The Main Event:
Bret 'The Hitman' Hart and Shawn 'The Heartbreak Kid' Michaels are literally living legends in the WWE universe. Both men have had long, distinguished and storied careers achieving far more you're your average wrestler could even dream of. Though for as much success as they've shared, there's also existed at times a bitter rivalry, much of which stems back to the infamous 'Montreal Screw Job' of 1997 in which Michaels took the win from Hart, the later not feeling the other truly deserved it - only to have WWE head honcho Vince MacMahon stand behind Michaels.
This new documentary, produced by WWE and moderated by Jim Ross, puts the two men in the same room to level with fans once and for all. In Ross' capable hands (the man is a veritable wrestling historian, after all), each of these two instantly recognizable champions explains, face to face with his chief rival, their side of the story. Of course, we hear about the incident at Montreal but there's a lot more to this than just a closer look at that turning point in the league's history. We more or less start at the beginning, which Hart rising to prominence and Michaels looking up to him, seeing his championship win as a career path he too might like to take. Michaels openly admits here to seeing Hart as a hero, a role model and an inspiration and though they grew up in different parts of the continent and trained with different people, they came from similar backgrounds and shared a certain skill set within the ring. It made perfect sense for Michaels to view Hart that way - but of course, as we all know, it eventually went sour.
Without wanting to spoil certain revelations, it's touching to see Hart talk not just about Montreal but about some other difficulties he faced around this time, inside and outside of the ring. Even when things become obviously painful for him to discuss, he doesn't hold back and he provides refreshingly honest insight into various aspects of his career and often specifically about his feelings towards and dealings with Michaels. On the flip side, Michaels has changed a lot in the last decade, and while he's hardly a humble man in many regards, he's not the ridiculous ego that he once was and he and Hart have both reconciled their differences and put things behind them. Michaels too gives his side of the story without pulling any punches, and whenever it seems like either man might be trying to sidestep the issue, Ross gets in there and keeps them on track and manages, maybe because of his familiarity with the events and the two men, to get them to rally open up.
Both men admit here that they've made mistakes over the years and own up to what they've done. So too do they take credit for the accomplishments that they completely deserve credit for but throughout all of this you get the impression that Michaels still wants some acknowledgement from Hart. Yes, this is professional wrestling so a lot of what happens on camera in the ring each week is scripted but that doesn't mean that those involved in the industry are completely above getting personally involved in their work - which is absolutely the case here.
Ultimately this documentary winds up a fascinating watch as it paints a thorough, detailed and very real portrait of one of the most interesting dynamics to exist in the entire history of the WWE/WWF. It lets these titans show their humanity, exorcise a few demons and enlighten the curious fanbase who have waited years for something like this to exist in the first place.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, though interlaced, looks pretty decent. Some of the earlier matches are on the soft side and aren't quite as clean and colorful looking as the later day content is but this is generally quite a respectable looking presentation. The material that was shot fullframe is presented that way, with mattes on the sides, so there are no issues with stretching the footage, thankfully. There are times where the lights over the ring make skin tones look a bit off but this isn't a fault of the transfer or the authoring, it's simply the way the material has always looked. Nothing here really looks worse than when it was broadcast on television, and to some eyes it might even look a little bit better.
The same comments apply to the audio on this release - some of the earlier stuff sounds a bit flat, but most of the newer stuff sounds just fine. Everything comes at you by way of a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track and aside from one or two instances where some of the archival clips have a small amount of audible distortion, there aren't any issues worth complaining about here.
The first disc contains only the documentary with the interviews, menus and chapter selection, but hey, this is a three disc set so there's a good bit more to this release than just that. The full contents of disc two and three are made up of some great bonus matches and historically significant clips such as our respective subjects' WWE Hall of Fame inductions. Here's what you'll find and where you'll find it:
The Rockers vs. The Hart Foundation, Madison Square Garden - 25th November, 1989
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, Wrestling Challenge - 10th February, 1990
The Rockers vs. The Hart Foundation, Tokyo Dome - 30th March, 1991
Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, Portland, Oregon- 21st July, 1992
Intercontinental Championship Match: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, Syracuse, New York- 29th April, 1992
WWE Championship Match: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, Survivor Series - 25th November, 1992
Steel Cage Match: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, Utica, New York - 1st December, 1993
Iron Man Match for the WWE Championship: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania 12 - 31st March, 1996
WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Bret Hart's Induction, Chicago, Illinois - 1st April, 2006
Bret Hart Returns to Raw, WWE Raw - 4th January, 2010
WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Shawn Michaels' Induction, Atlanta, Georgia - 2nd April, 2011
WWE fans, particularly those who appreciate Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, ought to eat this one up. The documentary is honest and revealing and as such it makes for pretty great viewing, while the collection of two discs worth of bonus matches rounds the set out nicely. Highly recommended and the best WWE documentary of the last year, if not longer..
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.