On Monday, the wrestling world lost one of its bigger personalities with the passing of Jim the Anvil Neidhart. If you’re an old school wrestling fan, you remember the infectious and loud laugh along with that trademark beard. Neidhart was certainly a big name in his day and part of one of the best tag teams of his or any generation with the Hart Foundation. In something that shouldn’t shock anyone, that’s what we’re going to be taking a look at today.
This week we’re looking at the Hart Foundation (meaning the two man tag team, not the 1997 stable, though Neidhart was part of that as well. The team was comprised of Neidhart and Bret the Hitman Hart, a pair of real life brothers-in-law (Neidhart married Hart’s sister) and they were a heck of a tag team. They won a pair of World Tag Team Titles and were one of the most successful teams of their rather stacked era. Above their success though was their influence, but we’ll get to that in time.
The team started in 1985 when Hart was ready to quit the promotion and was finally given his long standing wish of being teamed with his brother-in-law. They were first featured in the WrestleMania 2 battle royal and made it to the final three, only to run into something called Andre the Giant. Well so much for that, but it’s not like anyone else outside of a guy in red and yellow was beating Andre anyway.
The following year they would win the World Tag Team Titles from the British Bulldogs, thanks to a combination of the Dynamite Kid’s back being held together by gum and tape, along with a crooked referee named Danny Davis. They would hold the belts for about ten months before losing them to Strike Force, resulting in a feud that went on for several more months with the Hart Foundation failing to win the titles.
After another few months, the team started turning face, eventually splitting from manager Jimmy Hart and gaining the fans’ support. That wasn’t quite enough to get the titles back though, as the tag division was incredibly stacked around that time with teams like the Brainbusters, the Rockers, Demolition, the Bulldogs, the Rougeau Brothers and several others.
It wouldn’t be until 1990 when the team was full on face, that they would challenge Demolition for the titles at Summerslam 1990 in a 2/3 falls match. Even with Demolition having a man advantage, the Hart Foundation overcame the odds (ok so having the Legion of Doom interfered helped) and won the titles in a match that has developed quite a following over time. They would hold the titles until WrestleMania 7 when Jimmy Hart’s new team of the Nasty Boys took them away. That would be it for the team as they would quietly split with Bret moving on to a singles career and Neidhart continuing in the tag ranks.
The best part about the Harts was a very simple concept: they were really good in the ring. It was a perfect balance of the power of Neidhart and the speed/technical abilities of Hart. That’s hardly anything new and far from the most influential team of all time, but they were so good at what they did that it worked incredibly well. The good balance allowed them to have solid matches against anyone and that’s what made them so versatile. When you can wrestle against any team, you’re going to be able to have a very long career.
That’s the other area where the team shined and the main area that made their time the golden age for tag team wrestling in the WWF: there were so many good teams that it was one dream match after another. Back at Survivor Series 1987 and Survivor Series 1988, there were ten teams in a single elimination match. When at least eight teams per match range anywhere from very good to great, you can tell that you’re in for something special. The Hart Foundation was right there on that list and there was almost no one who could bring them down.
While the team fought just about everyone, there were a few team with whom they had better chemistry than anyone else. There are two real options here and we’ll start with a team that they fought “between 300 and 600 times” according to B. Brian Blair. That would be the Killer Bees (Blair and Jim Brunzell), meaning they were able to reach a level of chemistry that almost no one else was going to hit. Throw in the fact that they were both very talented teams and it was a guaranteed house show hit every single time they got together.
The other was a team we’ve talked about a few times now: Demolition. It takes a special kind of team to make former Tag Team Champions and one of the best teams of the best era look like underdogs but that’s what Demolition did to the Hart Foundation. Demolition was the most dominant tag team in company history, holding the Tag Team Titles three times, including the longest in the titles’ near forty year history, for the most combined days as champions.
These teams had two major feuds, both of which took place at Summerslam and both of which saw the Hart Foundation as major underdogs. That’s really impressive when you consider that their first feud came in the summer of 1988 when Demolition was in the middle of their first reign, which at the time was much shorter than the Hart’s initial reign from the previous year.
Demolition was one of the scariest ideas the company had ever come up with (or ripped off from the Road Warriors, whichever you prefer): two (later three) monsters with leather masks and face paint who could beat down anyone from normal sized humans to Andre the Giant. How in the world was anyone supposed to be able to fight these guys? We’ll ignore the concept of taking the titles, because this was all about being able to survive being completely demolished.
After Demolition dispatched the Hart Foundation at Summerslam 1988, it was time for a cranked up rematch, with the Hart Foundation somehow looking like even bigger underdogs now that Demolition had established themselves as one of the most dominant tag teams of all time. With the Hart Foundation not even know which two (now of three) members of the team they would face, Neidhart and Hart were in way over their heads.
Under the motto of Two Harts Beating As One (and, again, with help from the Legion of Doom), the Hart Foundation overcame the odds and somehow won the titles for the second time. It was a special feeling as they managed to pull off the upset, defeating Demolition once and for all and FINALLY showing that they didn’t need their cheating ways to pull off the big win.
Whether they were heels or faces, the Hart Foundation just worked. They were an awesome team with a great name, a unique look (they made pink and black work), a perfect balance of power and speed/technical abilities and some incredible matches with a variety of teams. There’s a reason they’re still talked about to this day and with the magic of history, they’ll be remembered for a very long time to come.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 28 wrestling books. His latest book is the the Complete 2003 Monday Night Raw Reviews.
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