Bret Hart vs Tom Magee (found untelevised professional wrestling match; 1986)

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Hartmagee1.jpg

Screenshot of the match.

Status: Found

Date found: 27 Mar 2019

Found by: Mary-Kate Anthony

On October 7th, 1986, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) was proceeding with a WWF Wrestling Challenge taping at the Rochester War Memorial Arena in Rochester, New York. One of the matches at the event pitted Bret Hart against the recently signed Tom Magee. While the match never featured on WWF Wrestling Challenge, it proved significant, as it convinced WWF owner Vince McMahon for a short-time period that Magee could be the next Hulk Hogan.

Background[edit | edit source]

The WWF during the mid-1980s was experiencing booming business as professional wrestling itself entered a Golden Age. The company was expanding nationally, gaining significant mainstream credibility thanks to the Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection where professional wrestling and the music industry cross-promoted each other,[1] as well as the major popularity of its top wrestler, Hulk Hogan. Such was Hogan's popularity back then that if he was to be present at an event, it would typically result in the arena selling out. Events without his appearance typically were less successful in attracting a big attendance.[2]

Nevertheless, Hogan was already in his 30s by this point, and no star is capable of selling to a mainstream audience indefinitely.[3] This led to Vince McMahon beginning the process of preparing for the future, finding and building a successor who could take over from Hogan. Among wrestlers considered included Randy Savage, who would team and later feud with Hogan, cumulating in a match at Wrestlemania V that Hogan won.[4] Eventually, McMahon selected The Ultimate Warrior to be Hogan's successor, building him up through having him win matches in dominating fashion, including squashing Andre The Giant on numerous occasions.[5] At Wrestlemania VI, Warrior defeated Hogan to become the WWF Champion, with the event being considered the swansong of the Golden Age.[6]

Bret Hart vs Tom Magee[edit | edit source]

Before The Ultimate Warrior was selected as Hogan's successor, McMahon was assessing other possible candidates. Among them included Tom Magee, a Canadian powerlifter and strongman. After being trained by Stu Hart and competing in Hart's Stampede Wrestling in 1985, Magee signed a contract with the WWF in 1986.[7] To assess Magee's abilities in the ring, he was matched with Bret Hart, facing the future WWF Champion at a WWF Wrestling Challenge taping at the Rochester War Memorial Arena on 7th October 1986. Due to Magee's inexperience, Hart was given the responsibility of carrying the match, guiding the prospect throughout the encounter, which Magee ultimately won.

Hart was chosen to put over Magee because McMahon was convinced Hart could make Magee look like a star. He also reassured Hart that the match would be untelevised. Hart, who originally was reluctant to lose to an inexperienced opponent, eventually agreed to do so. In his autobiography Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, Hart met with Magee prior to the match to discuss proceedings, informing the prospect that as long as he trusted him, Hart would deliver a good match for him based on Magee's three top moves, which would essentially make Magee the focus on Vince's future plans. Hart was able to deliver on his claim, although he was critical of Magee's abilities in the ring, stating that although Magee did follow his instructions, only Hart's carrying prevented Magee's shortcomings from being noticed by the fans.[8]

Post-Match[edit | edit source]

McMahon was highly impressed with the match he had just witnessed. Already he was interested in building the company's future around Magee, considering Magee's sports background and appearance, where at 6’5" and 275 lbs with a strong physique and a full set of blonde hair, he very much met the criteria McMahon wanted from his top stars. The match quality convinced McMahon that Magee could be Hogan's successor, exclaiming "He’s the successor to Hulk Hogan!" and "That’s my next champion! That’s my next champion."[9]

McMahon began to establish Magee's persona, giving him the nickname "Megaman" and having him work in "C" level events to build experience. Ultimately, despite the hype generated from the match, it would not be long before McMahon began to cool on the Magee successor idea. Indeed, Magee's matches on the road greatly dipped in quality, and it became clear that the only reason Magee looked like a star in the Hart encounter was that Hart obscured his opponent's shortcomings.[10] Eventually, McMahon looked elsewhere for the next Hulk Hogan, relegating Magee to lower-level feuds throughout the 1980s. He would eventually leave the company in 1990.[11]

Recovery of the Footage[edit | edit source]

For years, Bret Hart vs Tom Magee was considered a holy grail among professional wrestling tape collectors. Aside from the match's historic value, it was also one of the few matches that the WWF (now WWE) lacked any recordings of in its tape library.[12]

On March 27th, 2019, Mary-Kate Anthony posted a tweet which contained a photo of a VHS tape titled "09/19/89 Bret v Tom McGhee".[13] Professional wrestler Tyson Kidd supported the legitimacy of Anthony's claim, stating that Hart had sent Anthony his tape collection so that it could be converted to DVD, with Hart not requesting the return of the physical VHS tapes.[14] Despite this, some were convinced that this might not be the 1986 encounter, but instead, another unaired match featuring the two on May 16th, 1989, which was said to be of worse match quality because Magee was requested to direct the match. The 19th September 1989 date also made no sense, as no TV taping was known to have occurred on that date.[15]

WWE would request the tape from Anthony, with her agreeing to this upon receiving permission from Hart to do so.[16] On May 13th, 2019, WWE aired a 30-minute documentary called Holy Grail: The Search for WWE's Most Infamous Lost Match, discussing the story behind the match and its recovery, as well as featuring interviews from the likes of Hart and Magee.[17] The match itself would also air, confirming that it was indeed the 1986 encounter, and remains accessible on the WWE Network as of the present day. Many wrestling critics praised Hart for carrying Magee, deeming it to have been a fine match.[18][19]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Videos[edit | edit source]

Pseudiom documentary on the match.
Wrestling Observer Radio discussing the match.
Hart and Magee discussing their match.
Magee discussing the match.
WhatCulture Wrestling reacting to the match.
WWE promoting Holy Grail: The Search for WWE’s Most Infamous Lost Match.


Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. First Goddess of the Squared Circle detailing the Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection and the WWF's growing success from it. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  2. Wrestlecrap detailing Hogan's influence in the WWF's success in the 1980s. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  3. The Death of WCW detailing the need for successors in professional wrestling. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  4. Sportskeeda detailing Hogan's possible successors. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  5. Sportskeeda detailing The Ultimate Warrior's many matches with Andre The Giant. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  6. Sportskeeda detailing the Hogan-Ultimate Warrior match, possibly the swansong of the Golden Age. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  7. Da Wrestling Site detailing Magee's background and signing for the WWF in 1986. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  8. Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, where Hart discussed his match with Magee. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  9. Pro Wrestling Stories summarising the match and the story behind it. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  10. Deadspin detailing McMahon's plans for Magee, and how they ultimately did not come to fruition. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  11. F4W Online noting Magee left the WWF in 1990. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  12. The Sportster reporting on the lack of copies WWE had of the match prior to Mary-Kate Anthony's announcement. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  13. Mary-Kate Anthony's tweet. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  14. Sportskeeda reporting on the recovery of the tape. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  15. Deadspin reporting on the recovery of the tape, and the claims it could have been the 1989 encounter. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  16. 411 Mania reporting on WWE requesting the tape. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  17. WWE Network listing of Holy Grail: The Search for WWE's Most Infamous Lost Match. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  18. Figure Four Online reviewing the Hart-Magee match. Retrieved 17 Dec '21
  19. KB's Wrestling Reviews rating the Hart-Magee match. Retrieved 17 Dec '21