Thursday, 17 July 2014

ARCHIVED WRITING: Favourite Wrestling Moments - When The Hitman Battled The Dead Man

I’ve been reminiscing today; thinking way back to September 20th 1997.

[This is an archived post originally published on the website of a magazine I worked for as a journalist back in 2009.]

That day, I found myself at the Birmingham N.E.C along with my best friend and fellow mark, Dale, and the roster of what was then called the World Wrestling Federation, for the company’s only British date that year, One Night Only.

It was a memorable show for many reasons, not least of which being the controversial finish to the Shawn Michaels/Davey Boy Smith European title match which lay the foundations to what would later become D-Generation-X.

Though for this writer, the most memorable encounter that night took place between Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart and The Undertaker.

Though the Excellence of Execution was in the throes of his anti-American gimmick at the time, he was nonetheless a firm fan-favourite over in good old blighty, whilst the ever-popular Phenom was killing time between dropping the world title and doing battle with his soon-to-debut brother, Kane.

Between them, the two legends produced a fantastic 28 minute match that swept those of us in the N.E.C along in a wave of emotion.

Though I’ve forgotten most of the actual in-ring action from that night (this was twelve years ago after all!), I do firmly remember the enthusiastic crowd being split down the middle as Bret an ‘Taker went back and forth in an intense contest which roared to a gripping finale.

I also remember the sign.

In keeping with the spirit of attending a live pro wrestling event, Dale and I had decided that we had to take some sort of sign which we could wave in the air in a vain attempt at getting on camera.

We did get on camera, though not with the sign which is a shame, because it was awesome.

Dale was convincing in his argument that we should pledge our allegiance to the dark side and show our support to The Undertaker.

I didn’t need much persuading. Undertaker had always been entertaining, and as good as Bret Hart was, there had always been someone else who pipped him to the post at the top of my ‘favourite wrestler’ list.

So we grabbed a big piece of card, drew ‘Taker’s symbol on it permanent marker and stuck on a picture of the Dead Man himself.

But I just couldn’t stop there.

I’ve always been of the creative persuasion (which is probably how I ended up writing for a living), and in the days leading up to WWF’s One Night Only, I worked tirelessly on that sign; adding in black stars and more stuck on pictures.

Every night after school, with excitement about the event building, I’d work on that beast until I’d finally created an epic piece of art. When September 20th came, we packed it in my dad’s car and headed off to watch some wrestling.

The match began.

Defending WWF Champion, Bret Hart and former champion, The Undertaker locked up and embarked on an oft-forgotten classic. Dale and I roared our approval for the man in black, waving the sign proudly in the air before Dale got bored and left all the waving about to yours truly.

And then something changed.

As all good matches should do, the Hitman/Undertaker clash drew the crowd in and it wasn’t only easy to make an emotional investment, it was unavoidable. Though as Dale continued to route for the Man from the Darkside, I found myself taken in by the plight of the Hitman in his battle to regain the gold and resenting The Undertaker.

I screamed and yelled for Bret to fight back, to hang on in there, to win the match (hey, I was only 13!), and then I remembered the sign, that work of art I’d put so many hours into.

So I threw it on the floor and, in anger at Undertaker’s latest big move, stomped it raw and disowned it.

Looking back, I’ve never been more glad that I was there for that match. Two months later, Bret was gone from WWF in the wake of Survivor Series ’97, though not before finally converting this long-time naysayer into a bonafide Hitman fan.

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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.