The Best in the World, and the Best There Ever Will Be!
The Voice of the Voiceless, CM Punk, makes a surprise return after what happened to Christian on Raw. What will he have to say Backstage?
Renee Young welcomes us Backstage!
Yes, the Best in the World is back and says the check’s in the mail for Randy Orton. But we also have the Best There Is, Best There Was and Best There Ever Will Be! The Hitman, Bret Hart, makes his Backstage return as part of the panel! And after watching Survivor Series 1996, Renee notes how it was integral to Hart’s last run in the WWE, which followed a long period of contract negotiations, and of course “spurning” WCW. How did Stone Cold fit in as Hart’s first opponent back? They’d wrestled before but nothing big. They were both looking forward to working together, and that was the first real consequential match they ever had.
In all fairness to Steve Austin back in those days, he would get a bit nervous, but also very intense. It showed when they worked a match that A) Austin was going to give his all and B) he was anxious. Austin was still finding himself, but it still turned out to be one of Hart’s favorite matches ever, on par with WrestleMania 13. Speaking of which, they had already given so much at Survivor Series, so they weren’t sure what more they could do. And in the end, they managed to do just that, and it was a situation where Hart stayed in great shape and felt ready, but it was also a situation where he felt that match even months later. It takes a toll on you. You don’t feel the pain in the ring, you feel it over the next few months after. It was like he got run over by a train.
Punk speaks to Austin being nervous, it all makes sense given where Austin was in his career. But talking to Hart here, and how they’re friends, Punk admits he’s a bit nervous still. Punk has a Hart Family hoodie. Renee says we all got that good good Hart merch. But while the nerves are great, Austin “famously” got fired by Eric Bischoff from WCW in 1994, and Hart was someone who went to Vince McMahon and told him about “this Steve Austin guy.” Dating back to that, what are the things Hart saw in Austin that made Hart want Austin in the WWE? Hart says he knew of Austin from even the Von Erich days. Austin was a guy coming up with that Rick Rude intensity and drive to get better. Especially in those early days, when Hart could catch Austin’s matches on TV, Hart always thought Austin was climbing up, improving.
Then there was that time Austin went to ECW, Hart was mad with Vince for letting Austin slip away. The WWE was looking for new faces, but they let the hottest free agent at the time go somewhere else! Then a week later, Austin was in the WWE and it shocked Hart just a bit. Hart likes to think he shook the tree and got the result he wanted. Punk says that given the position Hart was in, you gotta shake trees. Punk remembers in 2012, when he was a Heel, he wanted all kinds of guys to work with. Punk looked around, checked off the list of who he already worked with, and had to look outside. NXT was developmental, but that’s where Punk picked out Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and other new, fresh guys that the world should see and that had something to prove.
Punk remembers back to watching Austin take on Ricky Steamboat and thinking, “Man, this guy needs to be bigger than he is.” Maybe that’s something Hart thought, too. Punk remembers the build to Survivor Series 96, the Hart VS Austin match. Hart came back, cut a basic yet meaningful promo about, “I accept the challenge of the best wrestler in the world, Steve Austin.” Bret Hart saying someone else was the best wrestler in the world, that carries weight, especially to fans like Punk. Punk was so ready for Survivor Series, and they delivered. This may be a trick question, but would Hart say Austin was his best opponent? Hart says Austin is up there in a very small handful. Well who else is in that handful? Well, Mr. Perfect, HBK, those guys and Hart just clicked. Austin was right on the edge of that group.
To be honest, their Survivor Series match, and looking at Austin’s work rate soon after, it was a huge leap in ability. Hart always thought Austin had all the necessary ingredients to be a huge star, and his promo was a challenge for Austin to fill those shoes. And Austin did, though he was a bit “erratic” at times. Austin gets intense, but sometimes that works against a guy. Hart giving Austin the confidence and the motivation, Austin found his voice and his style. Punk says that while it was called the “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever,” he wants Hart’s opinion on Orton VS Edge from Backlash. Hart saw that match, and thought it was definitely a great match. It’s really almost impossible to name a match as THE greatest, because pro-wrestling evolves and changes. You watch the old days of Buddy Rodgers and his generation and go, “That was the greatest match, back in 1962.” There are just certain matches you will always remember for the hype or how they come out. It is impossible to say there one match is the greatest ever.
