new. The only snag was that he did not want to lose it on Canadian soil (Bret is a loyal Canadian and his family are very well respected there). Which meant that Hart would retain the gold at Survivor Series (held in Montreal) and subsequently lose it the next day at Monday Night Raw.
But as history now states that was not the way things panned out. McMahon for some reason felt that (the loyal to WWE) Hart may decide to break character and sully the belt. So he decided to insure the title was taken away in Montreal instead.
The event itself is a shocking one and one that filmmaker Paul Jay has been able to capture perfectly. Referee Earl Hebner and opponent Shawn Michaels were both in on the plan and knew that McMahon was about to pull the rug out form under Hart's feet. The match itself was fine and yet now it is almost forgotten, its aftermath is now the thing we all know about.
Fans of wrestling will love this new edition of the DVD and especially the extras.
Firstly we all know that Bret Hart is only one member of a wrestling dynasty and that whilst he is the most famous, one other brother made a name for himself in the WWE. The second disc here looks at the life and sad death of Owen Hart.
Owen was a talented wrestler and yet throughout this release we learn that he only grappled to provide for his young family. He longed to have a normal day job instead.
Unfortunately just as his career rose and he began to main event shows across the country, 'The Montreal Screwjob' happened and Owen was left to fend for himself in the WWE (without his big brother). This meant Owen was saddled with some dodgy storylines, he was also involved in an infamous match with rising star 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin. During this bout Hart botched a piledriver and severely injured Austin. Austin never fully recovered form this and Hart had to live with the knowledge that he could have killed or paralysed a fellow wrestler.
But an event even worse was about to happen. With Bret in WCW, Vince Mcmahon and his creative team decided to mock many of their rivals top stars. They used Owen (as The masked Blue Blazer) to do so. Poor Owen was even forced into using a harness type of device to drop into the ring (like WCW's Sting).
On one fateful night live on Pay-Per-View Owen plummeted to his death. Falling nearly 80 feet into the ring the wrestler stood no chance (his head snapping back on the ropes during impact. Your reviewer was one of the millions who were watching the event live and can still remember the chaos and drama that occurred when Owen fell. The PPV did continue though and many felt that was in poor taste.
This bonus DVD takes us into the life of Owen. It features some moving tributes by many of his peers and also some key family members too.
Hitman Hart - Wrestling With Shadows is available now from all good retailers.
By Phil Allely