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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Bret Hart & Triple H
March 15, 2006 by Euan Williamson


Bret Hart and Triple H. Two legends of the WWE wrestling ring, and both multiple time World Champions. At a first glance, you may presume that they represent polar opposites, particularly if you go down the route of kayfabe.

Hart as the archetypal baby face who overcame odds without cheating, but by using his unparalleled desire and graft, as well as his second to none knowledge in the art of scientific wrestling and Triple H as the archetypal heel who utilizes any unfair advantage he can, psychologically and physically, whilst being methodically brutal in the ring. However, I believe, that in reality, these two stellar performers are actually far more similar than most of you may think. Indeed, in today's world, where people are desperate to 'pigeon- hole' and categorise things in many different areas of life such as music, film and dress sense, I believe, that in the annals of wrestling history, these two sit far closer to each other than many other wrestlers upon which they are compared to. I've thought it for a while, however, have been stirred into action to write my column on this subject after being involved in a great discussion with my IWC buddy 'OfLegend' on this very subject. The aim of this column is to assess why I believe them to be similar, which one I feel is better and to pose a few ironies brought about by the fact that they represent the same things within the wrestling industry (which I will have hopefully proven!). Furthermore, by undergoing this line of discussion, I will address a few other things I feel strongly about.

Firstly, I believe that the term 'technical great', being the most often used description of Bret Hart, is wrong when it comes to categorising him as such. Technical greatness was certainly not what made Hart one of the best professional wrestlers of all time. If you watch any Dean Malenko match from his days in WCW, or if you watch, say, Milano Collection AT whom I believe to be the best submission wrestler operating today, then you are watching technical greatness. These guys know a veritable A-Z encyclopaedia of wrestling moves which they have, and still do, showcase(d) inside the squared circle during the their matches. Put simply, they have the ability to turn an opponent's body into a pretzel if they so desire. Compare any of their matches to a Bret Hart match and I guarantee you that the number of moves that they produce will far exceed anything that Hart ever did or knew.

Further examples would be Benoit, or what Angle could be capable of if allowed to wrestle in an amateur style. Don't get me wrong, when it comes to the execution of actual moves then Hart is fairly considered as the one of, if not, the best. However, I believe Hart to be more of an expert in the field of body part psychology, which leads me to my first comparison. Hart would not indulge in hundreds of different grapples and submissions, but instead, would concentrate on the dissection of an opponent by utilising prolonged and concentrated attacks on certain body limb parts in an attempt to render his foe useless. Much like Triple H. If you watch both of them in action then they will mix up a few fairly simple holds with repetitive barrages of punches, leg drops and knees to a chosen body part. Hence, the term 'body part psychologist', which I feel, is the best one to describe both wrestlers.

Secondly, we must consider why both Bret Hart and Triple H choose to wrestle in this style, which leads me to my next comparison. One of the things that both wrestlers place a lot of importance in is realism. In particular, Triple H's methodical and cerebral nature is so realistic that it's frightening. He's almost like the 'Terminator' in his robotic like intent on destroying a foe. All of the moves that both wrestlers use in their matches have purpose, thought and the grasp of appearing real, in an entertainment industry in which we are often asked to suspend our belief to a ridiculous level. As an example, you can guarantee that you will see neither wrestler 'skinning the cat' or producing any form of 'suicide dive' whilst performing their magic on the canvas.

This brings me to the first point, outside of the comparison of the two, that I would like to raise. People complain about Hart's 'five moves of doom' as being boring with all of his matches ending the same. This is wrong. All the 'five moves of doom' were, was a slew (or arsenal) of favoured offence like any real fighter would have and would barely take up a large portion of his matches - maybe two minutes out of the average twenty minute Hart match. I will take that over the same flip over the turnbuckle or walk forward before collapsing spots that Flair has pulled for twenty years. Many of Bret's matches that he won ended differently with small packages, reversals etc and of course his finisher. To me, realism is far more important than comedy and theatrics and is something that Triple H and Hart did, and do, far better than anyone else in recent history does.

If we add up the comparisons that I mentioned before, then, I believe we come to the crux of my argument that they are very similar. Hart, rather than being a technical great, (although I would like to point out at this juncture that I do think he is very gifted technically, it's just that it's not what made him as brilliant as he was) was a supreme master of psychology, pacing and storytelling in the ring. The exact same things, that I believe, make Triple H as good as he is. The only real difference is that Hart is better technically and in execution of moves, whilst Triple H is more strength based. Both tell an amazing story in the ring, using emotion built up from storylines to be conveyed in the medium of wrestling holds, punches, kicks and anything else that they choose to use. This leads me to my first irony. On the Bret Hart DVD, Vince McMahon calls Bret Hart ' The best storyteller in the ring since Buddy Rogers'. The irony being that Rogers was perhaps the biggest influence on Flair and his character (along with maybe Fred Blassie); Flair being the wrestler that Triple H does not hide his admiration for and Hart does not hide his disliking of.

