EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, June 2, 2000
We need a new Hart Foundation
Is it time for another go in the Canada versus USA war?
I remember when The Hart Foundation was ruling the WWF. I don't mean the many-time tag team champs Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, I mean the full-blown stable consisting of Hart, brother Owen Hart, brothers-in-law Neidhart and British Bulldog, and Brian Pillman. At times, this group even included the 'international' tag team of Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon.
Other times, it held every single title in the Federation -- the world's title around Bret's waist, and the Intercontinental and European titles on respective tag champs Owen and the Bulldog. Pillman was sort of on the outside, doing his 'loose cannon' thing, and Neidhart was the enforcer. Okay Neidhart was just sort of there, not doing much.
These guys dominated every pay-per-view, every Monday Night RAW, and if it had existed then, I'm sure they would have been troublesome on Smackdown!, too. In fact, the only thing that could seemingly stop them was the rising hatred by fans for Degeneration X, who were poised to up-stage the Harts when Bret cut them off and just left the Federation. Bulldog and Neidhart followed, and that was pretty much the end of the Hart Foundation.
Bret is resting on his laurels, attacking the 'sport' that made him what he is today at every opportunity, Owen and Brian are dead (God rest their souls), Neidhart is doing scouting or something for the WWF, and the British Bulldog is 'wrestling', sort of. Sometimes.
I think it may be time to put our memories of this fine group to rest, and resurrect, from its ashes, a new stable.
I don't care what we call it. Just feature something Canadian in the title.
Let's look at the none too shabby group of Canadians we have on the WWF talent list: Chris Jericho from Winnipeg; Chris Benoit from Edmonton; Val Venis, Test, Trish Stratus, Edge, and Christian from Ontario.
Now let's set up this little imaginary stable of ours.
The easiest shoes to fill will be Owen and the Bulldog's -- we have a pair of recent tag team champions with similar attitude in Edge and Christian. They don't have the 'David plus Goliath teaming up' feel of Owen and Davey Boy Smith, but they do have the same cocky heel attitude that suited the previous Canadian champs so darn well.
Replacing Bret's role as leader of the stable and world title contender may be the toughest of all the decisions, because there are two main candidates here: Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. I like to think that either of these two men can and will -- at least eventually -- be full world title holders or at least contenders, but for the sake of argument, I have to give the nod here to Y2J. Jericho is the ideal and likely choice, if for no other reason than that he's already had his hands on WWF gold and is often featured very heavily in the ads for pay-per-views and such. Well, if you disagree with me on this particular, that's cool.
Chris Benoit, thusly, makes an ideal choice for Intercontinental title holder. You know, since he's actually already holding that title. Unlike Jericho, who'd never be dominant in the hunt for the world title with much bigger and stiffer competition around and about, Chris Benoit could dominate this title's scene like no other. Give him an enforcer image, make him the feared member of the group, maybe to the point where other members have to calm him down.
I admit, I would crack up if it were left to Jericho to calm down an irate Benoit.
Everything else falls into place here, as Val Venis is a good fit for the European title and Test makes at least a suitably big contender for the hardcore title, which is a joke anyway. And anyone can hold the women's title, right? Well, Trish Stratus qualifies as 'anyone'. Just for the novelty of doing the old holding-every-title Hart Foundation gimmick, lop the never-taken-seriously light-heavyweight title on Christian or something.
Now that accounts for all the titles. Most of the roles are taken care of, too. Y2J leads the pack, but probably exerts next to no control -- like the Hart Foundation, they just wouldn't argue and be united by the whole being Canadian thing. Chris Benoit is the vicious enforcer, using his killer finisher on everything in site. Edge and Christian are the cocky tag team champs who dispense of all comers undeservedly. Test is the 'other enforcer', out-hardcoring even the hardest of the hardcore, Crash Holly. And Val Venis will do whatever it is that Val Venis apparently does, no offense to Val Venis. Trish, also, will do whatever it is she does -- mostly nothing.
