All was not what it seemed at SummerSlam 1992. Bret Hart would have to carry his brother-in-law through the entire match. But why?
SummerSlam 1992 with Bret Hart and British Bulldog
The setting was assembled in outdoor Wembley Stadium just outside London, England. To date, this is the only major pay-per-view to take place outside of North America and it held the fourth largest live crowd ever at a WWF/E event. The 80,355 in attendance were buzzing throughout the night, mostly in part to cheer on their hometown hero, British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith. He was set to take on his real-life brother-in-law Bret Hart for the Intercontinental Championship in the main event of the evening. To add more intrigue, both competitors were incredibly over with the fans at the time.
The setup was perfect, but all was not what it seemed. In a match he would later consider the greatest of his career, Bret Hart would have to carry his brother-in-law through the entire match as Bulldog forgot everything he was supposed to do. This was a result of many unfortunate choices made before the SummerSlam 1992 match…
Read on to find out why many people find the main-event at SummerSlam 1992 to be the greatest match of all time. This feature comes directly from Bret Hart’s autobiography, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling – a must-read for any wrestling fan!
“Rumor had it that Vince had big plans for SummerSlam 1992. J.J. Dillon, Vince’s talent coordinator, whose job was basically doing Vince’s dirty work when it came to fining, firing and delivering other bad news, let slip that the pay-per-view was possibly going to be in either Washington, D.C., or London, England. I went to see Vince. If he still wanted me to drop the belt to Shawn Michaels, I had an idea for that match that I wouldn’t even tell him until he promised me that he’d never use it for anyone else. Vince agreed, so I told him about the concept of a ladder match. The more I told him the more he liked it.
Also, if SummerSlam 1992 was held in England, I suggested, why didn’t I drop the IC belt to Davey there, and Davey could, in turn, drop it to Shawn shortly thereafter. The pop in the U.K. would be huge because Davey was a homeboy. Vince told me he liked both ideas. At the next TVs, he asked me to show him a ladder match. I could do it with Shawn, I said.
I rang Davey as soon as I left Vince’s office to tell him, but he was so down about his [six-week suspension for testing positive for steroids] that he showed little enthusiasm. Even though it was three months away, the match with Davey soon became almost all I thought about, piecing it together move by move in my head. I’d kept an old but terrific finish of Leo Burke’s tucked away in my head for just the right moment, and this would be it.
By the time I got to TVs in Hamilton, on June 1, it was official: SummerSlam 1992 would be at Wembley Stadium in London. Davey was back on the road, and Vince was going ahead with my idea to drop the IC belt to him.
As the summer slipped away and as SummerSlam 1992 approached quickly, I spent my time training and working on another big cartoon drawing of all the wrestlers, this time for Vince. I couldn’t help but feel indebted to him. I constantly phoned Davey down in Florida, but all Diana could tell me was that he was out with Jim [‘The Anvil’ Neidhart] somewhere. I finally tracked Jim down just hours before I was leaving for England and was shocked when he told me that he’d just taken Davey and Diana to the airport. Davey was high as a kite when he caught his flight, Jim said, because he’d been up all night smoking crack with him! Jim told me that Davey had a gorilla on his back and he was worried about him. I wished Jim would take a good look at himself.
“Davey was high as a kite when he caught his flight, Jim said, because he’d been up all night smoking crack with him!”
I couldn’t have been more disappointed in Davey, and feared he would end up making us both look bad. I remembered Vince asking me, back in Binghamton, if I was sure I could go on last in the main event.
“I can promise you nobody will be able to follow us!” I’d said. And when I asked Vince whether he wanted me to run the finish past him, he told me, “I don’t want to know; surprise me.” I’d never, ever heard him say that to anyone else before—or after—but now I truly had no idea what surprises the match was likely to have in store.
When I arrived in London, hundreds of fans poured out of the hotel lobby to chant my name in the streets. I set out to find Davey, but he was off somewhere with Diana and his family. I didn’t see him until the required entrance rehearsal at Wembley Stadium the night before the show. When I asked him why he hadn’t returned my calls all summer, he wasn’t able to look me in the eye. He fessed up that he’d been smoking crack with Jim for weeks and was now terrified. He’d gone back to being that same helpless kid I’d rescued from Dynamite ten years earlier.
