SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Bret Hart: “King of the Ring Was One of My Greatest Nights”
WWE will crown a new King of the Ring next Monday on Raw, and the winner of Baron Corbin-Chad Gable is set to join a distinguished list of stars to wear the crown in wrestling.
One of the most memorable King of the Ring performances took place in 1993 when Bret “The Hitman” Hart won the tournament.
“King of the Ring was one of my greatest nights,” said Hart. “I prided myself on working different styles with different guys, and I appreciated that every single one of my matches that night was different.”
Hart wrestled three matches that night en route to being crowned king, facing Razor Ramon in the quarterfinals, Mr. Perfect in the semifinals, and then Bam Bam Bigelow in the finale.
“There’s always a lot of pressure on you on a big pay-per-view, especially a pay-per-view like that since it was the first one,” said Hart. “But I was up for the challenge.”
Hart shared that a key component of his success was working with three highly skilled performers, all of whom he shared chemistry with in the ring.
“I knew the guys I was working with and I looked forward to all the matches I had that night,” said Hart. “Bam Bam was probably the best big man in the business. When I think of Curt Hennig, I think of Mad Magazine with the ‘I Spy’ that had the white spy and the black spy that were constantly at odds with each other. Me and Curt were a lot like that. We had great chemistry together and I don’t think we ever had a bad match. If I had to pick one guy to wrestle one more time, just for my own enjoyment, it would be Curt Hennig. As for Scott Hall, that was the best match we ever had together.
“It was all different stuff, too. The match with Bam Bam was so different from the match with Curt, and the match with Curt was different from the match with Razor. That’s what I remember the most about that night.”
Hart was also highlighted in the new WWE 2K20 project, even appearing in a recent commercial celebrating “The Man” Becky Lynch, who is on the game’s cover alongside Roman Reigns.
Hart shared that he was immensely impressed by the way Lynch main-evented WrestleMania 35 in April.
“Becky’s been around the business long enough to know she has to look at everything as a challenge,” said Hart, who closed out WrestleMania X and XII. “She’s already broken some major barriers, and now she gets to live out her dreams every day, which is magical. She’s up for any challenge in any match, and she’s really focused, really skilled, and hard-working.
“Women are stepping into new challenges all over the world, and that includes pro wrestling. There’s no limitations anymore, and that’s a great thing. I think she can overcome anything that anyone throws at her.”
Now a grandfather of four and busy raising funds for the Terry Fox Foundation, Hart is also excited to be part of the legendary ensemble highlighted in WWE 2K20.
“I love the idea of someone playing the game and taking someone like Daniel Bryan to wrestle Bret Hart,” said Hart. “That never happened in real life, so it’s fun to imagine.”
Another star on the current WWE roster that Hart respects is Drew McIntyre. Hart always took pride in bringing out the best in his heavyweight opponents, whether it was The Undertaker, Yokozuna, or even Andre The Giant earlier in his career. Hart sees only greatness in McIntyre’s future.
“I always respected big guys when I wrestled them, respected their size and their ability, and tried to bring out the best of them,” said Hart. “A big guy I’ve been a big fan of for a long time is Drew McIntyre and his work. I’m glad that he had a rebound and he’s doing really well.”
McIntyre first signed with WWE when he was 21, but that run flamed out with very little fanfare. Now 34, he has made the most of his second act with the company, showing each week he is talented enough to carry the company as a babyface or a heel.
Similarly, Hart didn’t win his first world title in the WWE until he was 35 years old.
“It was a long climb to the top for me, that’s for sure,” said Hart. “Sometimes you need to retreat, circle the wagons, and come back with a new plan. I think that’s what happened with Drew. But he’s so polished now and he’s finally getting the chance he deserves.”
Hart last appeared on WWE programming during a brief but memorable moment this past August at SummerSlam when he shared words of encouragement with Seth Rollins before his main event against Brock Lesnar. The crowd in Toronto immediately responded with cheers for “The Hitman,” and Hart remains eternally grateful for the support that wrestling fans have bestowed upon him over the course of a career that has spanned four decades.
“I’m always glad to be remembered,” said Hart. “It’s important for me to be involved as much as possible, I’m very grateful for every fan I’ve ever had.”
Alexa Bliss on Her Daily Cup of Coffee
The travel schedule in the WWE is not for the faint of heart.
A look at the itinerary for Alexa Bliss, who currently holds the Women’s Tag Team Championships with Nikki Cross, shows that her schedule over the past week included stops in Baltimore for Raw and weekend house shows in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada and Syracuse. The constant travel is grueling, so Bliss looks forward to her daily cup of coffee.
