Steve Rivers is full of stories, you guys.
I mean, that’s bound to happen over a nearly thirty-year career in professional wrestling, but when your career kicks off with an introduction to the Hart family and wrestling your first match for the WWF, you’re certainly apt to have more stories than your average indie wrestler.
One of the stories I had to ask him about as part of our recent chat was his participation in a famous show in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in which Bret Hart won his first WWF World Heavyweight Championship.
“A bunch of us local guys were booked on the shows for Regina and Saskatoon, for TV tapings,” began the Albertan icon. “I remember we were at the taping in Saskatoon, and we were chatting with Davey Boy [Smith]. Ric Flair and Bret were off in a corner kind of talking, and Flair we saw say to Bret, he’s like ‘don’t worry, don’t worry about nothing. It’s going to be great tonight.’ So, we’re talking to Davey, and we’re like ‘what’s that all about?’ He said ‘hey, they’re putting the belt on Bret tonight,’ and we’re like ‘oh! Wow! Okay!'”
“We couldn’t believe it, because the word was Ultimate Warrior was supposed to get a title [run],” recalled Rivers. “Ric Flair was supposed to drop the belt to the Ultimate Warrior. That was the original plans, everybody knew it. So, for them to go with Bret just like that – obviously, Warrior had a falling out, and plans change, so they decided to go with Bret. Once we heard that, we all thought that was pretty cool. We sat out there when the match came and watched him win his first world title in Saskatoon.”
“If you go onto my Instagram page, there’s a picture of me and Ric Flair somewhere on there. That picture was taken right after Ric Flair dropped the title to Bret Hart in the locker room.”
Of course, seeing a hometown hero win a world championship had to mean a little bit extra, right?
“Well, with that, actually, we were just really shocked,” Rivers replied. “We just never – Bret Hart’s name was never in that world title picture at all at that time. For him to be bumped up at that level, for sure, absolutely. It made us all feel [like] ‘geez, this could happen to anybody. It could!’ Anybody could get their chance. Back probably five years prior to that, people would have laughed if you would had said Bret Hart was going to be the world’s champion one day. It was a big guy era. They wanted the Hulk Hogan’s, the 300-pound guys, you know, the Ultimate Warriors. Bret was never even on the radar for a world title run before that. It was very encouraging for everybody to know that you know what, hey man, we could get a chance at this.”
“That sounds so foreign,” I replied. “It is a lot of the same sort of critiques and critiscisms you hear of professional wrestling now in well, [he’s] not the Hulk Hogan type, the big, bulky dude, but to hear that Bret Hart wasn’t in that conversation is such cognitave dissonance.
“Yeah, he’s a smaller guy,” I laughed, “but he’s Bret f**king Hart!”
“I think Bret really showed his worth, winning the Intercontinental titles and having those great matches with Curt Hennig and his battles with Shawn Michaels,” Rivers responded in conclusion. “He really showed that yeah, [WWF] could run with this guy. He’s not going to let [WWF] down work-wise.”
For more from Steve Rivers’ interview with Spencer Love, click here.
Please credit Spencer Love/Love Wrestling with any transcriptions used.