“Trust me, Davey, and I’ll do all I can to get you through tomorrow, okay?”
He nodded, and I sat him down for a crash course, going over and over our match and making him recite the moves back to me. It was now completely up to me to save our match.
The following day we arrived at Wembley early. The sun hid high in an overcast sky, but there was a collective sigh of relief because it looked like it wasn’t going to rain.
Once the show started I worried and waited, fearing that the other wrestlers would run too long, leaving me and Davey with not enough time to tell our story. If we ran out of time, it would be my tough luck, since if Davey beat me in a short match, it could ruin me in England. One positive note was that the referee was Gorilla’s boy, Joey Morella, who, in my opinion, was the best WWF ref. I knew he’d do his best to help me communicate with Davey once we got out there.
How Bret Hart Broke the Hearts of Many but Earned Their Hearts in the Process at SummerSlam 1992
The sky was a beautiful purple on the day of SummerSlam 1992-blue by the time our match was called. Davey went out before me to a huge ovation.
I was banking on my sense that the British fans truly loved me, but would feel they had to support their fellow countryman. To all the fans watching via satellite, I’d be a huge underdog. Today I’d break all their hearts and win their undying loyalty: I was betting my career on it.
The aisle was so long that my usual entrance music played twice as I made my way to the ring, the picture of confidence in my leather ring jacket. English football horns trumpeted through a crowd of all ages while Union Jacks fluttered in the soft breeze. I was eased by the sight of numerous pink and black signs, and I had the distinct sense that God was with me as I silently vowed to show Vince, Davey and the world how good I was.
As I stood nose to nose with Davey he appeared to be every bit as determined, both of us unflinching warriors refusing to give way before battle.
While a thunderous “Bulldog” chant reverberated through the stadium, I unbuckled the belt, held it up to my lips and kissed it. I handed it to Joey, who held it up to the crowd, while I dropped out to the floor to give my sunglasses away. To our mutual surprise, I was able to place them on the little boy I’d promised them to earlier. His dad smiled, impressed that I was a man of my word.
Back in the ring, Joey gave Davey and me the rules, the three of us momentarily awestruck by the size of the crowd. We pushed off with Davey looking strong and serious. The crowd was ours and the bell sounded. At first Davey outmaneuvered me with simple and realistic wrestling, but after only a few minutes, he was breathing hard.
“Bret, I’m fooked,” Davey panted as I had him clamped in a side headlock. “I can’t remember anything!”
“Davey, just listen to me, I’ll carry you.”
Joey shot me a worried look. This would be the test of my career.
“Bret, I’m fooked,” Davey panted as I had him clamped in a side headlock. “I can’t remember anything!” – British Bulldog to Bret Hart during their SummerSlam 1992 match
So, that’s how it was, me calling out every single high spot for Davey, sometimes even the necessary facial expressions, helping him conserve what little stamina he had for a comeback that was still more than thirty minutes away. Every time Davey picked me up, I went up like a feather. He went up for me like a full refrigerator.
I made sure I didn’t overdo it as a heel, knowing the fans would forgive me in the end when I lost. Twenty-five minutes into the match I locked Davey in a sleeper hold, and the crowd immediately got behind him, cheering him on to revive himself as he crawled to the ropes gasping for air. I snapped a beautiful boot straight into his face, grazing the tip of his nose like I’d snapped it hard with my finger to wake him up.
The drama built, layer upon layer, as every move that came followed a logic that never detracted from the story. I hit Davey with my whole arsenal, finally locking on the sleeper again. As he sank to his knees, I called the spots into his ear, and he rose up to his feet with me on his back. Staggering backward, he rammed me into the corner with all his weight, nearly snapping my neck in half on the top rope for real! But there was no time to sell as I slapped on the sleeper one more time. Again, Davey sank to his knees, as Joey muttered, “Do you guys hear that crowd? This is unbelievable!”
We went into a beautiful sequence of moves, ending up with an old Hart Foundation–-Bulldogs spot where a groggy Davey went for a press slam but lost his balance and accidentally crotched me on the ropes, to the roar of the crowd.
