SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Bret Hart: “I Came to the Hall of Fame With a Real Purpose to Honor My Friend”
Last week marked the 62nd birthday of “The Hitman” Bret Hart.
The WWE legend has not made many on-screen appearances thus far in 2019, but the two he has made certainly stood out.
Hart unveiled All Elite Wrestling’s new world title during the company’s inaugural “Double or Nothing” pay-per-view in May, transferring a certain authenticity to the belt in a way few others ever could. During his Hall of Fame acceptance in April, he delivered the most memorable speech so far this year on WWE programming.
Hart and the late Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as members of the legendary Hart Foundation tag team. The speech was interrupted when a person from the audience attacked and tackled Hart. Fortunately for the memory of “The Anvil,” Hart was able to, yet again, capture the attention of the audience and redirect the speech to the memory of Neidhart.
“I came to the Hall of Fame with a real purpose to honor my friend and speak on his behalf about our accomplishments together, and I was not going to let someone ruin that moment,” Hart told Sports Illustrated. “As soon as that disruption happened, my immediate focus was on finishing my speech and saying what I had to say. I’m glad that did not ruin the moment for Jim.”
Neidhart passed away last August at the age of 63, but his spirit lives on within Hart.
“I loved Jim,” said Hart. “He was a team guy, and he liked the different styles that we had, with him being more of a power guy and me as the technical guy. We had a magical relationship, together for six years straight. I laughed so hard every day with Jim. When I look back on my career, I have to thank Jim for all the happy days we had.”
Hart and Neidhart teamed together for two runs together as world tag team champions, with the second title victory standing as one of the most unforgettable memories in SummerSlam history when the Hart Foundation defeated Demolition in a two-out-of-three falls match in the summer of 1990.
The depth of WWE’s tag team division in the late 1980s was so remarkable that the Hart Foundation had only a lone reign as champs throughout the entire decade. They won the titles as heels in 1987, defeating the beloved British Bulldogs with the help of crooked referee “Dangerous” Danny Davis. Hart and Neidhart dropped the belts to the historically underrated Strike Force, laying the foundation for a legendary run together.
“It was a different life in the ’80s as a heel,” said Hart. “In certain places, like when we went to the Cow Palace in San Francisco or Madison Square Garden, the Boston Garden, the Meadowlands or the Nassau Coliseum, those were serious wrestling fans and they took their wrestling very seriously.”
Even the world’s most beloved wrestler only spends a finite amount of time performing in the ring. The rest of the schedule is filled with trips to the airport, endless car rentals, and time away from loved ones. But Hart had a secret weapon in brother-in-law Neidhart, who ensured that the pair would enjoy their time together—whether they remembered it or not.
“I still remember when Jim had a longer night out than me and he peed all over his suitcase,” said Hart, touching on a more lighthearted memory. “Jim got mad at me for even saying that he did that. I had to apologize to him until he opened up his suitcase and it all ran out the corner.”
Deprived of a chance to spend his golden years reminiscing the glory days, Neidhart’s memory will beat on through the heartbeat of his devoted tag team partner.
“I can still picture us fighting through the penalty box of the Boston Garden and having fans rain fists on us,” said Hart. “It was an adrenaline rush, and at times it was daunting, but I loved it, most of all being there next to Jim.”
Kota Ibushi Looking Forward to Meeting Jon Moxley in New Japan
Kota Ibushi reached the finals of the G1 Climax in 2018, but his path to glory was already interrupted in the 2019 edition of the G1 with a loss this past Saturday in his opening round matchup against newly returned KENTA.
Despite the defeat, Ibushi’s goal remains unchanged: win the G1, which would be even sweeter if he defeats Jon Moxley in the final.
“I have never had a match against him, so I do want to have such an opportunity,” said Ibushi, speaking through a translator. “The first time that I have that chance is in the G1 fighting at the final.”
In order to get to the August 12 finale, which will take place in Tokyo at the famed Nippon Budokan, Ibushi knows he will have to overcome a loaded A-block, which includes IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada.
“Okada is one of the best wrestlers of the world,” said Ibushi. “I fought twice with him and both times I’ve lost, so that is going to be the most critical match for me. Okada-san is the most difficult wrestler to tackle with.”