Furthermore, Flair has gone on record as not being a fan of Hart, whilst thinking Triple H is the best today. Confusing world is our wrestling industry! As previously mentioned, both are masters of psychology, with every decision made in the ring making sense in terms of it being a 'real' fight such as choosing body parts to work over or not producing ridiculous antics that lack credibility. Moreover, neither would miraculously do a move that involved the use of a body part of theirs that had been previously decimated in a match. Finally, both are exceptional in their pacing of matches, with both being able to produce a half hour match full of an older school of wrestling and bereft of high risk, cheap pop spots but still managing to have crowds eating out the palms of their hands as their matches reach a crescendo. Therefore, I find it funny that Hart is bracketed with wrestlers such as Benoit, Malenko (men possessing a repertoire of thousand of holds) etc and Triple H is bracketed with the attitude era wrestlers of the world, when, fundamentally, they are more like each other. On the surface, they appear very different but, hopefully, I have managed to show to you that Hart and Triple H are extremely similar and, if we must categorise wrestlers, then these two should be spoken of in the same breath.

In addition to this, Hart and Triple H can build a match emotionally like not many others. However, it is here that I will start assessing who I believe is the better wrestler. To me, the emotional building of a match is the intangible factor that makes Hart a true great and it is something he is better than Triple H at (Triple H is a very close second). I say intangible, as this factor, along with the others, such as psychology, are far less obvious skills to the general public than things such as thinking The Rock is great because of his skills on the stick and liking Mysterio for his high flying prowess. It is also these intangibles that haters of Hart and Triple H miss. They cite Hart as being overrated technically, and it may be mildly true, however, you could use this column to show them that that is not really the thing that made him a legend! Moreover, they are quick to jump on bandwagons concerning Triple H's politicking, however, that has nothing to do with his undeniable abilities in these fields. A thing that they seem to forget.

Back onto the topic of working out who is better, in addition to what I just said, I think that Hart was more of a technician than Triple H and far more mobile around the ring. Just look at his singles matches from the early 90's, a good example being against Mr Perfect at Summerslam '91, to see just how quick he was. Hence, why Hart was able to produce many ****+ matches based purely on wrestling in random encounters, whereas Triple H relies slightly more on cerebrally utilising storylines, build-up, weapons and the mobility of his opponents. Some might say that Triple H is far better at brawling than Hart was, however, people forget that Hart was no slouch at all on this front ( e.g. against Austin at Wrestlemania XIII ), it is just that he had other tools at his disposal that people prefer to talk about.

Another similarity is their stick work. Both do not fit into the image of flashy one-liners and comedic quips about an opponent's sexuality, but rather, in line with their discussed wrestling style, cut promos that are pragmatic and tend to focus specifically on the match at hand. Unsurprisingly, a lot more like the kind of promos a 'real' boxer or fighter would cut. In this department, I feel Triple H has the edge due to him just being more comfortable and being able to deliver that 'electric' promo from time to time. At the end of the day, I feel that Bret is better, although it is very close, and I could understand people thinking otherwise. Doesn't mean I would ever agree, though!

In conclusion, I would like to raise my second irony and that is the one of how these two wrestlers view each other. In Triple H's book, he doesn't have Hart in his top ten workers of all time, whilst he does include others from the same era as Hart. In addition, aside from Hart's personal thoughts on Triple H's character, I have never been aware of Hart commending (nor criticising I would like to add) Triple H for his in ring work. I find it ironic that, after having shown how similar they are when the surface is scratched away ( if you feel I haven't then e-mail in and let rip! ), that they do not seem to have any particular appreciation of each other's work.

Perhaps they don't even see the similarities that I do. No one will ever know, I suspect, however, no one can argue that these two superstars are legends of the WWE ring and have already cemented their place in history. A pink wearing, straight laced baby face and a sledgehammer yielding heel that both have the same superb and rare approach to creating a wrestling match.

Aspiring wrestlers could not go wrong by applying the same logic to their work. Until next time. - Peace

by Euan Williamson ..