“Starbucks is my favorite,” said Bliss. “I wasn’t a fan at first, but I’ve acquired a taste for it. It’s so strong that I’m seriously hooked to it.”
Bliss, who is 28-year-old Lexi Kaufman, admitted that her love for Starbucks is partially connected to its excessive amount of locations in airports and cities both big and small.
“There is usually one on every corner on every street in every city of the country,” said Bliss. “It tastes so good, but I love that it’s so attainable.”
“The Librarian” Peter Avalon Preparing for Championship Wrestling from Arizona Farewell
Peter Avalon is ready to say goodbye to Championship Wrestling from Arizona, but not before he tends to some unfinished business within the United Wrestling Network.
Avalon wrestles Nick Aldis for the NWA world heavyweight title this Saturday at AZ150, the promotion’s biggest show to date. His fingerprints are all over the promotion and, since 2016, has helped establish Arizona as a viable wrestling territory, bringing in stars from other companies and helping to develop homegrown talent.
Avalon, who is 30-year-old Peter Hernandez, is known on a much wider scale in All Elite Wrestling as The Librarian. Yes, the same Librarian that Chris Jericho taunted during his viral post-All Out championship celebration, warning him not to shush the new World Champion.
“I wouldn’t dare shush Jericho,” said Avalon. “I do plan on taking his title, but shhhh—don’t tell him.”
Avalon is an integral part of the United Wrestling Network, a cooperative group of pro wrestling companies founded by standout promoter David Marquez.
“Without David Marquez, there would be no Librarian,” said Avalon. “There would be no producer Peter Avalon and no professional Peter Avalon. Early on, he saw something in me. Without David and his vision, I would not have the success I have in professional wrestling.”
Mick Greenwood, United’s Director of Wrestling Operations, has worked directly with Avalon to establish the territory in Arizona.
Their show is viewed as an exemplar in the United Wrestling Network in terms of how to showcase talent and produce television, and this Saturday’s show, which will air next Tuesday on FITE TV, is a culmination of all their efforts.
“Peter is the best mind I know at telling a story inside a match and knowing how that translates inside television,” said Greenwood. “He is able to identify specific moments in specific matches that that make the story. Peter’s really helped elevate what we do.”
Avalon’s background in television production extends his skill set, which makes him even more valuable for AEW. And his departure is significant for CWFAZ, but the promotion takes pride in sending its stars to the big leagues in WWE and AEW, which is exactly where he is headed.
Before he leaves, Avalon plans to take a parting gift along with him.
“The plan is for me to win on Saturday and take Nick Aldis’ NWA title to AEW,” said Avalon. “Sorry NWA, I know you’re going to have television, but your title isn’t going to be there—it’s going to be with me.”
The (Online) Week in Wrestling
• The main event on SmackDown Live ended with the right man winning in Chad Gable, but the focus was too centered on Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon.
• On the bright side, this week’s Raw and SmackDown finished with Cedric Alexander and Gable, respectively, as the two main event winners, which is a great step toward building future stars.
• This was a really well-done moment on Raw, but my only gripe is that AJ Styles didn’t exact revenge upon Steve Austin later that night—even with something as rudimentary as Austin getting laid out in the back by Styles, Gallows, and Anderson.
• There is no better flag bearer for AEW than Chris Jericho.
• Changes are coming to the WWE Network, which will include a new tier system with options that include free, regular, and premium.
• Enes Kanter added another championship to the rich history of the Boston Celtics, as well as showed off the value and versatility of the 24/7 title.
• Following Ric’s Flair video on TMZ about trademarking “The Man” and potentially receiving royalties from WWE, here is an interesting take from our friends at Kayfabe News.
• Billy Corgan spoke with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his plans for the NWA, stating that he plans to bring back “the chaos and anarchy into the wrestling product.”
• Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport show, a highlight of this past year’s WrestleMania weekend, returns this Saturday.
• Anthem Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of Impact Wrestling, has purchased a majority interest in AXS TV—which is fantastic news because Impact will have a new television home, but bad news for all the hard-working AXS staff getting laid off after the sale.
• Moose should be a major benefactor to Impact’s return to television.
• Lucha libre comes to Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater this Sunday, which includes the in-ring return of former UFC Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.
Tweet of the Week
No stranger to WWE programming, Jon Stewart’s greatest contribution to the country is his unwavering support of 9/11 first responders.