There are times where professional wrestling can be unfairly compared to “real” sports, and there are times when wrestling pretends to be a “real” sport. But Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh in Super Bowl XLVII causes such an easy wrestling comparison.
Brothers in the world of wrestling offer ready-made storyline devices—be it as a tag team or as enemies. There are times when the dynamic works with brilliance, and there are times when it falls flat.
Jim Harbaugh, 49, played in a Rose Bowl, as a Heisman Trophy finalist and played in the NFL for 14 seasons. In two seasons as the San Francisco 49ers head coach, he’s amassed a 27-4-1 record and made it to two NFC Championship Games—and now one Super Bowl.
John Harbaugh, 50, played his college ball at Miami—not that Miami, but the one in Ohio. Harbaugh’s NFL career started as a coach in 1998, landing his first head coaching position in 2008. In five years as the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, he has amassed a 54-26 records.
He hasn't only made it to the playoffs in each year, he’s won a playoff game in each of his five years. He’s made it to two AFC Championship Games—and now one Super Bowl.
It’s important for a wrestling fan to look at these facts because it sets the stage for the Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh matchup coming in two weeks. There hasn’t been a matchup in wrestling between two brothers of this caliber in the industry’s history. And only one has come close.
Bret Hart and Owen Hart were forever linked by their famous lineage and by their battles in the ring. They were a tag team, but they didn’t start out as one. In fact, Owen long lived in Bret’s shadow. And that shadow fueled their feud, which is one of wrestling’s most underrated.
The match above is from the Raw before WrestleMania 11, after Bret and Owen had their legendary 1994 matches at WrestleMania 10 and SummerSlam. It, along with their feud, is largely underappreciated in the history of wrestling.
Bret vs. Owen set the bar high for brother vs. brother feuds, and no others have really come close
Matt Hardy defeated Jeff Hardy in an Extreme Rules match at WrestleMania 25, and the only real pleasing aspect of the match (and feud) was the more popular brother—at the time—was victorious.
The match and feud largely underwhelmed, failing to live up to the hype it generated from fantasy booked by many message board fans years prior. Rick and Scott Steiner had several matches against each other, but Scott was already established as the dominant force in the family.
Along with legit brother vs. brother feuds comes storyline brother vs. brother feuds. Bubba/Bully Ray and Devon never got a quality feud going, and Edge and Christian had their greatest feud taken from them with Edge’s retirement—and at that time, they weren’t even termed as brothers.
Over the next two weeks, we will be flooded with Jim Harbaugh vs. John Harbaugh, John Harbaugh vs. Jim Harbaugh, Mom and Pop Harbaugh and every other potential family combination. When it gets old, remember that, as a wrestling fan, there is one more angle to look at: Will the “match” live up to the hype? Will Jim vs. John live up to Bret vs. Owen?