“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.” – Bret Hart on his match against The British Bulldog at SummerSlam 1992. (Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling)
You’re probably well aware about SummerSlam 1992 and the historic attendance record it set, as 80,000+ fans packed the Wembley Stadium to watch the biggest party of the summer. Believe it or not, the tickets for the event managed to sell out in a whopping 6 hours.
It’s believed that prior to WrestleMania 32, this was genuinely the largest attendance in WWE history as the WrestleMania 3 figures were believed to be highly inflated. Though the marquee main event should have been The Ultimate Warrior vs ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, the fact that it was located in the United Kingdom meant that it was the perfect opportunity for them to market The British Bulldog, who was incidentally challenging for the Intercontinental Championship.
The original idea floated around was for Bret Hart to drop the title to Shawn Michaels, but Hart realized that there was an opportunity. He could drop it to Bulldog in London for the huge pop and he could later drop it to Michaels. Vince McMahon seemed to like this idea and went with it.
Bret Hart was elated about the idea of facing Davey Boy Smith at the event, so much so that he was thinking about it three months in advance, sitting and thinking how he’d go about it. Smith, on the other hand, wasn’t so excited. He was on a suspension due to testing positive for steroids and he seemed down in the dumps when Hart spoke to him.
As SummerSlam had approached, Hart’s attempts to get to Smith had failed, with his wife Diana constantly stating that he was “outside with Jim [Neidhart]“. When he did track Neidhart down, he was in for a shock.
“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.”
Bret Hart was extremely disappointed in Davey Boy Smith while also worrying about the main event. Vince McMahon had asked him if he was sure that they should go on last and Hart assured him that there won’t be anybody able to top them.
He did finally meet Smith in London and The British Bulldog was unable to look him in the eye and confessed that he had been smoking crack with Neidhart for weeks. Despite this, Hart told him to calm down and sat with him the next morning to go over their match, taking the extra precaution of having Smith recite the plan for their match as well so that it would be etched in his memory.
The day had come and Bret Hart entered last, stating how over Davey Boy Smith was at Wembley. Hart mentioned that the ramp was so long that he had to hear his entire theme song twice. But the problem wasn’t there. The problem had risen a few minutes into the match when Davey Boy Smith was running out of breath, telling Hart panicking that he had forgotten everything they discussed.
This was a career-defining test for Bret Hart, who told him calmly that he would carry him through the match. This is something far easier said and done. Hart also had to make sure that he instructed Smith in a way where he could have his bursts of energy to get the crowd pumped while not exhausting himself.
Hart himself had to make sure that he wasn’t too hated by the crowd (he was actually a babyface at the time, but naturally, Smith was far more popular in the UK). Hart could only carry him upto a point and when the time came, Smith began a comeback of his own. This was well into the match and things had gotten heated. They even had a “daredevil” spot at the time when Smith hit a vertical suplex from the top turnbuckle onto the mat.
Believe it or not, the finish was known by none but Hart and Smith. Even Vince McMahon didn’t ask them what the finish would be, simply stating “surprise me”. It just goes to show the faith he had in Hart. Ultimately, Smith would win the match when locking Hart’s legs against his body, receiving a bone-chilling pop from 80,000 rabid fans.
Smith would live to fight another day and thanks to Hart, the main event of SummerSlam was saved. The very fact that he was able to carry a match of that magnitude made it special and only proves why Hart was a generational talent.