Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Holy Grail: The Search for WWE’s Most Infamous Lost Match (Bret Hart vs Tom Magee 1986)

Today was supposed to be a write-up on TNA's own version of an ECW reunion from 2010, but this is much more important since it's the long lost Bret Hart/Tom Magee match that is supposed to be this wondrous lost match that has been talked about and yet never seen.

This year's Starrcast will have Bret Hart and Tom Magee get together on stage and talk about this match, but WWE, being the petty promotion that they are, decided to beat them to the punch and produce this thing. In this case, I'm not going to complain, but I've been interesting in seeing this match ever since it became more of a thing in recent years... and having it on the Network is the best way to do it.

A bit of backstory: Tom Magee was a Canadian strongman who got a WWF tryout match with Bret Hart in 1986 and people were so floored by the match that they thought they had found their next breakout star to succeed Hulk Hogan. Problem was that when Magee was hired by the WWF and he had matches with opponents of somewhat lesser caliber, people realized that "Megaman" Tom Magee wasn't all that he was cracked up to be and he eventually left the business in 1990. The match was then lost to the annals of time, with WWE not having the actual tape in their archives.

And then last year, someone had stumbled across the tape in their collection; apparently from the Hitman's collection that was given to her for the purposes of transferring tapes to DVD. That leads us to today's special... and also the Starrcast convention due in a week or so where Bret Hart and Tom Magee will be on stage to discuss the match.

How this match attained supposed cult status is something else. It's been mentioned in early-90s issues of the Wrestling Observer newsletter, Bret sometimes brings it up in the shoot interviews he's mentioned, Colt Cobana brought up the match on his podcast while interviewing Dave Meltzer, who writes said newsletter. There are many places you can point

The documentary more or less tells this story, albeit without any mention of Meltzer or Cobana because we can't mention those fellows in a WWE production. There's the usual talking heads, with guys like Chris "Kassius Ohno" Hero, X-Pac, Tyson Kidd, and even Harry Smith chiming in and being completely believable talking heads. And then there's that Sam Wilson or whatever his name is who sticks out like a sore thumb and feels like the kind of talking head that is inserted there to read lines that have been fed to him by some WWE mark.

So after all the talking heads say their piece, we get a new interview with Tom Magee... now with shorter hair and looking to have aged alright. Whether this interview was done before or after the beating he suffered a couple months back is not something I'm privy to, but the fact that they got him to share some thoughts (he enjoyed the match, he was told nothing about being the next Hogan, etc.) is a bit of a bonus.

As for the match itself... it was alright. I'd go so far as to say it was seven-plus minutes of perfectly acceptable wrestling that might not have knocked my socks off in terms of entertainment value, but I dug this one quite a bit. This Magee fellow is quite a sight; a muscleman who does flips and stuff. He's the type of wrestler who would fit in nicely in today's wrestling climate. I'm fairly certain Bret's planning and working did wonders to make Magee look like more than the sum of his parts, but in all honesty, while I wouldn't categorize Magee as the next Hulk Hogan on one single match, he had something that made me believe he could've been something in wrestling with the right choice of opponents for him to tackle.

According to Bret. he asked Magee what his three best moves were and then told Magee to do what he says without question. So you got a couple nice flips from Magee, a dropkick that... maybe didn't quite hit the mark, and some fancy roll-ups. Whatever Vince and the other higher ups in 1986 WWF saw Magee didn't quite seem obvious to me aside from the chiseled physique, which didn't seemed all that chiseled to me. If anything, Magee looked like a fairly normal-looking muscleman and not someone with whom you'll immediately go "Steroids" and play a game of "spot the needle."

I find it fascinating that in matches that are supposed to present the other guy as a big star, it's only made more apparent in how Bret Hart was that good of a worker. The guy who cared so much about his body of work that he was going to do what he could to make the other guy look like a star. Me wonders if he ever made guys of lesser value look better than they actually were in order to make the WWF decision makers stupid for getting behind someone who looked good in a match with BRET and then fumble afterwards.

So that was the Bret Hart vs. Tom Magee match everyone was hyping about and... I liked it quite a bit. Mind you, I'm sure a good chunk of that stems from the lore and had this been a random match on a random WWF show

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