Wrestling 365 – 3/20

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By Liam Byrne @TVtimelimit

Yokozuna © vs Bret Hart

WWF Heavyweight Title Match

03/20/94

Coming off the back of the worst Wrestlemania of all time, an unnecessary run with Hulk Hogan on top and an overlong Yokozuna title reign, the WWF at least sought to rectify one of the poorest booking decisions the following year at Wrestlemania X. This should – in theory – have been all about the redemption of Bret Hart. Having won the King of the Ring and feuded memorably with Jerry Lawler over the summer, Hart was embroiled in the start of a soon-to-be long term feud with his brother, Owen. Whilst the booking surrounding that confrontation was excellent, the same could not necessarily be said for Hart’s path back to the world title.

Rather than push Hart back into his rightful position as champion, Vince McMahon’s hopes for Lex Luger to be the next Hogan still lingered, leading to clusterfuck booking both at the Rumble and at Wrestlemania itself. Luger and Hart would share the Rumble victory, leading to both men getting a shot at the WWF Heavyweight Title at the pay-per-view. This led to a situation with each man wrestling multiple times, the need for special guest referees, and a main event that wouldn’t be clear until the night itself.

Without all this mess, it is true that we wouldn’t have received the Hart vs Hart opening contest that ranked amongst the best Wrestlemania matches of all time, but the Luger vs Yokozuna contest didn’t set the world alight amidst shenanigans with the special referee, Mr Perfect. The decision to have Yokozuna wrestle twice in one night was also not necessarily the most apt; though still an impressive mover for his size, he had already begun to lose some of the athleticism that made him an engaging wrestler to watch.

A visibly limping Hart would get a rousing introduction by guest ring announcer, Burt Reynolds, but even the addition of Roddy Piper as guest referee would not stop Yokozuna from jumping ‘The Hitman’ before the bell rang. Clearly the underdog, Hart would gamely attempt to kick out at Yokozuna from the corner, but the size of the champion meant that his strikes were shrugged off. In contrast, a huge Yokozuna chop dropped the challenger instantaneously, the sound reverberating around the arena.

A blocked punch allowed Hart to land several punches and a dropkick, wobbling Yokozuna but not dropping him. A second attempted dropkick hit nothing but air as Yokozuna stepped backwards, cutting the comeback short with ease. Piper would get involved several times in an attempt to stop Yokozuna from using the rope to choke out Hart, before also forcing Jim Cornette to get down from the apron. In all the confusion, a splash by Yokozuna would miss, leading to a double count by Piper that was broken as the gigantic champion was up by six.

The first sign that Hart was getting through to Yokozuna could be seen when a headbutt from Hart ended up putting both men down on the canvas. The majority of Hart’s offense revolved around punches and kicks; his opponent clearly too big to utilise his conventional technical offense. A sledge to Yokozuna’s back had the champion pinned, only for Cornette to drag Piper out of the ring, earning a punch to the face for his troubles.

Cornette’s interference allowed his charge to regain control, though using a chokehold only raised the ire of Piper yet again. The contest slowed down considerably as the toll of the evening was causing Yoko problems. He’d land a legdrop before pitching Hart to the outside; Piper’s fast count not giving him much time to rest and almost causing Hart to lose the match.

The finish came after a missed splash in the corner had seen Hart then almost get the victory with a second rope bulldog, second rope elbow and a jumping clothesline. Yokozuna would catch an attempted move of the second rope and drop Hart with a belly to belly, only to fall off of the second rope when attempting the Banzai drop and get pinned; a spot that would become an all too familiar way for Yokozuna to lose in his waning years.

Though it had taken a year to rectify, Hart was back on top, and had a ready-made opponent waiting in the wings – his brother Owen. With the way the programme had been booked, the WWF seemingly fluked their way into a pretty advantageous position, one that would end up with the Harts colliding in a cage at Summerslam.

 

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