One thing that keeps Hart from saying Orton VS Edge at Backlash is the greatest is that there were no fans. You need that ingredient. Sure, the match had to great wrestlers in a great match, but the audience adds something to that. That is just an unfortunate limitation of the circumstances that we can’t do anything about. But with that said, Orton and Edge certainly had a great match, it was very realistic and intense, and it reminded Hart of a great tennis match with the back and forth rally for minutes at such a fast pace. That’s probably the difference between Hart’s era and this current one. They don’t take time to slowly build a story like you could and would back then. But it was a beautiful match and we couldn’t have asked for more from Orton and Edge. Hart watched Orton’s other matches with Edge over the last decade, and they’ve all been great. Those two just have great chemistry and are two of the better wrestlers of all time, in any era.
Renee says Hart helped coach Edge a bit. Were they having conversations leading up to that match? Hart tried to give some advice. Edge was a little uncomfortable with this match being declared the Greatest Wrestling Match Ever, especially before actually having it. That is a tough pair of shoes for anyone to fill, but Hart gave what he feels was the best advice. For Hart, before he went out to wrestle, he’d envision it and always thought of it as if he were a fan in the front row watching it. Hart wants to entertain himself, make it for him, and do everything for the fan in him. If Hart can make that person stay focused and make him go, “Hey, this is a great match!” That’s probably what Edge did for himself. Edge put himself in the fans’ shoes and came up with a match he could enjoy. Hart was always a big fan of a great wrestling match and its psychology. Watching wrestlers work holds and tell a story, Edge and Orton did a great job of that.
Renee says Punk has a story to share about SummerSlam 1994. Well, talk about one of the greatest matches of all time. The United Center in Chicago was built for Michael Jordan and the Bulls, but the first event in that arena was SummerSlam, with the main event as The Undertaker VS The Undertaker, and there was this investigation to figure out who the real Taker was. But as a wrestling fan, you knew the real main event was Bret VS Owen in a Steel Cage. Punk looks at the limitations of the 1990’s “big blue cage” the same way as he does the limitations of Orton VS Edge was stuck with. “Go out, have the Greatest Wrestling Match Ever, but there are no fans, and you can’t do this and you can’t do that.”
Punk finds that personally, the best wrestlers are the ones who take their circumstances and make, pardon his language here, “chicken salad out of chicken sh*t.” The Big Blue Cage was because they wanted it to be different from the NWA cages, the chain link steel that gets nasty and bloody and there was no blood in the WWE. But even then, Bret and Owen put on what is arguably one of the best cage matches ever. Punk was there live, so from a fan and friend, people may not always remember what Bret did or said, but they will remember how he made them feel. Punk still remembers SummerSlam 94, watching live as the Hart Family teared the house down. Punk thanks Hart for all his contributions to the wrestling world.
Hart does remember that match, and if he could’ve, he probably would’ve, if only HBK and Scott Hall hadn’t taken his Ladder match idea. Hart would’ve had the first ever ladder match at SummerSlam with Owen instead of a big blue cage. Punk is right, those big bars were not the best because they were right at the ropes. You had to be careful or you’d crack your own head open. They were dangerous and awkward for an already awkward match type, but Bret feels he and Owen and British Bulldog and Jim the Anvil all did their best to do what they can with their limitations. Bret will always remember the suplex that brought Owen up and over the cage and to the mat. They felt like they were falling off a building or something. It is definitely a memorable match and Hart was proud that among cage matches, and one without blood, it is still one of the best. They made it great on wrestling alone, so it’s great to know Punk was there live and thinks so fondly of it.
The panel assembles!
Booker T and Mark Henry join Renee and Punk to add even more Hall of Fame power to the show! Punk wants to make sure Henry and Booker show off their rings more. Renee notes that in just one week, we’ve had title changes, relationships breaking up and true wrestling clinics! But in case you missed it, here’s…
Just the Highlights!
On SmackDown: Your NEW WWE Intercontinental Champion is the Phenomenal AJ Styles! The House that AJ Styles Built has gold again! What will this new era mean for the title of legendary workhorses?
