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   Sat, January 3, 2004



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Troops are the true heroes
WWE deserves pat on the back for recent visit to soldiers in Iraq
By BRET HART


Recently, the WWE took a crew of 15 wrestlers to entertain 5,000 troops at Camp Victory in Baghdad. In April 1997, when I was in the WWF, I had the privilege to spend a day and a half with the 7th Calvary Regiment in Kuwait.

It has always stood out as a rewarding memory and, while channel surfing last Thursday night, I couldn't help but see huge smiles on both WWE wrestlers and the soldiers in Iraq.

In '91, at the outbreak of the Gulf War, the WWF built its storylines around Sgt. Slaughter, a onetime American hero who was wearing curly toed wrestling boots when he fought Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VII.

The boots, as the story went, were supposedly given to him by Saddam Hussein.

Wrestling has always parodied wartime villains, even after the Second World War when German and Japanese wrestlers were hated heels.

But in 1991, a lot of people felt uncomfortable about the then-family-oriented WWF making light of such a serious conflict.

I would later read in Norman Schwarzkopf's autobiography, It Doesn't Take A Hero, the WWF wrestling shows aired for the troops were a great help in bolstering morale and relieving stress.

As someone who doesn't often sing praises about the WWF/WWE anymore, I personally commend the company for stepping up and doing something so positive.

Many years down the road, the participants will look back on their trip to Iraq, as I do my trip to Kuwait, as one of the most uplifting experiences of their lives.

I still, to this day, get e-mails from soldiers I met over there.

Switching gears towards a different kind of 'a few good men,' the third annual Stu Hart invitational amateur wrestling tournament runs today at the Talisman Centre from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Many of the best and brightest amateur wrestlers from across Canada and as far away as Alaska and Japan will compete.

Interestingly enough, all the winners of the Stu Hart tournament last year went on to win national championships.

This year in my dad's absence, I can think of no more fitting honour to his memory and legacy. I want to congratulate organizer and coach Mike Dunn of the King of the Mat wrestling club for assembling such a first rate tournament, one that in its short history has already become one of the most prestigious amateur wrestling events in the world.

It's a great way to spend the day watching some superb athletes give their all, including Stu's own grandson, Conor, and I'll be there to watch him do the family proud.

See you there.