365 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
There are certain wrestling tropes that always will hook me. One of them is the matchup between a big person and a smaller person… power versus speed. Height and weight against quickness and savvy.
I think you’ll enjoy this version of that tale, coming from the 1995 Royal Rumble when Bret Hart challenged Diesel for the WWF World Title.
You can watch this match on Peacock.
This is the first major challenge for Diesel (aka Kevin Nash), who became champion in November of 1994, defeating Bob Backlund in eight seconds at Madison Square Garden just three days after Backlund dethroned Bret at Survivor Series. That included a banner 1994 for Diesel. After eliminating seven wrestlers from that year’s Rumble, he went on to win the tag, Intercontinental and World titles in WWF before the calendar turned to 1995.
Bret is seeking his third reign as champion but finds he can’t match up against the size and power of the champion. As a result, he comes at this match with a more aggressive attitude than at any point since his days as part of the Hart Foundation tag team when they were heels in the 1980s. Working over Diesel’s legs around the ringpost becomes a repeated tactic of the Hitman, as is keeping submission holds applied after Diesel has reached the ropes to break. Bret actually plays the de facto heel for most of the match with his rule-bending, relentlessly attacking Diesel’s left knee.
Hart takes a few chances that are not part of his standard approach, diving through the ropes on Diesel and then going for a plancha over the top to the floor. The latter works out poorly for the challenger; Diesel runs him back into the ringpost, and note the priceless expression on Bret’s face prior to impact.
Diesel gets Hart back in the ring and delivers his Jackknife powerbomb, and here’s where the match enters strange new territory. Shawn Michaels, Diesel’s former partner turned rival, hits the ring and attacks Diesel–albeit a beat late, forcing Bret to kick out of Diesel’s finisher. Despite Michaels’ beatdown, the referee says the match will continue. Later, when Bret hooks Diesel in the Sharpshooter and Bret’s brother-turned-nemesis Owen Hart attacks, once again the match continues. It takes a ref bump, which cues a slew of rule breakers to storm the ring and attack both competitors, before the match ends in what is ruled a draw.
This match represents a great example of why Bret Hart is held in such high regard. His fingerprints are all over the match layout. Bret comes up short against the size and strength of the champion, but shows his savvy as the more experienced competitor and actually controls the majority of the match. I’ve seen this referred to as a carry job by Bret Hart but I don’t see it that way. Diesel serves a needed presence here with his presence and power. I thought he does a solid job selling the work done on the knee/.
One thing is certain: in today’s wrestling climate, the interference / draw finish would have been roasted on social media. For good or for worse, fans will not accept non-finishes in major title matches today.
Final Rating: 7.3
This is a challenging match to rate. As mentioned, I think Bret puts in an all-time performance here and Nash deserves a share of the credit as well. In this case, I think the efforts of the wrestlers are hamstrung to some degree by all the interference. This is definitely the best match involving Kevin Nash I’ve seen so far, but all the shenanigans held it back for me from all-time-great territory.
Two really good wrestlers walk into a bar in Asheville. Good wrestling ensues.