As a well-known aficionado of rarely-seen and hard-to-find wrestling matches, TJ Wilson was as excited as anyone with last year’s discovery of the long-lost Bret Hart/Tom MaGee match that had encapsulated wrestling fans worldwide for decades. That fact was well-documented in the feature that WWE released on the match in 2019; however, Wilson shared some more memories of that match in our recent conversation, including how he had actually seen the match before.
“Oh, man, how cool was that!” he replied to me when the match was brought up. “So Harry [Smith] – people know I have a very good memory. People who know me know that I have a very good memory. Harry also has a great memory, too. I don’t know why. I don’t know why the two of us have pretty great memory. But he remembers watching that at Bret’s house before, and so he kind of remembered – he remembered the finish. And then, when I saw the match, like when they showed it to me when I did that piece on social media whatever, WWE.com [or] wherever they posted it. I kind of remember watching at Bret’s house, like [a] kind of fuzzy, foggy memory.”
As it did to many, Wilson believes that the match certainly lived up to the hype. Of course, that’s due to the yeoman’s work put in by the Excellence of Execution.
“Man, it was very cool to watch your back and kind of see like the – what I thought was most cool was that like it lived up to the legend of like this pretty good match that if you later on – and I’m not trying to knock him – but if you watch other Tom McGee matches, they don’t look anything like that Tom McGee versus Bret match that we finally got to see.”
“It holds up to the legend of like, Bret definitely did his part that night.”
Of course, long-time WWE fans will remember that Wilson, known as Tyson Kidd throughout his in-ring career, was introduced to fans as ‘the number-one protege of Bret Hart’ in his first official television appearance, and was routinely – and rightfully! – referred to as the last graduate of the Hart Dungeon. It was something I had to ask him about when we recently chatted.
“I’ve watched so many – I mean, I’ve watched a lot of his matches in real-time, and I’ve gone back and watched so many of Bret’s matches, especially the last – like I said, my travels much easier, so with this pandemic, I watched so many of his matches back. It just like, it’s unbelievable, man, his matches,” started Wilson.
“I think he’s maybe even pretty underrated, which might be kind of a weird statement to make, but I think Brett might be fairly underrated.”
After I agreed, Wilson continued.
“Oh, man, and like the little things. Even like – you know, his promos obviously got better, but even his promos like still in 92, like at least they feel real. They felt real. And, I mean, 97, I don’t know what happened. All of a sudden, Bret, like he is really untouchable. He looked phenomenal, his work was just as great as ever, and his promos were insane.”
In the hyperbolic world of wrestling, relationships are often exaggerated or, sometimes, flat-out made up. However, that’s not the case when it comes to his dynamic with the Excellence of Execution, says Wilson. When it comes to the relationship between the two men, the former Tyson Kidd considers the Hitman a mentor both personally and professionally.
“[Bret’s] a huge, huge influence,” he confirmed. “Because, you know, growing up, and just you know, the way it worked out like at that time frame, Bret’s the guy. So when he’s – like, my best friend’s uncle is the world champion. It’s a cool thing. So, I watched obviously a lot of – I’m gonna probably [be] super biased, but I watch a lot of Davey [Boy Smith] and Owen [Hart] and [Brian] Pillman and other guys like Dynamite [Kid] and guys that like had maybe had starts in Calgary or a little bit of time in Calgary, like a Liger and all these guys later on. But at that time, obviously, I’m watching the family that are in WWF at that time, but I’m really watching – like, Bret’s the, at the time where I’m really – I started coming around in like, 1990. So like, ’92, Bret’s world champion. So, it just was, I guess, a natural progression that I would maybe kind of navigate towards what he was doing.”
In 1996, Wilson wrestled his first match for the WWF at the Calgary Saddledome. It was there that Bret first saw the then-16-year-old in the ring, and according to Wilson, Hart took an immediate interest in his career.
“There was a while in like, ’96 [that] Teddy and I were going to Bret’s house like every day after school to train in this ring,” Wilson said on training with Hart. “And sometimes he’d be in there, and sometimes he wouldn’t. This is like, right before he came back to wrestle Steve Austin. And he would be there and he would – he took a real interest in us. He took a real interest in us when he saw us wrestle at the Saddledome at that – I don’t know if he’s resigned yet at that time. It’s October 5th, 1996. I don’t know if he’s resigned yet at that time, or if he’s – he ends up coming back to RAW that month. And then that’s when he sets up the Steve Austin match. But, he comes to the show. I remember, like, he loved watching us wrestle. I think it just was maybe – now that I’m 40 and I have my nephews and I brought them to my ring a month ago, I get it. I saw them like wrestling around [and] you kind of get, like, that youth and that almost invigoration.”
“I don’t know if that was a part of it or if Bret just – anyway, he’s always taken a liking, and he’s always been somebody that I’ve been able to talk about wrestling anytime,” Wilson concluded. “As great as the storyteller as he is in the ring, he might even be a better storyteller outside of the ring. So like to sit and listen to Bret’s stories are so fun.”
Please credit Spencer Love/Love Wrestling with any transcriptions used.