Bret “The Hitman” Hart
The best there is the best there was and the best there ever will be! I don’t know if Bret really knew what he was saying when he used that phrase in his interviews, but admittedly, more than 10 years after his retirement as an active wrestler, he is still considered the best Canadian wrestler of all time. Bret Hart was lucky enough to reach full maturity at the time the WWF was making a 180 from the point of view of his image. While the ‘ 80s saw the Hogan, Warrior, Savage and company, following the steroid scandal, Vince McMahon now wanted to showcase smaller wrestlers. It was then that Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were raised to the finalists and this was undoubtedly one of McMahon’s good decisions. Bret was champion 5 times of what is now WWE, but he never kept the title for long. He was, however, one of the best at attracting crowds during the 1990s, a time when the struggle in general was raging. He also scored a 5-Star game (against Steve Austin), but never won the wrestler of the Year title, as the Japanese wrestlers were in a class of their own in the mid-90s. Despite all of these accomplishments, what we will remember about Bret is his match against Michaels at the Survivor Series in Montreal, in what was called ” the Montreal Screwjob “. This match had a major influence on the turn of events. If his departure to WCW was to strengthen the latter in his war with the WWF, the “screwjob” allowed Vince McMahon to become a character, to have a rivalry with Austin and thus to be at the heart of the Attitude that would allow McMahon to buy his competition a few years later. Bret vs Shawn is undoubtedly the second most important match in the history of wrestling, after Hulk vs André at Wrestlemania III. Dubbed “the Excellence of Execution”, Bret was an excellent technical wrestler, having wrestled in his early days in Japan against legends such as Tiger Mask. He attracted several large crowds over the course of his career, the largest being that of Wembley Stadium in a great game against his brother-in-law, Davey Boy Smith. Right out of the number one wrestling family in Canada, Bret was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame. He opened the door to several wrestlers, who like him, did not enjoy a very imposing physique. The Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Rey Misterio and company might not have been champions if A Shawn Michaels or a Bret Hart had not been successful before them. It is so important and so influential that Bret Hart was throughout his career.
Considered the best Canadian athlete in history, or at least nicknamed him, Kiniski became a professional wrestler after a shortened football career and after performing as an amateur wrestler. He won the NWA title in 1966 and obtained one of the longest reigns while he held the title for three years. But what is exceptional about Kiniski is when we look at the list of opponents he had. From Pat O’Connor to Ric Flair, including Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers, Verne Gagne, Édouard Carpentier, Giant Baba, Terry Funk, Jumbo Tsuruta, he fought all or most of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. If his NWA title is what the world remembers most about “Big Thunder”, it should not be forgotten that he was also AWA champion five years ago. His great physical strength, coupled with ease in interviewing, allowed him to be one of the most drawn wrestlers not only to the Canadiens but throughout history. He has played in finals everywhere he wrestled, whether in St. Louis, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo or Montreal. Especially in Japan, he was one of the foreigners whom the Japanese loved to see fight, so much so that in the early 2000s he still toured there, even though he was no longer struggling. At 6 ‘ 5 ” and 275 books, he was one of the most prominent athletes in Canada, all sports combined. Considered by many to be one of the best wrestlers of all time, there are even those who think he is the best wrestler to have ever seen the light of day in Canada. One thing is for sure; he had the looks and skills on the microphone that today’s wrestling demands and could very well have made a good figure in professional wrestling if he had been born 30 years later. He is, of course, a member of the Hall of Fame.
No matter where you are, in Canada or the United States, if you mention Killer Kowalski’s name, someone will tell you that he ripped an ear off Yukon Eric! This fight, which arrived at the Montreal Forum on October 15, 1952, has toured the globe and is one of the best-known and Best-told stories in the world of professional wrestling. It was after this fight that Tarzan Kowalski was renamed “Killer”. Even if in popular culture this match resonates in everyone’s memory, it is far from the fact of weapons of his career. Killer Kowalski was one of the most successful wrestlers in the history of wrestling and was second only to big names such as Ric Flair, Lou Thesz, Jim Londos, Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino, Strangler Lewis, Buddy Rogers, and others. He was involved in the North American game four times, attracting the most fans in a given year, in 1953, 1957, 1969 and 1973. In Quebec, one of the territories where he had the most success, the number increased to 6, third of all time for the province behind Hogan and Robert. He has won the Montreal Athletic Commission title on 13 occasions, only to be overtaken once again by Yvon Robert.
Also, after his regular wrestling career ended, he coached several wrestlers, the most famous being Triple H, Perry Saturn, Kazarian, and Chyna. Like Gene Kiniski, his physique (6′ 7″, 280) would have earned him a place in any organization, no matter what the time. Even after becoming a vegetarian, he remained a formidable wrestler. Together with Mad Dog Vachon, he holds the record for the biggest crowd in the history of wrestling in Montreal, while 29,127 fans had come on July 14, 1973, to watch them fight in the finals at Jarry Park. His exploits made him an easy and obvious choice for The Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame.