It must’ve been a cold day in Hell…!
Most of you have probably heard the news by now. For those of you living under a rock that haven’t, Canadian Pro Wrestling legend, and former multi-time WWF and WCW world heavy weight Champion Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart is making his return to the WWE.
According to The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Hart (52) is set to take on a role with the organization, ending over a decade of absence.
Hart has reportedly signed a contract that will run into April 2010, during which he might appear at Wrestlemania 26 in Glendale, Arizona in late March.
He is rumored to make his first on-air appearance for WWE on January 4th’s Monday Night Raw as the show’s special guest host.
Now, I know that the ink on the contracts has dried, that money has changed hands, commitments have been made, and the machine is set in motion so there’s no stopping it, yet that doesn’t keep a part of me from feeling a bit let down, and even betrayed by my childhood hero.
Before I move on any further with this rant, I must clarify that Bret Hart was (and pretty much still is) my all time favorite wrestler bar none. As a child, and later on as a young man growing up, he was much more to me than merely a wrestler I enjoyed watching in the ring; a role model I looked up to, inspiring one day to grow up and become like. His never-give-up, never-say-die attitude in the face of the toughest odds greatly empowered me and inspired my life. I followed his storied career closely, cheering him on as he dawned the pink and black to take on much larger and stronger adversaries, relying solely on his speed, agility, and technical prowess, but most importantly on his enormous heart and courage, beating the best of them to the mat, and teaching me at a very young age that if you truly believed in yourself and did your best the wildest dreams could come true. Most would say that wrestling is fake, and indeed it is, but that lesson was a real as it could ever be to me.
And yet, I don’t claim to be the Hitman’s biggest fan; after all, geographical distance has kept me from ever attending any of his matches live and in person like many of you reading this have had the privilege to. However, I proudly own many of his televised WWF and WCW matches on video cassette and later on as technologies advanced on CD and DVD, listened to and watched all of his interviews and Television appearances, and read every word he wrote in his Calgary Sun Sharpshooter Columns, let alone his latest autobiography ‘Hitman; My Real Life In The Cartoon World Of Wrestling’, the later being somewhat of a shocker as to some of the things he confessed to doing during his career, but I had matured enough to respect his honesty bearing his soul the way he did never the less.
When the infamous Montreal Screw job took place at the 1997 Survivors Series I firmly took my hero’s side, and as Bret knocked McMahon out leaving to WCW so did my viewership, resolving to boycott the WWF indefinitely. This stance grew even stronger following the tragic death of Bret’s younger brother the late great Owen Hart in a freak accident at WWF’s 1999 Over the edge PPV which the McMahon owned promotion poorly handled. Throughout the attitude era of the late nineties (into which WWF trotted over the Hitman’s fallen body and everything he stood for), and no matter how awful WCW’s programming grew, or how edgy and hip WWF’s was, I resisted the temptation and the peer pressure to change my allegiance, and patiently soldiered through what was the slow and painful death of WCW, until we were left with only one major Wrestling promotion surviving, that being WWF. Even till this day you can read my openly admitted bias towards WWE in my columns and comments on this and other wrestling websites, and my unyielding support for any and all Wrestling promotions that aren’t WWE, whether they are TNA, ROH, or even small independent groups. After all, WWE is the company that double crossed Bret isn’t it…?
I guess I should’ve seen this coming for some time now. After his stroke in 2002, Bret Hart’s tone towards WWE somewhat softened, and after vowing to never do business with Vince McMahon again, later the two were on speaking terms, leading to WWE and Hart’s joint production of the Bret Hart DVD collection, documenting Hart’s story in Wrestling and some of his best matches and interviews. Later in 2006, Bret accepted induction into WWE’s Hall of Fame, but only on his own terms and conditions, including banning Shawn Michaels, his opponent from the 1997 Survivors Series from attendance, and Hart not appearing at Wrestlemania the following evening, contrary to Hall of Fame inductees’ custom.
Shortly after these developments in Hart /WWE relationships, the company witnessed an influx of talented 3rd generation wrestlers from the Hart Training center in Calgary Alberta, Canada, respectively Natalie ‘Natalya’ Neidhart (Bret’s niece and daughter of his former tag team partner Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart), Harry ‘HD’ Smith (Bret’s nephew and son of the late British Bulldog), and Tyson Kidd (personally trained by Bret). One can only assume that the breakthrough in relationships between the fed and Uncle Bret helped pave their way to the WWE’s main roster.
In a way you can’t fault the man for making peace with WWE or trying to stay within their good graces. After all, who would want a multi billionaire (a crazed egomaniac one may I add) like Vince McMahon as an enemy? Especially when that aforementioned multi billionaire owns the copyrights to all of his matches and footage, and can ultimately control his legacy and how he’s later on remembered by the fans. It’s just that after all these years vowing to never go back on his word, after they double crossed him, screwed him, arguably caused his brother’s death, made fun of him, and ridiculed him, it’s rather hard to believe that Bret Hart is willing to forgive and forget and start a new page with Vince McMahon and WWE.
With Hulk Hogan debuting on the January 4th live edition of TNA iMPACT running head to head with Monday Night RAW, WWE was left scrambling to counter book a show that would take the attention away from TNA’s, so booking Hart as a guest host would be the logical counter to Hogan, but what’s in it for Bret? Is it just that ‘itch’ that drives older wrestlers such as Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Sting, Mick Foley, Kevin Nash, Ricky Steamboat, and most recently Hulk Hogan, to stay in the limelight even after they have surpassed their prime, proving true that old adage ‘once a wrestler always a wrestler’…? If that simply was the case wouldn’t Bret Hart be betterly suited supporting a grassroots, struggling, underdog group much similar to himself when he was an active wrestler like Ring of Honor, lending them his wisdom, experience, and celebrity as well. Why risk his legacy and respect in the industry by going back to WWE? What if they’re out to make a fool out of him? Could he possibly coexist with Shawn Michaels and Triple H on the same brand? Does his medical condition as a stroke survivor enable him to endure the pressure of talking in front of millions of viewers world wide, and how would the live audiences react towards him if he stuttered or slurred his words? What if WWE make him wrestle again, can his body take the grind of a wrestling match, and who will his opponent be? I fear that we'll see McMahon vs. Hart main eventing Wrestlemania 26, with McMahon’s sole purpose of the match winning back his thunder after Hart knocked him out backstage after Survivor Series in Montreal...!
Of course, I could just be making a big deal out of all of this. I trust that Bret was smart enough to get all the guarantees ensuring that nothing of the kind is going to happen, and that his image and legacy wouldn’t be tarnished by this latest venture. At least that’s what I’m hoping for.
In closing I’d like to remind Bret of these words his late father once told him: “if you lose your respect for yourself, you’ve lost everything.”
And of what Bret himself used to always say: “I’m not greedy for money, I’m greedy for respect…”
Just keep that in mind Bret, and if that low life scumbag McMahon ever tries to pull a fast one on you, just drop him with another punch and walk out… we’ll be all behind you…!