The greatest faces in WWE history - No. 6
Pro Wrestling, if explained to a layman can very simply be put across as : two guys (or girls), one good and the other bad, as different as chalk and cheese, want the same thing but have different agendas for wanting it. This results in conflict, which is what is something that needs to be resolved in the ring in the form of a match. Typically, the good guy would be someone who represents all the good in us, with qualities such as honesty, Fair play, hard work, friendly being a part of his character while he overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds.
Over the years, the line between the good guys (face) and the bad guys (heels) have grown increasingly blurred, especially with the onset of the attitude era. However, in the past 8 years or so, Cena has brought back the traditional white meat babyface to the forefront of the company. The guy I am covering today could possibly be called as the last of the traditional babyfaces who lived up to all the expectations of the company and WWE could build a brand around him – Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart.
One of the first names, I ever heard in the wrestling business was of Bret Hart. While at that time, it were the larger-than-life characters who were ruling the roost in the WWE, Bret was the champion and my childish brain was trying to figure how. I could see that he had a good physique, but still not the biggest at that and he didn’t seem to have any sort of special powers a la The Undertaker, Papa Shango, The Ultimate Warrior, etc., but I could see that he was good-looking and he was good with the kids, giving away sunglasses to one lucky kid in the crowd every night he wrestled (one of the main reasons I was so drawn to him!)
Bret Hart was a face from 1991 till 1997, a lengthy span in which he became multi-time world champion, Intercontinental champion, among other accolades such as King of the Ring, Royal Rumble winner, etc. What set him apart was the overwhelming adulation that he enjoyed from the WWE Universe as well as his peers. He was just very well-liked and I remember reading how his fan mail used to exceed that of Hulk Hogan’s and that got the WWE office to realise how popular young Bret was, without even getting behind him for any sort of push.
His in-ring skills and the craft of storytelling through a match remains unparalleled and is something validated by Vince Mcmahon himself. As a face, he was very easy to sympathise with and most of his matches too were structured in such a way that it looked real and if he won, they seemed like come-from-behind victories which made him that much more relatable to the people, who always saw Bret as one of their own. His leather-jacket and pink shades were a huge hit with the girls and the kids, and he routinely took on the bad guys who were much larger than him and consistently found a way to win. Classic Underdog story, aye!
His feud with Jerry Lawler, Owen Hart, and Bob Backlund had the fans so emotionally invested because they really wanted him to win against these bad guys. It is testament to his babyface abilities that someone as likeable as Owen Hart turned into one of the most loathed figures in the WWF at that time. The feud between the brothers was easily the best thing in the WWE at that time and Bret, despite being champion and the larger of the two, was still able to come across as an underdog in this feud.
Even when Shawn Michaels was being positioned as the next gen face of the company, Bret was clearly still the crowd favorite and it showed during the overseas tours, when people would break barricades just to get a glimpse of him. His 3rd title reign before he dropped the strap to Shawn was the peak of his career I thought and his popularity has only been the same or more since then. The major chunk of hardcore wrestling fans and the wrestlers themselves today have grown up watching and idolising him and it shows in the quality of the work being put out today. In my opinion, he is one of the true greatest WWE champions of all time. He is “The Best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be.”
Read other articles in the series here: Greatest Faces in WWE history