King of the Ring 1994(Baltimore Arena)
World Wrestling Federation Championship
WWF Heavyweight Champion Bret Hart(w/ Jim Neidhart) vs WWF Intercontinental Champion Diesel(w/ Shawn Michaels)
Royal Rumble 1995(USF Sun Dome)
World Wrestling Federation Championship
WWF Heavyweight Champion Diesel vs Bret Hart
Survivor Series 1995(USAir Arena)
No Holds Barred Match/World Wrestling Federation Championship
WWF Heavyweight Champion Diesel vs Bret Hart
In Your House #6(Louisville Gardens)
Steel Cage Match/World Wrestling Federation Championship
WWF Heavyweight Champion Bret Hart vs Diesel
Off the top I’d be remiss if I did not comment on Art Donovon’s commentary in the first match of this series. King of the Ring 1994 took place in Baltimore. Donovon was a defensive lineman on the Baltimore Colts in the 1950s, and was a great player. He’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So someone in the Triumvirate of JJ Dillion, Pat Patterson, and Jerry Jarrett who were running the WWF at the time, this was during the steroid trial when Vince McMahon had stepped down from running the company to avoid seizure from the government, decided that this was enough qualification to be a wrestling announcer. Now this is a legendarily bad decision in the history of pro wrestling. The atrocity that was Art Donovon on this show has been recounted by several sources better than I. For more on this I would direct you here.
In the buildup to the third Diesel vs Bret Hart match the WWF made every effort to reference the previous two matches. Whether it come from the wrestlers, commentators, or via video there was a sense of continuity going in. No winner came from the first two matches because of outside interference. Both wrestlers had been saved from defeat in this way. The third match was built as No Holds Barred. Meaning there had to be a winner.
The strategy used by the wrestlers was identical in the first two matches. Bret Hart used his technical wrestling ability to ground Diesel and work over the left leg. Punishing it and using the figure four leg lock. Diesel on the other hand used his power and strength to beat Bret down until settling in to work on the back with slams and an over the shoulder backbreaker submission hold. When that failed Diesel tried to use an exposed turnbuckle against Bret only for it to back fire on him both time with Bret trying to follow that up with punches to try and knock out the dazed Diesel. Whereas Bret’s mistakes consisted of him trying to be a high flyer. Getting caught on the top rope in all four of their matches, not to mention missing planchas in the first three.
The difference between the first match and the second was the aggressiveness of Bret Hart. Bret was constantly smashing Diesel’s leg on the ring post and going for the figure four repeatedly he even used a chair on Diesel. Bret was always good at going heel in these face vs face matches. All that time on his back may have been to help Nash though. In their first match Nash blew the fuck up in the last third of the match. He was not even able to make it from one end of the ring to the other near the end of it. Another cool spot/smoke and mirror used in the second and third match was Bret tying Diesel’s leg to the ring post. It was awesome and put Bret’s brilliance and aggressiveness over while letting Nash just lay in a corner. Again in the second match Diesel tried to ram Bret into the exposed turnbuckle, exposed by Shawn Michaels as it had been in the first match, and again failed with Bret beating him down with punches afterward again. Shawn Michaels was fucking amazing as a manager in the first match and running in on the second by the way. Both men used their finishers, but the run ins left it impossible to tell if Bret would survive the Jackknife or Diesel the Sharpshooter.
That brings us to match three. The match starts out all Diesel. Just beating on Bret. Getting revenge from the chair shot at Royal Rumble with one of his own. However, he is not continuing his strategy of working Bret’s back. A strategy that had not yet failed given that Bret never beat him. Meanwhile Bret continued his strategy of working the big man’s leg. It should be noted that as these matches went on Nash got incrementally better at selling the leg. Going from no selling at King of the Ring, to sporadic selling to the point Vince mentioned it on commentary at Royal Rumble, to selling it really well all the way through in match three. Coincidentally the matches get better as they go along as well. Bret again used the figure four a move, which was pointed out on commentary, had not made Diesel submit in their prior matches. Bret again tied Diesel to the ring post and laid in chair shots to the leg. Bret again rammed Diesel into the exposed turnbuckle and tried to punch him out. Notice again Nash having to move very little.