Ibushi captured the B-block last summer after a phenomenal win in the final weekend over best friend and Golden Lover teammate Kenny Omega. Ibushi had Omega in his corner for the finale, but still came up short against Hiroshi Tanahasi.
“Last year was my first time to reach the final match,” reflected Ibushi. “And there was much to learn from the atmosphere that I experienced. When Shibata accompanied Tanahashi, the entire venue was filled with the air of ‘NJPW vs Outsider,’ and that overwhelmed me. It was my first experience to be an ‘Outsider,’ but I think that was a good experience for me.”
Ibushi lost the IWGP Intercontinental title—which he had won this past April at Madison Square Garden—to Tetsuya Naito this past June in Osaka. Naito inflicted a tremendous amount of pain onto Ibushi, which fits the narrative of the story they are telling, but the German suplex Ibushi took on the side of the ring could have had a tragic outcome.
Naito is in the A-block, meaning that the only time Ibushi could see him again is the finals of the G1.
“We are of the same age and I respect him,” said Ibushi. “But if it is under the same condition, for the Intercontinental belt, I do not want the rematch. But if the condition is to become a little more special—if the next match is going to be for more than that, for the G1, I will do the rematch.”
If Ibushi can win the G1, he will headline January’s Wrestle Kingdom and receive a shot at the IWGP heavyweight championship, which is a title that has, thus far, eluded him.
“I do not think of Wrestle Kingdom as the goal,” said Ibushi. “I think of it as a start.”
“Retrosexual” Anthony Greene Coming to WWE Network for EVOLVE’s 10-Year Anniversary Show
While some of the wrestling world is already familiar with Anthony Greene, those who have not been introduced should get to know “The Retrosexual.”
An important piece of the fabric of the New England indie scene, Greene is ecstatic to bring his talents to EVOLVE.
“I’m a new-school wrestler with an old-school feel,” said Greene. “I’m a mix of character and comedy, but I can also strike, wrestle, and fly. You’ll see something totally different with ‘The Retrosexual.’”
The 25-year-old Greene is one of the most unique wrestling characters on the independents today. Obsessed with 1980s culture and clothing, “The Retrosexual” is doing his best to keep Zubaz alive in pro wrestling.
“It’s my own variation of how a metrosexual cares about how they look, and I love looking like I’m from the ‘80s,” said Greene. “The wind breakers, the pop culture, I love all of it. It started when Donovan Dijak basically told me I wasn’t as jacked as Brian Cage or as athletic as AR Fox, and he asked what made me different than those guys. I told him I was the ‘Retrosexual.’ He immediately wanted to know more.”
Greene has had his share of big matches on the indies, but nothing of the magnitude of what he has in store this weekend.
Friday night will be spent in scenic Portland, Maine at Limitless Wrestling’s “Vacationland Cup” show, where Greene tests himself in a triple threat match against All Elite Wrestling star Shawn Spears (who made headlines two weeks ago at Fyter Fest when he turned on Cody Rhodes with a vicious, unprotected chair shot to the head) and ECW legend Tommy Dreamer.
Greene then makes his WWE Network debut on Saturday at the EVOLVE 10-year anniversary show, where he will cross paths with fellow emerging star Josh Briggs in a “Future is Now Showcase.”
“Josh Briggs is my best friend in and out of wrestling,” said Greene. “We train together, travel together, and I’m a groomsman in his wedding. We like to think we know everything about each other, but what he doesn’t know is how much I need this win. He’s 6'6", 240 pounds, and a former division one athlete in college football.
“Josh Briggs was built for this. But I was born for this. It’s all I’ve ever loved and ever wanted. He will not take this moment away from me.”
Another part of Saturday’s show that is meaningful to Greene is the connection to Gabe Sapolsky, who is the driving force behind EVOLVE. As the Vice President of Talent Relations and Creative for WWN, EVOLVE’s parent company, Sapolsky engineered the acquisition of the charismatic Greene, a move that both parties hope will yield success.
Sapolsky got his start in pro wrestling while attending college in Philadelphia, reporting to Paul Heyman for his industry-changing, cutting-edge Extreme Championship Wrestling. And Saturday’s EVOLVE anniversary show takes place in Philadelphia at the old ECW Arena.
