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COMMENT





Giving the legends their due
By BRET HART


I\'ve had an interesting week and I\'ve come away with a profound respect for my elders. I was in Toronto at a fundraiser Bell Mobility did for The United Way. On the steps of my hotel, as I waited for my limo ride to the event, I ran smack dab into the even greater one, Walter Gretzky.

His face lit up and he said he couldn\'t believe it was me. My recovery from a stroke so amazed him he kept slapping his leg and, remembering the kind words of encouragement he gave me, I told him I no doubt owe a great deal of my recuperation to him.

Standing behind Walter was none other than the legendary Bobby Orr, my childhood hero. Walter kept saying, \"Can you believe this guy? Look at \'em! He\'s back!\"

Orr smiled big and Walter asked him, \"You know Bret Hart?\" And I can\'t tell you how proud and humbled I was to hear Orr say, \"Of course. Everybody\'s heard of Bret (The Hitman) Hart!\" This was a special moment I\'ll never forget.

Two days later, I boarded a plane with my pal and former tag-team partner, Jim (The Anvil) Neidhart, to do a wrestling legends autograph session in Fremont, Calif. Among those on hand were Bobby (The Brain) Heenan and Cowboy Bob Orton, neither one of whom I\'d seen in awhile.

Heenan was probably the greatest wrestling manager of all time.

His sardonic wit came through as a colour commentator for years in the WWF and he managed the likes of Andre The Giant, Mr. Perfect, Ravishing Rick Rude and, of course, Ric Flair -- just to name a few.

We talked about how Bobby started in the business at 17 years of age selling programs, much the same as I had done, except I was working at the ripe old age of four. Bobby has recently successfully battled tongue cancer. His spirits were good and that came across in his hilarious stories about Andre The Giant. He told me a tale about early one morning when Andre lumbered into a hotel lobby in Japan drunk as a tranquilized elephant.

Andre went down for the count in front of the hapless desk clerk and nobody had a clue what to do. Twenty or 30 people from the frenzied hotel staff -- bellmen, waiters and even the maids -- pushed and tugged with all their might but they could not budge the snoring giant. So ... in utter desperation, sheets were summoned and they ran around covering Andre up. And there he lay, an unexplained mound, with tourists and businessmen hurrying past him -- a do not disturb sign planted on the lump that was his head.

Andre awoke about noon, sending everyone running like it was the return of Godzilla.

Cowboy Bob Orton was one of my mentors when I first got to the WWF in 1984 and I hadn\'t seen or spoken with him since he left in 1988. Bob was one of the all-time greats in wrestling.

He had Anvil and I laughing so hard we were in tears when he told us about the time Roddy Piper called him early one morning to come help him and Don Muraco out of a little jam with the Fresno police. Bob stepped into the hallway outside his hotel room, set up like a balcony over an atrium, and, as he strained to peek down into the lobby, he used his leg to hold the door to his room open. Like a bad dream, he heard the click of his door closing and realized he\'d locked himself out.

I can imagine what a sight for sore eyes it was when Bob marched down to the lobby to vouch for Piper and Muraco wearing nothing but his birthday suit. The amazing thing is Bob somehow managed to talk his way out of it and rescue Piper and Muraco, too.

Bob was one of the few wrestlers who prided himself on his wrestling ability along with his safety record.

Throughout his long and illustrious career, he never injured one wrestler.

With so many legends of wrestling disappearing faster than Siberian tigers, I was thrilled to see my old friends hadn\'t changed ... still crazy after all these years ... but I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers, still crazy after all these years.