Nash is able to make his comeback when, after failing in the first two matches, was able to whip Bret chest first into the exposed turnbuckle. Bret made a brief comeback, but for the third time in three matches epically failed going for a plancha. This brings us to the finish. Diesel holding the high ground was able to send Bret into the Spanish Announce Table as he tried to reenter the ring. From here we get to this finish, but to analyze said finish we must first return to the first match in the series. At King of the Ring 1994 Bret tried to pin Diesel with an inside cradle. Bret used the ropes to flip over Diesel on a backslide attempt into an inside cradle for a two count. At Royal Rumble 1995 Bret got his legs tangled in the ropes after being smashed in the head over and over by Diesel’s forearm. Bret faked a knee injury and played possum trying to quick pin Diesel with an inside cradle, but only got a two count. Finally at Survivor Series Bret was actually beaten down by Diesel. He was total dead weight when Diesel tried to use the Jackknife Powerbomb. A move Bret had never kicked out of, but had never been pinned with either. Diesel was in the midst of a series of moves with Bret the first time. Diesel had his guard up he second time. The third time however Diesel thought Bret was finished. He showed mercy by just not powerbombing him to death. His guard was down. That was the mistake that allowed the inside cradle to finally work and finally get a winner between the two. The evolution of mid flow of a match to faked injury to beaten down man is an interesting one that had to be well thought out by whomever put the match together and deserves much credit.
Now you may have noticed the lack of mentions of their fourth match. That would be because literally nothing happens in that match. Neither man seems to particularly give a fuck. It was just an exercise to kill the 15 minutes before Undertaker ran in. I would call it a shit match, but I can’t. How can you call absolute zero shit? Shit exists. Shit is something. Shit consists of matter which cannot be created nor destroyed. This was a big nothing. That’s all that can be said about it.
Kevin Nash is not Ricky Steamboat. That is a nice way of saying he is not a good wrestler. Bret Hart is one of the greatest wrestlers ever. Aside from the black hole that was the cage match Bret got good to great matches out of Nash. Interestingly the matches seemed to get better as they went on. It seemed that they fleshed the problems out from one match to the next. As mentioned before the first match fell apart near the end due to Nash blowing up. The next match was fixed this by being heavy with spots where Nash had to do little work. The third match refined this so such spots came off less like rest holds and more like important points in the match. Another thing I would point to is that the third match had a better finish. However, the lack of Shawn Michaels involvement probably cancels that out. Then finally there is commentary. The first match was an abject disaster in that regard. The second match was much better, but Vince and Lawler can get grating after a while. The three match was great. The additions of Jim Ross and Mr Perfect really got the match over as important and special.
Results and Ratings
King of the Ring 1994
WWF Intercontinental Champion Diesel defeated WWF Heavyweight Champion Bret Hart via DQ when Jim Neidhart attacked Diesel at 22:51. Hart retained the World Wrestling Federation Championship (Star Rating: ***)
Royal Rumble 1995
WWF Heavyweight Champion Diesel and Bret Hart fought to a draw when the referee deemed himself unable to maintain order at 27:18. Diesel retained the World Wrestling Federation Championship (Star Rating: ***3/4)
Survivor Series 1995
Bret Hart defeated WWF Heavyweight Champion Diesel via Inside Cradle Pinfall at 24:54. Bret Hart won the World Wrestling Federation Championship (Star Rating: ****1/4)
In Your House #6
WWF Heavyweight Champion Bret Hart defeated Diesel via escaping the cage at 19:13. Bret Hart retained the World Wrestling Federation Championship. (Star Rating: DUD)
Average Rating: **3/4