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The King of Pain
By TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun


He is The King of Pain.

And the Ace of Hearts.

He is Stu Hart and he is a living legend.

Back in the early days of professional wrestling, the Calgary legend was used as the stick by which many were measured.

Those aspiring to be wrestlers were often sent from all over the continent -- and world -- to Calgary, to take to the mat and show their mettle against Stu in the legendary Dungeon.

Promoters sent the hopefuls here knowing that if they were truly dedicated and had the physical tools, they'd get a one-of-a-kind education from Stu.

"That's the way it worked in the old days," said Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, one of 12 kids born to Stu and wife Helen. "You had to last a couple of workouts with Stu and then he would teach you pro wrestling. You had to take on the big spider in his web, so to speak.

"A lot of the time, (the promoters) would never hear from them again. He weeded a lot of them out."

That process usually involved a good deal of pain as Stu demonstrated his vast array of holds on prospective pupils.

"My mom used to tell stories," recalled Bret, the sixth of eight boys, "and I think they're true. Sometimes, guys would come up to the house, they'd change and they'd be all full of confidence and then they'd go down with the old man in the basement and you'd hear them screaming and then you'd see the footprints through the snow. They'd run out of the house without their stuff, barefoot and all, and just keep going."

The Hart family patriarch, truly one of the most influential men in the history of professional wrestling will celebrate his 88th birthday on Saturday.

Along with his birthday, the Hart clan and city wrestling fans will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stampede Wrestling, the local circuit the family made famous.