At Backlash: Bayley and Sasha Banks had an intense Triple Threat Tag with Bliss-Cross and The IIconics, and they kept those titles around their waists! But will #BayleyDosStraps and The Boss make it through NXT tomorrow night? Then, Jeff Hardy and Sheamus looked to settle things, and in the end it would be the Celtic Warrior that crushed the comeback! Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley fought even before the bell and give it everything they had! But STILL WWE World Champion, Drew McIntyre! The same goes for the Monster Among Men, as The Miz and John Morrison had a malfunction of egotistical instinct! The handicap advantage went awry, and Braun Strowman still has the Universal Championship! But biggest of all, Orton VS Edge, in truly an incredible main event won by the Viper!
On Raw: The Monday Night Messiah tried to reason with Rey Mysterio to make Dominik a disciple and not a sacrifice. But Dominik spoke for himself with action as he attacked Seth Rollins! Will Rollins make both father and son pay for their sins? As for Orton, Christian returned to confront him, but then things turned ugly in an Unsanctioned challenge! Mostly because Ric Flair betrayed and low blow’d Captain Charisma for Orton’s PUNT! “This is your fault! I didn’t want to do this! Why are you here?!”
The panel discusses this week in the WWE!
While Christian hadn’t been in a match for six years, he got himself right in the middle of the Orton VS Edge drama last night. It did not end well. What does the panel think of how that all played out? Henry was worried for Christian. Not about him taking a punt to the head, but about Christian blowin’ up and having a heart attack. Booker T says Christian is finished. What was he thinking? He has a great spot on Backstage and he had to go and do that. It is not a good idea for older wrestlers to go out there after being away for so long. It is a young man’s game now. Renee asks for Punk’s “silver lining,” but he isn’t sure there’s anything he could add. Punk’s just happy to be here this week, because again, he wasn’t scheduled and then Christian went and got himself kicked in the head. Thanks, Backstage Buddha.
But to what Punk and Hart talked about earlier, what do Booker and Henry think about that added pressure of calling Orton VS Edge at Backlash “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever”? Did it live up? Henry says it was a great match, they played the greatest hits, but you definitely need to be over 40 to remember “Putting on the Hits.” A great show in the 80’s and Henry enjoyed that here. Orton and Edge played all the tunes we love so much, but for it to be the GREATEST EVER, Henry was heckled by Punk for this, but Henry wanted a ref bump and all the “bells and whistles,” but we didn’t get that!
Renee asks, would we have considered one of the greatest matches ever if the WWE didn’t just already label it that? Booker says that the match itself was excellent, for the same reasons Henry said. There were throwbacks to the other all-time-greats in wrestling, even Eddie Guerrero. Some say Edge hit a Rock Bottom for The Rock, but you could also say that was a Bookend for Booker T. Either way, it’s about the marquee. Booker was a huge fan, watching John Travolta and all his moves in Saturday Night Fever. The moves of a wrestler makes you want to see that wrestler. So Orton VS Edge, #GWME, you want to see it regardless if it really was the greatest ever. Those two went out there and did a great job.
Renee gives Punk his chance to speak his mind on this match. Punk says that if you’re Orton and Edge, you’re better off ignoring the label. It’s too subjective, “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever.” What’s the greatest song of all time? The greatest band of all time? Greatest car of all time? It’s too subjective, everyone will have a different opinion. But that’s what makes wrestling great. You can talk about all these different wrestlers from different regions and eras, and their different styles, and sometimes you get magic. Orton and Edge had a great match. Punk has seen better Orton matches and Edge matches, but that to be the marquee that gets people to watch, it was unnecessary pressure to put on Edge, a guy who is coming back after being off for almost a decade. But for what it’s worth, Orton and Edge did a great job just ignoring the label and giving us their best.
What does everyone think of the additional crowd noise added in? Booker says he likes crowd noise. He’s been watching boxing, and there’s an app now where you can have your own voice as part of the show, so Booker kinda liked what WWE did. It didn’t take anything away from the actual match, and it perhaps added to it. Renee does agree. If she hadn’t been told about it ahead of time, she probably wouldn’t have realized it right away. Before jumping further into this, it must be noted that Edge suffered a torn tricep muscle, but has had successful surgery and is resting at home. Backstage wishes Edge a speedy recovery and return.
The Backstage panels discusses the Mysterios VS The Monday Night Messiah!