I’d carried him as far as possible, and now Davey took over for his long-awaited comeback. I called out all his big moves for him, and after I’d taken them all, Davey dragged me to my feet by my singlet straps, revived enough to signal with his hands that it was time to finish me off with his running powerslam! Always incredibly strong, Davey easily twirled me over his shoulder and charged across the ring, flattening me to the mat for the one . . . two. . . but this time it was me who astounded the crowd by barely kicking out! Clutching his face, a tearful Davey only half feigned amazement as he finally realized that I’d put together a masterpiece.
I dragged myself to the ropes and fell out to the apron. Davey suplexed me back in, but I dropped behind him, gripped him tightly around the waist, and jerked him into a perfect German suplex. This time Davey kicked out!
As we got to our feet I attempted a front suplex, but Davey didn’t budge. Instead, he blocked it, lifted me straight up, and dropped me painfully hard on the top corner strut, nearly castrating me. A half-inch over and the match would have ended right then and there!
Davey climbed up to the top corner and, before he had time to think about it, we did a standing vertical suplex off the top, crashing to the mat below. This was considered the most high-risk, breathtaking move in the business at that time.
As Davey draped an arm over me for the one . . . two . . . I kicked out again at the last possible second. The crowd was stunned, but they’d only seen the appetizers; the best was yet to come!
After a double clothesline, both Davey and I lay writhing in a heap as Joey started a ten-count. If the fans only knew that I had come up with this move one night at about three in the morning. I had woken Julie up and somehow managed to talk her into lying on the floor next to the bed to see whether it would work. Now I entwined my leg through Davey’s, and before anybody quite knew what I was up to I twisted him over into my sharpshooter with no escape . . . right in the middle of the ring!
“Nobody had ever escaped the sharpshooter before!”
The crowd went nuts as I fought with all my strength to stop Davey from crawling to the ropes, dragging me behind him. When he reached them, there was an explosion of relief. Nobody had ever escaped the sharpshooter before! As I dragged myself to my feet, exhausted, I could see my invisible banana peel lying in the middle of the ring. Joey kept muttering, “Unbelievable!”
The time had come to break the hearts of all my fans and forever change my destiny. “Let’s go home!” I called as I slammed one last lifter into Davey’s chest, rocking him hard enough to send sweat flying into the air. I squeezed his wrist as the cue to reverse me into the ropes, and I dove over him for a sunset flip, the simplest move in wrestling. But instead of falling backward, we did the old Leo Burke finish: Davey fell forward, hooking my legs with his arms, collapsing on top of me and pinning me beautifully. One . . . two . . . three! We did it! I did it!
There was a deafening roar as “Rule Britannia” played at the culmination of SummerSlam 1992 and Joey gave Davey the IC belt. After thirty- seven grueling minutes, I lay on the mat feigning being heartbroken, but in fact, I was elated. I was also exhausted and in considerable pain, but I knew that the handshake at the end would top it all off, the last detail in this drama.
I made out that I was too pissed off to shake Davey’s hand. I’d planned all of this with Davey, but it became painfully obvious to me that he’d forgotten all about it. I desperately tried to make eye contact, but he was oblivious as Diana climbed into the ring crying, I can only assume for real. I’m thinking, C’mon, Davey, look at me and we’ll make them all cry, but Davey never caught on. Instead, he was trying to milk the crowd. I was thinking, The drama is with me, not them, for fuck’s sake please look at me, Davey! After too many attempts I gave up and just walked over and shook his hand. He’d completely missed one of the tiny moments that can make it all more real. But what could I do? The torch had been passed.
Everything hurt, even my fingers were sore.
When I got back to the dressing room most of the boys had already left on the bus, but the ones who’d seen the match seemed blown away. I understood the art of losing and the power of sympathy. I knew that in the weeks to come, it would be me who was over; over more than Warrior, Savage, Flair, even Davey. All of them had been excellently executed!
I’ve always believed this was my greatest match, especially because I’d carried Davey all the way through it without anyone being the wiser. My dad would tell me later that it’s one thing to have a great match, but it’s another thing to have a great match in front of eighty thousand people.”
And what a special night SummerSlam 1992 was for the fans, as well.
The quotes from this story come from Bret Hart’s highly-recommended autobiography, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling.
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