Tony Levine wrote:
Great article, I view guys like Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, as truly great technicle wrestlers. Bret falls into that "storyteller" type of wrestler. He was the best at it and was my favorite growing up. I find it funny when he gets criticized for his five moves of doom. That guy probably won the title more ways with different moves then any other wrestler. I just finished Shawn Michaels book and he of course labels Bret as not a great wrestler but a very very good one. I think Shawn is one of the greatest of all time. But how can he criticize. I dont get it. Bret won the title with bulldogs, interference, small packages and of course the sharpshooter, how many matches ended with a superkick" If you watch Shawn Michaels now he has acquired his own five moves of doom, starting with the flying forearm, the kip up, the inverted atomic drop the clothesline, the flying elbow, then the superkick. I just dont see how some of the wrestlers can say what they say.
Kilo Charlie wrote:
I just recently read Ric Flair's book (the library's a great place!), and in his defense, it wasn't that he didn't like him personally or his wrestling skills were lackluster, he basically believed that hart didn't bring in big money. Flair's opinion was that during Bret's reigns as champion the popularity of wresting was at a low point. We all know that the powers that be base who the champion will be on the amount of seats the company will fill during that champions reign (i.e. John Cena, not that I don't like him, but his matches are lacking). IMHO Triple H's wrestling style has been definitely influenced by Flair in the last few years. Everything from the 'thumb to the eye' and the 'face first flop' after getting hit, make Triple HHH's match that much more entertaining. Bret Hart was the perfect size for a wrestler, not too big and not too small. If you've ever noticed, larger wrestlers are never recognized for 'technical skills'. It's usually guys like Benoit, Malenko or Eddie Guerrero. As far as the mic, well neither one of them is 'The Rock' or 'The American Dream', but it's that no nonsense style that a lot of use like. The 'promo' (guys who cut the best promos) wrestlers will hold a title here and there, but it's the best performers who will become multiple champions! They both had great in-ring skills. They can do a 10 min match or a 60 min match and keep it interesting. Hopefully, Bret Hart will be a mentor to some young wrestler in the future (a'la Flair and HHH), it would be nice to see another well rounded wrestler in the game again. It's a shame that we'll never get to see a Bret hart vs. Triple HHH, now that's a fantasy match!! Damn, it's Smackdown vs. Raw time!!
Ken wrote:
I must admit when I saw the heading of your article I thought it was going to be an article slamming both of them for politicking. But I found your article to be on target. Bret Hart is my favorite wrestler of all time and I agree that in terms of technical wrestling Dean Malenko and others are more versed but Bret was great at drawing you into a match and making it seem as real as possible. I remember his matches with the Undertaker and how he made it seem legitimate for a "monster" to lose to essentially to a cruiserweight. I'm not a big Triple H fan but I think a lot of the criticisms that he receives are not fair. Thank you for talking about the 5 moves as well. When Bret wrestled the match didn't have to end with the signature move it could end with a backslide or small package and that added to the realism in my opinion as well. Thanks for this article it was right on in my opinion.
Willis Smith wrote:
I haven't repsonded to a commentary here in well over a year because of what I thought was way less than acceptable writing and thought. I even quit looking up this sight, or only to see wrestler's profiles. But this, THIS, is what it should look like. I whole-heartedly agree with your viewpoints, and you were more than capable of putting it into script. I would like to say thank you on quite probably this best thing ever to grace this website, editors included. Well done, sir.
Vince Chaisson wrote:
Just a quick thanks to you for making a fascinating and well-thought-out parallel between one of my favorites (Hart) and one I usually mute the TV over while I leave to get a soda (Tripsy.) I'm probably no different from a ton of other fans who never thought this deep about it, but you make valid and comprehensible points. I appreciate your efforts and I thank you once more for writing this column.
Abdul Aziz wrote:
This IS by far one of the most well written article I have had the pleasure of reading in OWW.

The similarities from so many aspects that most would'nt even noticed is amazing. Ever since there was a common wrestling community so many have criticised and discredited these two icons based on things that are irrelevant from what made them great.

I've read somewhere that Triple H and Shawn Michaels idolised Ric Flair, whilst Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho idolised Bret Hart. Looking back at it, whatever tiffles Flair and Hart may have had, they weren't that far off from each other, and neither are HHH and Benoit. All four of them emphasise on dissecting their opponents in order to execute their finishing manouvres more effectively, Flair with his figure-four, Hart sharpshooter, HHH pedigree and Benoit with his Crossface, something that other greats such as Angle is missing (Angle Slam does nothing to aggravate an injury to one's ankles).

I'd probably be ranting off about something that's totally irrelevant to your article, so I'm going to end this with a great well done, and I'll be looking forward to another one of your articles.
Joe Joe wrote:
First off it's nice to see someone who can actually think stuff out and not just say the obvious or be a bandwagon jumper and spout whatever the popular thing at the moment it. Anyways that was a nice article. While you mentioned Bret's run as a face and Triple H's run as a heel, both men were also very capable of playing both roles. Both also made for great faction leaders as seen with the Hart Foundation for Bret, and then DX and Evolution for Triple H. Even though these two men had a few matches, none were anywhere near what they could've been. It is a huge shame that they never were faced off directly in a feud as it could've been another one of the greats for both.
Red wrote:
I have to say, No, I am not a HUGE Trip fan, but, being a true wrestling fan, I can appriciate the fact that although I don't like him, that's the point. His job is to make me not like him,and he does his job well.. I am, however, a HUGE Bret fan, and have been and most likely always will be. I am glad to see someone sees both men for what they are. The wrestling world would love to keep the two separatly catagorized, Trip being the "Strong brawling heel monster" and Bret being the "Middlesized in-ring thinking babyface." Its good to have someone point out that these two, as different as they both seem on the surface, are far mor similar than most people take time to see. As I said, I am not a Trip fan, but then, his job is to make people dislike him, and I do appriciate his story telling abilities and such. Thanks for writing your article, and I agree, it is well written and a pleasure to read. THanks again!
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