It feels so good to see Dominik punching Seth Rollins in the face, doesn’t it? Henry remembers 10 years ago, he was playing with action figures in catering with Dominik. To see him grow up, Henry is sure Dominik will be the next one of those guys that comes from a wrestling family, that was born and bred in this and can be out there like Orton or The Rock. Dominik is going to be a great talent. Henry didn’t want the WWE rushing things, and so far they haven’t, but Dominik still has a few years before he’s truly at “grown man status.” But as someone that understands the business, he’s right there. Everything he did was solid and in a way that didn’t look like playing around. He looked like a pro-wrestler, and Henry is proud.
Booker says that he’ll give Dominik that rub. Dominik is being baptized by fire into the business, he’s on a fast track, and he’s still young. The green is still there, Booker just hopes Dominik isn’t being rushed into something. Like Henry said, Dominik was only a kid in catering a few years ago, now he’s in the ring running around. Imagine if there were 10, 20, 50 THOUSAND people in the arena being there to judge him. It’ll be a hit or miss move for Dominik at this point. Punk says that he likes the idea that we’re seeing Dominik grow and enter wrestling. Punk doesn’t want people just starting out to be the best at anything. Wrestlers shouldn’t come in super polished. Not everyone be like Kurt Angle, a freak athlete that comes into a new business and picks it up so easy. The slight awkwardness is appropriate, and it lends a lot to the story. The thing is, Dominik needs to lay his stuff in! Really hit him! Rollins and the others are grown men, they can handle getting hit. Sound advice from the best!
Bret Hart returns Backstage!
After reliving a promo The Hitman cut in WCW about El Dandy being a great wrestler despite his weight class, Hart joins Booker and Renee. Poor Dandy never did get that title shot, did he? But these two two-time Hall of Fame inductees are here to talk their WCW days. What does Hart remember working with a young and rising Booker? Hart is happy to say that Booker was one of the first guys he wanted to work with. Hart wanted a good dance partner, and for some reason, WCW didn’t understand what that was. They were rather clueless there. But Hart wanted to work with Booker, he felt they could bring out the best in each other, and they did get to a few times. It wasn’t anything all that meaningful, even as footage of Booker shoving Hart plays. Bash at the Beach, their first match against each other, hard hitting stuff.
Booker remembers that for being so excited knowing Hart was coming to WCW. He was a fan even though he was wrestling Hart. And then when Hart walked up to him, Booker gave him that big shove. Booker remembers Hart just looked so cool playing it off, he remembers it like it was yesterday. Booker asks Hart about coming in, and relating it to how Booker eventually went to WWE and wanting to make a difference. What difference was Hart hoping to make in WCW but didn’t get to? Hart says he was never more hungry to do that than in WCW. When he left WWE to join WCW, he came in with so much momentum, such as shoot knocking Vince out in the locker room after the Screwjob. Being cheated out of the title after winning it off Taker at SummerSlam, then Hart would one day face Austin at WM13.
But in WCW, there was so much momentum, Hart was just ready to do anything and everything to make a difference. He was hungry to prove himself, and then that idea for Hart to be a special guest referee, “That’s the best you’ve got? I’ll give you a million ideas better than that.” But it didn’t get any better. From day one to the last day, it just proved Vince right when he told Hart that WCW would have no idea what to do with him. After three or four months, Hart couldn’t deny it. They had no appreciation for Hart’s skills, and he kept going to Bischoff and asking him, “How about throwing me in with this guy?” And it’d always be the most lame reason as to why not. Booker was working with someone else, blah blah blah. That’s not a reason! WCW didn’t know what they were doing, and who knows what the politics were like.
Booker says he has the answer: The two of them were great workers. They could go out and out perform anyone and everyone, even the top dogs in the company. But if Hart could do it all over again, would he? Hart says he might try to figure out a better way to stay in the WWE. Knowing what we know now about WCW, Hart is sorry he ever went there. That includes Goldberg kicking him right in the head. Goldberg was one of those guys that the more he wrestled, the more disregard he had for those he was working with. It didn’t matter to WCW, they’d just keep patting him on the back and ignore the other guy limping his way to the back, including Hart. Hart told Goldberg, “Whatever you do, don’t hurt me.” Then he kicks Hart as hard as he can. Goldberg didn’t know any better because he had people telling him how great he was. They weren’t do anyone any favors by not teaching Goldberg that wrestlers aren’t crash test dummies. Unfortunate in that standpoint.