Actually, I'm kidding. Val could just interfere all the time and never defend his title or something, and Trish would strut her stuff and mock American males and females alike.
I remember the Hart Foundation as having been one of the most successful Canadian-based gimmicks in the history of American wrestling. It sold out show after show in Canada when the WWF wasn't yet the red-hot entity it is today. If I'm not mistaken, no less than three pay-per-views were held in Canada during the year the Hart Foundation was on top.
Maybe you don't share my fond memories of the Hart Foundation. If you never got the chance to see them, it was really electrifying. They were heels, but not in the style of the nWo or Degeneration X -- ie, being all cool and treading the heel/face fence -- and they were more substance than style.
But who ever would oppose the Hart Foundation?
Well, first of all, these guys would have to dismount the McMahon-Helmsley regime to even get off the ground as a heel faction, and by the end of the summer, I think we may all be begging for that to happen.
Feuds will come pretty naturally since so many titles will be on the line, but there are a lot of other opportunities, too. Chris Jericho's prospective feud against The Rock could be a fantastic war of words and insults. Pro-American Kurt Angle could take the place of the Patriot -- who frequently feuded with Bret Hart when he headed the Hart Foundation -- and take on either Jericho or Benoit. Hardcore Holly could also have a monstrous feud with Benoit. I think guys like Undertaker and Kane would be pretty out of place here, and not everyone in the whole fed can feud with six guys and a valet. Triple H could just keep hunting for that world's title.
For years, strong stables have driven wrestling. The nWo, Degeneration-X, nWo Wolfpac, the Corporation, nWo Hollywood, the Corporate Ministry, nWo Silver, the McMahon-Helmsley regime. All have held up their entire federation -- some better than others. And if the repetitive names are any clue, we could use a new stable.
I know I said that the name wouldn't matter, but come on -- that's the best part!
There's no easy last name to play off of, since Chris Benoit doesn't have five sisters and the other five guys aren't all married to them, but there are lost of Canadian-esque words we could play with. Maybe 'The Canadian Corporation' or 'The Canuck-Helmsley Regime'. Or how about 'nWo Canuck'?
Okay, I guess I could use a dose of originality here. Then again, so could wrestling in general.
What would you call it? Would you make any changes to the roster?
That's what the mailbag's for. Speaking of mailbags, here it is.
Dale Halvorson, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
"Eric, Just read the chat transcript. Glad to see I'm not the only that questions whether Bret's jump to WCW was a work. From the day that HBK said Bret's lust for the title was going to be his undoing I thought I was watching a story.
Who put Austin over BIG time? From the moment he came back Bret systematically built Stone Cold as the only guy to fill his shoes.
I don't watch the new shows much at all any more but always find the SLAM! site informative.
Thanks Dale. What you describe is called 'passing the torch,' and there was a time when I think Bret Hart was bar none the most professional player in the game, a true soldier to the sport.
There are a lot of others in the sport who could learn a thing or two from Bret's former self.
Mark Borowski, from email@example.com, writes:
"Dear Mr. Benner, Have you ever heard of the saying 'Tear it down so you can build it up.' Maybe that is what Vince Russo is doing to the WCW belt. He tore it down by making it extremely easy to win, and when someone comes along and is able to hang on to the belt; that achievement becomes so much more valuable. That is a long-term goal. Give Russo the six to twelve months that he asked for to attain ratings success. Don't start building an effigy until then."
Mark, I appreciate that at least someone is taking up the defense of Vince Russo, but let's at least base our arguments on facts. At least you say 'maybe' -- it's nice to hear someone not actually putting words into Russo's mouth for once, but you're still wrong. Frankly, Russo has stated that long-term title changes are "unrealistic" on many occasions, and that he feels no one wants to see them.
I highly doubt, thus, that he's doing all this just to treat us to a long title reign. That would be kind of, er, contradictory.
Thanks for writing just the same. Same to you, Dale, and to everyone else who wrote in. Also thanks to everyone who attended my chat here yesterday, and especially those who submitted questions. You guys are the best. Take care of yourselves, and have a great week.
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.