“I’m wrestling at the ECW arena on the WWE Network,” said Greene. “It’s a dream come true. And I’m working for and learning from Gabe, who has 25 years worth of experience in this industry.”
A seven-year veteran, Greene is a product of the New England Wrestling Academy, as well as a staple with Chaotic Wrestling, Beyond, CZW, and even Alpha-1 Canada. He is a talent that continues to grow, and his partnership in EVOLVE with Brandi Lauren has helped showcase his versatility and charisma.
“Brandi and me both signed on the same day, debuted on the same weekend, and we both have the same goals,” said Greene. “We have each other’s backs and do whatever we can to further our careers in EVOLVE in hopes to rise to the top of the charts and sign that NXT contract.”
Life won’t immediately change for Greene after Saturday’s show in Philly. He’ll drive to Boston for a Sunday night show in Melrose, Massachusetts, wrapping up his weekend at EVOLVE 132.
“I’m going to keep my head down and keep doing what I do,” said Greene. “I’m in the gym every day and continue to work on my wrestling. Every day, I’m going to keep bringing something completely unique to pro wrestling.”
The (Online) Week in Wrestling
• Kevin Owens’ opening promo on SmackDown Live breathed an air of unpredictability into last night’s show .
• WWE’s Extreme Rules takes place this Sunday, and that show gives us AJ Styles-Ricochet and The Undertaker, as well as… more Otis.
• Chris Jericho posted an incredibly powerful tribute to the late Paco Alonso, who was the owner of CMLL in Mexico.
• For those fascinated by Brock Lesnar—and I include myself in that category—the former NCAA champion returned to Minnesota to work with the Golden Gophers wrestling team.
• Drake Maverick’s ability to incorporate his wedding and honeymoon into his two runs as 24/7 champion has been incredibly fun to watch, and his wife—former 2017 Mae Young Classic competitor Renee Michelle—has also played a big role in his success.
• Joey Janela and Enzo Amore had a little spat at a concert in New Jersey.
• ESPN’s Marc Raimondi did a brilliant job capturing the anticipation as Jon Moxley approaches his debut in the G1 Climax, which takes place on July 13 in Tokyo against Taichi.
• Happy 23rd anniversary to the New World Order.
• Pat yourself on the back if you’re celebrating the anniversary of this Barry Horowitz victory.
• I’ve watched this more times than I care to admit.
• Impact did a phenomenal job with Slammiversary on Sunday. There were many highlights, but few brighter than the work of Tessa Blanchard.
A Q&A with Dustin Rhodes will post this Friday on SI.com.
Rhodes goes in-depth on his upcoming tag match with Cody Rhodes against the Young Bucks, touches on what still resonates from his Double or Nothing match, shares memories of his father, and more.
Conrad Thompson previews this week’s “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard”
A new episode of “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” drops this Friday, as Conrad Thompson and Prichard examine Fully Loaded ’99.
The main event was a “First Blood” match for the world title between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Undertaker. The night also served as a significant point in the career of Triple H, who defeated The Rock to become the new number one contender for the belt.
“We’re on a collision course for Triple H to become world champion,” said Thompson. “His feud with The Rock no longer has to do with the Intercontinental title and is now centered around the world title. Triple H doesn’t get there quite as fast as The Rock, but he gets there.
“And we’ll talk about the interview from Sunday Night Heat where Hunter first referred to himself as ‘The Game.’ He talked about how he’d been held back, about the ‘Curtain Call,’ how King of the Ring in ’96 was supposed to be him, and people talk about how this was his ‘Austin 3:16’ moment. There is a lot to cover as we cover Hunter’s first title win.”
Thompson will also be on the road this weekend, perform live “Grilling JR” shows with Jim Ross. The pair will do a show in Jacksonville, Florida on Friday, one night before AEW’s Fight for the Fallen, and then they will reunite on Sunday in Philadelphia for a show before WWE’s Extreme Rules.
“Jim is no longer under contract to WWE and he’s finally able to talk about his time there,” said Thompson. “There is no more Stamford filter for JR.
“I think he’ll be in his element, and it will also be interesting to see who stops by, especially in Jacksonville. And Philadelphia is a stomping ground for professional wrestling, so you never know who will stop by.”
Tweet of the Week
This didn’t go as planned.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.