A&E’s companion show to their new season of Biography is called Rivals, a shorter show with a 60-minute runtime and a focus on, well, rivalries. Does this mean they ran out of Most Wanted Treasures to look for?
With a split-format — in part it features interviews with wrestlers and behind-the-curtain workers, while it also offers a roundtable component hosted by former Fred of Scooby-Doo (and also former WWE writer) Freddie Prinze, Jr. — the first episode takes on a no-doubter of a rivalry between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.
Hart and Michaels have buried the hatchet on WWE programming before, specifically on a DVD/Blu-Ray release of a sit-down chat with Jim Ross about their intertwined careers. Here, both do appear and, after all these years, are a little more giving with compliments for each other on their strengths (Hart as the wrestler, Michaels as the performer).
Hart looks back on the days when he and Michaels were friends, and TJ Wilson remembers seeing them (and others from “The Kliq” like Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) having fun visits together in Calgary. Where things started coming to a head was not a storyline rivalry, but a genuine inkling of disliking how the other handled themselves professionally. Kofi Kingston, on the panel with Prinze, says it came down to both of them believing they were the best and deserved the top spot.
Cody Rhodes and others chime in on the Iron Man Match at WrestleMania XII as a lot of focus is placed on that main event match. It’s a very sentimental look from both of Hart and Michaels’ perspectives, as both acknowledge they probably couldn’t have made that match work with anybody else.
It’s at the end of that match, though, that whatever divide had begun between the two wrestlers opened up even wider. Hart recalls Michaels telling referee Earl Hebner to chase Bret out of the ring before handing over the belt, while Michaels doesn’t have a clear memory of that and mostly remembers getting mad at Hebner for having a hard time putting the belt on him.
Wilson tells of Hart skipping the after-Mania party, and both Hart and Michaels recall the next while filled with moments of them trying to keep their personal business out of the ring, but always failing. Mark Calaway, meanwhile, says this made the rivalry on-screen all the more enthralling. Kevin Owens agrees, saying the segments with Michaels and Hart played out differently than anything else on the show.
Michaels’ comment made on Monday Night Raw about Bret having “Sunny days”, implying an affair between Hart and Sunny (Tamara Sytch), has been much-discussed and is denied by Hart again here. Michaels offers that he had nothing to lose and would say anything on TV to gain an edge. The roundtable chimes in again, with Kevin Nash shrugging and repeating the idea that Michaels had nothing to lose, and John Bradshaw Layfield recognizing that Hart and Michaels were bound to come to blows, and he just wanted to be there to see it.
We never hear if he was, but the fight did happen at a raw taping in Hartford.
All roads lead, inevitably, to Montreal. It feels perfunctory to retell this story, but with Hart leaving for WCW, the concern is that he’ll take the title with him. Vince McMahon and Michaels conspire, along with Hebner, to force an ending that gave Michaels the win and the title.
People appear on both sides of the fence: Layfield says he believes Hart when he’s said he wouldn’t have taken the belt with him; Triple H says Hart wasn’t doing the right thing for business and that he disrespected McMahon. Michaels, for his part, says for the third time in the episode that it’s all a blur to him. Tamina Snuka finally speaks up on the roundtable, remembering seeing just how mad Bret was after the match.
The after-effects of Montreal drive the rest of the episode, as it did in many ways the careers of both Hart and Michaels. We hear Wilson tell of how he helped facilitate them coming back together and ending their feud on Raw in 2010, and the rivals themselves meet and admit that they’re not friends, but they’re friendly.
In terms of a historical episode, this is another A&E/WWE show that fails to produce much of anything new, but admittedly if they’re going to a series about rivalries this one may top them all and it’s only the first episode. The combination of an in-ring, scripted rivalry feeding off of their personal dislike for each other did create great TV at the expense of their relationship, and the show did a nice job of running us through that timeline.
- Slam Wrestling’s A&E/Biography archive
- Slam Wrestling’s Bret Hart story archive
- Slam Wrestling’s Shawn Michaels story archive