And as Booker said, the “top guys” put a lid on Hart to make sure he didn’t go anywhere. A shame, really. Hart had heard things before even going there but hindsight is 20-20. Booker asks if it’s true that Steve Austin tried to talk Hart out of WCW because of his own experiences. Yes, it is. And a few other guys, actually. Kevin Nash when he came back to the WWE, he told Hart “what a sh*t show it was.” Austin and the others, even Owen Hart in his short time, not even a couple weeks. Owen told Bret to never go there, but Bret was hoping he could change things. Bret had so much value, but then how WCW used him, what Hart could’ve done, there’s no reason he couldn’t have been big business for them. Instead, they wasted Hart and many other great talents, Booker included. Not to mention Sting, who was someone else Hart loved working with. Even if it did boil down to Bischoff telling Hart what to do all the time.
Hart just wished WCW would’ve trusted him, asked for his input, but Hogan was calling the shots. No one was going to get past him. There was just a lot of illogical stuff going on, they didn’t know the difference between a good idea and a bad idea. Booker will say this, wrestler to wrestler, man to man, and as friends, Booker had the utmost pleasure getting in the ring with The Hitman. What time they did have together was magical, some of the best stuff Booker did in his career that made him feel better as a wrestler afterward. All the things Hart has said about Booker, Booker really appreciates. Hart was 100% professional, that is what Booker will always remember about him. No one said it better than Finkel in his introductions. Fink was the best, we all loved him. Renee thanks The Hitman for stopping by, and hopes to have him in person when the studio can open up. Bret thanks them for having him and hopes we all stay safe.
Backstage discusses Daniel Bryan VS AJ Styles!
For the first time, the Phenomenal One became the WWE Intercontinental Champion! What did everyone think about this match? Punk was talking about it earlier and couldn’t put his finger on why he didn’t feel it was as great as it sounds on paper. He was excited to watch, but he just couldn’t get into it 100%. Two of the best ever, Punk has seen these two have amazing matches on the indies and all that, even in front of no people. But what was missing was the people this time. It’s a really good match, but Punk wanted it to be great. That something missing was the fans and their electricity for the fans to feed off of more. Structurally, can’t say anything bad about the match, but that third element just bugged Punk in the back of his mind.
Booker says he understands Punk’s perspective. Thinking about singing A Capella, the rhythms and the beats are missing, but once that happens, it all clicks. You might start A Capella to then get the music, but Bryan VS Styles, both those guys are in the primes of their careers. Styles has been all over the world, has been the best wherever he goes. “Mah boi, D-Bry” came from the bottom, clawed his way up, got injured, came back, and is still up top. The match was everything for Booker, perhaps THAT was the Greatest Wrestling Match Ever. Henry loved the physicality and toughness and aggression. Dominik, if you’re listening to this, watch that match again. Become both men you saw in that ring. They whooped each other, and felt it the next day, that’s for sure. They not only played the hits, but they took serious, serious dangerous moves and then reversed out of them and kept going. It was truly impressive.
Backstage plugs next week!
Leading into next week’s episode, don’t miss FS1 playing Royal Rumble 2008! CM Punk still feels cheated on that one because John Cena comes back from a torn pectoral muscle three months early!
But that’s all for the show this week! Renee thanks Bret Hart, CM Punk, Booker T and Mark Henry for joining her for another great episode. Be sure to be back again for more!
A really good episode for Backstage, it was great to hear from Bret Hart on his match with Austin for Survivor Series, which we all got to relive not just tonight on FS1 but on 205 Live under The Singh Brothers’ “Matches That Made Me” episode. Such a good match, and obviously it fits in with the discussion about Greatest Wrestling Match Ever. Obviously everyone in reality feels that Orton VS Edge at Backlash was a great match, but you can’t actually call something the GREATEST ever. Hearing Hart shoot on WCW was great, and even on Goldberg and how things were for him in reality. I also like that Booker kinda snuck in another feeling that I know I was having: Styles VS Bryan may have been a better match to call #GWME after the fact. While Styles and Bryan argued about Styles taking it easy while having others “earn” matches with the champion, I really hope we get quite a few more amazing matches from the Intercontinental Championship to help SmackDown with its ratings.