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Old school
By BRET HART



  The game is location, situation and memory and a need to win.

The psychology is in the player, not the game.

He must enjoy the company of danger.

He must have a killer instinct.

He must be prideful, arrogant, aggressive, contemptuous, and dominating, wilful in the extreme. All the sins of the noncarnal type.

-- Don DeLillo

- - -

A couple of weeks ago, I sat in my living room and watched Oscar De La Hoya vs. Shane Mosley.

It's been a little while since I've seen a really good toe-to-toe, knock-down, drag- out boxing match.

I've always been deeply fascinated with boxing, especially the buildup to a showdown between two adversaries with varying styles.

Classic matches that come to mind -- Louis/Marciano, Ali/Frasier, Dempsey/Tunney.

Vince McMahon told me recently I was without a doubt his alltime favourite storyteller in the wrestling business.

Since then, I've been thinking about how it is I came to have the ability to tell great stories in the ring.

I think it goes back to how I saw my favourite boxers, the story behind the fight and the analysis of what it was going to take to win.

Pro wrestling and pro boxing were promoted much the same way 100 years ago.

Wrestling evolved into more of a spectacle when the tough shooters of the 1920s, who were similar to the Ultimate Fighters you see today, realized spectacle was safer, easier and more profitable when they didn't purposely hurt each other. Instead of one big match, they could work across the country.

So, on Thursday, I had an enjoyable phone conversation with Kurt Angle.

We had a lot of good things to say about each other's wrestling styles.

If I was going to have one more great match, it would likely be with Angle but he was disappointed to hear me say it's impossible for me to ever wrestle again.

Angle told me he's made a point of watching as many of my matches as possible and his favourite pro wrestling match ever was the 60-minute iron-man match against Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XII.

It's one of my favourites, too.

It was while Kurt and I were talking about that match I realized one of the things I don't see in wrestling anymore is believable drama, such as what Shawn and I had built up going into that match.

Shawn was being groomed for the world championship but I was carrying the largest portion of the serious fans.

Shawn, despite the fact he had talent, appealed mostly to the younger audience at that time because of his boy-toy looks and persona.

Looking back on it, I believe most fans expected Shawn to take the title -- it was, after all, his turn.

But the way my character approached the fight, it was clear I would never let that happen, which, in turn, made for great drama.

All I can say about that match is both Shawn and I were in our prime and both gave everything we had in what is considered by many to be the greatest one-hour wrestling match of all time.

I don't think the fans even realize it but probably the reason that match is so well regarded is because it went back to the early relationship between boxing and wrestling.

It was a toe-to-toe, knock- down dragout filled with comebacks and countermoves -- with a heartbreak finish.

Wrestling ratings have slumped and the fans and many in the business are looking for these big explanations as to why.

If you want to know where to start to fix the wrestling business, it's really not that complicated.

Pro wrestling can't go back to being seen as real but at least it should do its part to try.