(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig – WWE King Of The Ring 1993
This is another lost classic that I think warrants revisiting. Many fans consider Bret Hart a legend, especially as he carried WWE on his back through the mud that was their early 1990s nadir. Scandals, contract disputes, politics, and a more cartoonish presentation made WWE inferior to other promotions in every way except for money. The wrestlers still made a lot, but the fans didn’t always get the best of the best at shows.
But Bret Hart tried to go in a different direction and indeed give his fans their money’s worth. But did he succeed on this night? Read on to find out.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
This tournament came off the heels of the abysmal WrestleMania IX event and Hulk Hogan’s shoehorned involvement in the main-event match. From what’s been written over the decades, the general consensus is that Hulk Hogan agreed to return to WWE in exchange for a world title win and agreed to drop the title to Bret down the road.
However, either Hogan or Vince McMahon changed that to a non-title match leading to that promise being broken. On-screen, Jack Tunney, who played the role of WWF/E President, granted Hart entry into the KOTR tournament without needing a qualifying match.
Furthermore, this was largely seen as a dream rematch between Bret and Mr. Perfect following their match at SummerSlam 1991. There was plenty of excitement going into this match, especially since the match before it ended in a double count-out, which meant that whoever won this one would go on to face Bam Bam Bigelow in the finals.
This match originally took place on June 13th, 1993 at the WWE King of the Ring PPV. It was rated ****1/4 out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer.
Bret has some taped-up fingers as he locked up with Perfect. After a tussle, Bret applies a headlock and then shoulder tackles Perfect down off the ropes. Then Bret counters a hiptoss with one of his own and lands a headlock takeover but Perfect counters into a headscissor. Bret escapes and goes back to a headlock but Perfect powers him into a corner and hits a chop. Bret reverses a corner whip and lands a scoop slam. Perfect kicks him away and lands a slam of his own. Bret kicks him away and takes Perfect back to the mat. Perfect escapes a headlock with a sort of chinlock/neck crank and then shoots Bret into the ropes. Bret counters with a crucifix pin for a two-count and goes back to the headlock. Perfect shoots him off again but this time Bret lands a running crossbody press for a one-count and sends Bret to the floor.
Bret shoulder checks Perfect’s gut and lands a sunset flip for another two-count. Perfect escapes another headlock by pulling Bret’s hair and by landing a knee to Bret’s gut. Perfect follows with stomps and kicks and Bret rolls to ringside to recover. Perfect holds the ropes open for Bret but then kicks Bret as he’s almost back in the ring. more stomps and knees get Perfect another two-count. Bret gpes tp ringside but Perfect hits Bret some more. Then Perfect shakes the rope and the force sends Bret careening to the floor and into the barricade, damaging his knee in the process.
Bret slowly returns to the ring and then kicks out at two following a kneelift. Perfect hits more punches and then lands a missile dropkick. He covers, but Bret gets his foot on the bottom rope and then kicks out normally. A hard Irish whip leads to the Bret bump and another two-count. Perfect goes for another top-rope move but Bret cuts him off and hits a superplex. Bret kicks Perfect’s calves and locks in a Figure-4 leglock. Perfect struggles for a long time but eventually gets a ropebreak. Bret applies another leglock but Perfect counters with a kick to the face. Perfect manages to biel throw Bret across the ring by his hair and then locks in a sleeper hold. Bret resists and eventually gets a ropebreak of his own. Perfect applies another sleeper but Bret counters by driving Perfect’s face into a turnbuckle.
Bret fires back with a big forearm smash and his own biel throw that sends Perfect crotch-first into a ringpost. A Manhattan drop/Russian leg sweep combo gets Bret another two-count. A leg drop, a backbreaker, and a second-rope elbow drop all lead to another two-count. Bret goes for the sharpshooter but Perfect grabs and then stomps on Bret’s injured fingers. Perfect goes for the Perfect-plex but Bret blocks it. Then Bret counters and suplexes Perfect to the floor. Perfect gets in first and then surprises Bret with a small package. Bret kicks out and then rolls over into an inside cradle of his own. One, two, three! That’s it! Bret wins.
Winner after 18:56: Bret Hart
Great match with lots of competition and back-and-forth action. Both wrestlers had great chemistry and tried a mixture of different things. There were hints of technical grappling, brawling, big moves, strike exchanges, and some psychological storytelling. The match didn’t excel in any one of these areas but did solidly enough in several. I wouldn’t call it a MOTYC by any stretch (this was 1993 after all and despite WWE having Bret, the company’s matches were miles behind what was being showcased elsewhere), but it’s still a much better match compared to a lot of what we get nowadays.
There was something about the crowd’s reactions, the ringside commentary, and the wrestlers’ body language that, when all combined together, gave this match a much-needed sense of realism and legitimacy. The wrestlers took the match seriously, to the point that the generally babyface Mr. Perfect resorted to heelish tactics like hair pulling and kicking Bret as he passed through the ropes. The commentators put over the skills and techniques of both wrestlers instead of bantering with each other or otherwise being distracting and taking away from the match itself. And the crowd was invested in the match from beginning to end and had a sustained pop for several minutes once the finishing stretch began. It was refreshing to see something in WWE treated as legitimate instead of just random action with the people in the arena not really caring too much about it.
There was also a refreshing degree of unpredictability here that really made this match special. The finish was excellent with Bret winning via simple small package counter. It made sense since both guys hurt each other so much throughout the match that something as basic as that was able to lead to a three-count. finishes like that are important: if every single match always ends with the finisher, that leads to repetition, predictability, and boredom. I know that might sound counterintuitive since finishing moves are called finishing moves. But winning via different method once in a while adds some variety and keeps fans attentive, which is just as important as telling the match’s story.
All that said, I think the match could’ve been improved in a few ways. Perfect going after Bret’s taped up fingers for only a short moment seemed like a missed opportunity. Bret devoted plenty of time to working Perfect’s legs but Perfect didn’t sell that damage consistently. And as much as I like how he wrestled here, I think that Bret’s offense was a bit overly simplistic at times. I don’t know why but some of Bret’s big comeback moves like the Russian leg sweep and the second-rope elbow just don’t look convincing, no matter how much damage is stacked on before they’re landed. Both wrestlers could’ve sacrificed some of the brawling and thrown each other around with slams and suplexes a bit and we’d have a more believable finish.
Final Rating: ****
This match was great but nothing truly out of this world. It was definitely the best match on this card but a notch below some of Bret’s better matches. Even though the action was smooth, I think they could’ve gone further and told a deeper story than the one they did.
It was as if this was an exhibition match that coincidentally happened to have some very high stakes. Both wrestlers fought as though they were trying to show off samples of different skills instead of narrowing in on what they did best to win. Their chosen approach did lead to a good match, but they could’ve done an even better job by switching a few things around.
Still though, 1993 wasn’t a banner year for WWE so at least there was this diamond in the rough that’s still worth watching.
Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.