November 28, 2005
Bret Hart DVD worth the wait
By MIKE JENKINSON - Edmonton Sun
It would be easy to play off the catchphrase of former professional wrestler Bret "The Hitman" Hart and declare his new career retrospective DVD, put out by himself and World Wrestling Entertainment, as the best DVD there is, the best DVD there was and the best DVD there ever will be.
And the three-disc set released in Canada last week (called Bret Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be) comes awfully close to living up to those lofty expectations.
It's been a long time coming for fans of the Hitman, who still remains one of the most famous Albertans in the world despite having been forced from the ring due to a serious concussion suffered in late 1999. His relationship with the WWE has been estranged since that infamous night in Montreal during the 1997 Survivor Series pay-per-view when WWE head Vince McMahon conspired to screw Hart, who was on his way to rival World Championship Wrestling, out of the WWE title by having his opponent, Shawn Michaels, double-cross him in the ring to take the belt without Bret's co-operation.
Two years later, his brother Owen died in a wrestling-related stunt gone wrong while Bret was working for WCW. His family feuded with each other in the subsequent lawsuit against the WWE. And Bret was in the fight of his life three years ago after being felled by a major stroke.
Long story short, there was a lot of fence-mending that had to be done between Hart and McMahon for this DVD to come about. But fans of the Hitman will be glad it's here because it's quite the treat.
The highlight of the documentary portion of the set is a whole section devoted to rare Stampede Wrestling footage where a very young and green Bret Hart gets tossed around by other wrestlers like the proverbial rag doll. As the DVD takes viewers through the early years of Bret's career in Stampede, though, it's obvious how quickly his in-ring skills developed. And there are even fleeting glimpses of the mat technician who would later be given the nickname the "excellence of execution" for his ability to lead mediocre opponents to great matches.
From there, the documentary traces his career in the WWE (then known as the World Wrestling Federation), where he continued to hone his craft and wait for breaks to come his way, while winning multiple tag-team, Intercontinental and World championships.
For anyone who would stereotype professional wrestlers as big, dumb lugs, the documentary would quickly change your mind. Hart comes off as an intelligent, articulate and sensitive man, who often gets teary-eyed talking, not only about Owen, but about other former comrades in the ring who have died way too young.
Nor does Hart succumb to the temptation to play down his weaknesses. While he is quick to praise his own abilities in the ring (and rightfully so), he also admits in the piece to being insecure and self-doubting when he was first made WWE champion back in 1992, wondering if he really had what it took to carry the company.
If there's one criticism to make of the DVD set, it's that Bret Hart's career spanned so many memorable feuds and matches that it's impossible to squeeze them all into a 90-minute documentary and two discs of his favourite matches.
In fact, the big complaint from wrestling fans is just that - that their personal favourite Bret Hart match wasn't included in the set.
Still, considering that the original DVD project the WWE was considering for Hart was called Screwed and was not going to be nearly as flattering as this anthology is, wrestling fans should count their blessings.
It might not be the best DVD there is, the best DVD there was or the best DVD there ever will be, but it's pretty darn good, with lots of fantastic matches and career clips on it. Thanks, Bret, for the memories.
Michael Jenkinson is a columnist for the Edmonton Sun. Letters to the editor should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out The Newsroom: Michael Jenkinson's homepage.