Who is better:Bret Hart or Chris Jericho?
I'm going to give the nod to Jericho.
Now, Bret is one of my favorites of all time. In-ring AND on the mic, he was an amazing talent. As someone else mentioned, his mic work in 97' made him THE best interview in the whole industry at the time. While Austin was beginning to hit his stride in this period and really caught on HUGE in 98', Bret Hart was cutting promos that really mixed "shoot and work" better than anybody else at the time. Ofcourse, people will point to Nash and Hall over at WCW, but the difference there was, Hart's mic work wasn't bogged down in silly gimmicks or catch phrases (like the nWo) and Hart stuck to the storyline. Hall and Nash were a comedy act in 97' - Bret Hart was dead serious. At the time, Hall and Nash's mic work was considered much more hip, but looking back, the "Bret Hart Vs. America" was remarkable in its own right and was definitely booked better, start to finish, than the nWo angle, which was hot for awhile, then stale, and then brought back ad nauseum. Bret Hart would cut promos about HBK and 'Taker and Austin and then go out and wrestle great matches against these guys. Hall & Nash would go out and cut promos just talking about themselves or make fun of the WWE or dress up as the Horsemen. Then, when it was time to deliver, their matches would stink and they would end with inane swerves or cheap run-ins. Bret Hart's promos served a purpose and the nWo's really didn't.
But this isn't about Bret Hart vs. the nWo, this is about Bret Hart vs. Jericho. I go with Jericho and here's why...
Versatility. I don't think Bret Hart is an overrated technical wrestler - I think he had very good matches with many different kinds of wrestlers. That being said, I believe Chris Jericho had MORE very good matches with MORE different kinds of wrestlers. I'm sure, if he'd been in his prime and able to, Bret Hart could have put on classics with guys like Malenko, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, The Rock, Triple H, and Kurt Angle. He didn't, though. Chris Jericho did.
I also think that as good as Bret Hart was as a heel in 97', very few heels EVER are as good as Chris Jericho has been in the past 2 years. Jericho re-invented himself and he is so over as a heel right now that people have forgotten all about his ol' wacky gimmick and Ayatollah of Rock N' Rollah stuff. I noticed a ratings breakdown that said Jericho's interview 2 weeks ago on RAW was the highest rated segment on the show (except for the overrun). That tells me that Jericho is the biggest heel draw in the company and the only reason the overrun got a higher rating was because (a) its the main event and it featured Cena and Triple H (the biggest face draws in the company), (b) Seth Green was wrestling, and (c) people were tuning in to watch "Burn Notice" and caught the end of the show.
Jericho's heel turn and subsequent rivalry with Shawn Michaels did "the impossible." In that rivalry, Jericho usurped Bret Hart as HBK's greatest rival, in my opinion.
Like I said, this one is very, very close to call. I don't think there is a single argument that could convince me to think one way or the other without basing it on personal taste. Comparing title wins would be fruitless (Bret's first IC title win against Perfect is probably more meaningful than ANY of Jericho's record-breaking 7-8 IC title wins). Comparing # of PPV appearances is similarly mute because for a large part of Bret's careeer, the WWE only produced 4-5 PPVs a year. In-ring, both guys are arguably Top 10 all time. On the mic, Jericho was a great comedy act (but an even better heel) while Bret Hart brought a stoicism and no-frills dignity to wrestling that always made his matches and his championships mean something. They are/were both excellent storytellers. In the end, I pick Jericho because we've been able to see him steal the show with just about anybody they put him in the ring with, while we only really got to see what Bret could do against WWE guys (not the more diverse talent in ECW, WCW, Japan, and Mexico).*
* I know Bret wrestled in Japan and Mexico, but he wrestled there at a time before youTube and DailyMotion and the internet. Tape-trading communities no doubt spread the word about the Hitman and Dynamite Kid and Owen, but visual evidence of Jericho's early career is widely available in 2009 to a degree that Bret Hart's simply is not. In this way, I am totally biased. I've seen Jericho's international and US indy years, while Bret Hart's history is not as easy to find online. I don't know - maybe Hart could wrestle great lucha matches that I just haven't seen. In Jericho's case, I've seen him do it.