May 11, 2006
Time is right for Harry Smith
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling
Since he was a small child, Harry Smith has dreamed of following in his father "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith's steps. Once he stepped into the ring it became apparent that his goal of working for the WWE would be a case of "when" and not "if." The "when" became official in April when Harry signed a three-year deal with the company to join the RAW brand in June.
"I had called the WWE offices and let them know I would be at the Hall of Fame as a guest of my uncle Bret Hart, followed by going to Europe for a couple of months. I expressed interest that I would like to sign with them after my commitments in Europe were completed," Smith told SLAM! Wrestling in one of his last interviews before debuting with the company. "John Laurenitis, Carl DeMarco, myself, and my cousin Ted had a meeting over lunch. While Ted and I had individual discussions, we had to meet all at once being that John and Carl were quite busy over the Wrestlemania/Hall of Fame weekend. We talked and discussed what my present position was and ideas and goals, the meeting went well, lasting just over an hour. The end result was I accepted their offer."
It's not the first time Smith has met with the WWE. He has been praised in the old "Ross Report," worked several dark matches and has had offers on the table before, which he turned down. Some said he was crazy to be turning down the opportunity, but Smith wanted to ensure he was as ready and experienced as possible.
"When I was first offered a contract by the WWE in the summer of 2004 it was a developmental deal. I turned it down, and asked that they give me a couple years so I can go to Japan and all over the world just like people like Chris Benoit, Owen Hart and my father did. This resulted in a lot of naysayers saying I was crazy, stupid, or just a complete liar. In just under two years I have gone to Japan, Europe, all over the United States to become the best I can be. During that whole time, I could've been in OVW [the WWE developmental territory], and could still be there right now if I signed back then. But now, I am signed to an actual WWE roster, and have all this experience under my belt, and can surpass the OVW camp. Now who is the stupid or crazy one?"
Japan was a big reason why Smith didn't sign with the company. New Japan Pro Wrestling had expressed interest in the youngster, and he wanted the chance to compete in a promotion that so many of his idols had been to before. However, the New Japan of today isn't the same as the past as they, like many wrestling promotions, are experiencing financial difficulty. Smith will always treasure his opportunities there.
"I stressed to the WWE that I wanted to live my dream and go to Japan. I did that, and successfully went on three New Japan tours. Being a member of the Black New Japan faction lead by Masahiro Chono was a great experience as well. New Japan unfortunately, business wise, is not the same company it once was 20 years ago. With the exception of Brock Lesnar, they have cut back on using a lot of foreigners and seem to be in a huge mess financially. My last tour for them was in September of 2005, and I was supposed to go back for their December tour for two weeks. I still haven't heard anything from the company. I would have liked to have gone more, or still be going back. I have a lot of very good memories of working in Japan, probably my best single matches were against Hiroyoshi Tanahashi, and tags I did with Jushin "Thunder" Lyger, HEAT, and Masahiro Chono. Chono was such a great help to me, and was always pushing hard to put me in the best spot possible. He's such a great person. I am still glad to say I got the chance to work for one of the biggest and most respected Japanese wrestling promotions, and the same one my father did over 20 years ago."
This determination and experience impressed John Laurenitis and other WWE officials.
"WWE said they thought it was really good that I wanted to go out and pay my dues, and work all over the world to better my craft. They said 'If you want to go and work around the world for another year in Japan or wherever, that is fine, but we have a very good spot for you right now on the RAW roster, and we could sign you to a deal right now. You won't have to go through the OVW developmental camp or anything.' So with me not really going back to New Japan anymore, I gladly took the offer. I just felt the timing was right, and it had been on my mind quite a bit leading up to the Hall of Fame. I told them 'just let me go to Europe, and let me finish off my commitments there, and I'll be good to go.'"
While Smith's fans are excited that he is achieving a dream, at the same time Smith had just started making regular trips to the United States for independent shows. His match against AJ Styles for Pro Wrestling Elite in March had people salivating for more. Ideas for dream matches against indy stalwarts like Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels, or Smith teaming with TJ Wilson against The Briscoe Brothers or Roderick Strong and Jack Evans were put to rest when Smith signed with WWE.
"The fact of the matter is I could still be on the independent scene for quite a while and still wouldn't accomplish everything that I would want to accomplish. However, it did not weigh down on the decision too heavily. Going and doing my independent dates was a lot of fun, and I realized that signing means I wouldn't be doing them for a long time again, if at all, but I had to look at my best interests and follow my heart. I was glad to work with promotions in the U.S. like Pinnacle Wrestling, Big Time Wrestling, Ballpark Brawl, Major League Wrestling, and especially Pro Wrestling Elite. These are some really good promotions, and I was glad to have the opportunity to work for them and wish them the best."
"I would really like to get the opportunity to work with guys like Shelton Benjamin, John Cena, and Shawn Micheals on the RAW brand. It is unfortunate that Chris Benoit is on the Smackdown roster, but who knows, maybe he'll switch shows, or I will switch shows. In the long run, I'm sure I will get to work with Chris somehow, and Kurt Angle for that matter. These would be definite dream matches. I would love to form a team with Chris Benoit someday as well."
Smith would also like to see long time "Stampede Bulldogs" partner TJ Wilson join the company. While his initial WWE work will be solo, Smith is confident that he isn't the last Hart family member you will be seeing in the company soon.
"I think there would be a lot of potential for TJ and I to work as a tag team in the WWE. TJ, Ted, Nattie (Neidhart) and I could be a resurrection of the Hart Foundation. Of course that would have to be up to the WWE, and whether or not they would want to do it. I believe that Nattie has a strong position in the WWE too and it won't be long before she gets a deal there of some sort."
With Smith bypassing the WWE developmental system, he will have to quickly learn the WWE style while under the main spotlight. Having adjusted to working lengthy independent main events, Smith isn't concerned about the shortened time and breakneck pace of WWE television.
"I feel quite confident and ready to start on the RAW roster. The WWE style is quite a bit different than the Japanese style or the lengthier style of the independents. If it does take some getting used to, than I guess I'm going to have to change my style. I had to change my style and adapt to working in Japan, so I feel that it will be no different when I start in the WWE. I just returned from a tour of England and took the chance to really work on stuff like working the crowd, and test certain things out in front of the fans. I have been practicing on the microphone out here a lot as well and I am getting really comfortable with it. So I guess I can be as ready as possible, only time will tell how well I actually do."
Although in many ways Smith is a veteran, having wrestled for nearly a decade, the pressures of being on the road could be overwhelming. Smith turns 21 in August, and will be joining a lot of young lions on the main roster. He isn't concerned about the toil of the road.
"The current WWE schedule isn't nearly as bad as it once was. I'll be home for three days of the week, and on the road for four. Over the past year I have gotten used to traveling and being away from home for lengthy stays. I was just in Germany, and Holland, which are complete foreign countries, and England and was gone for over a month. If I can handle being in a complete different country for six weeks, then I can handle the WWE schedule."
Another thing that will keep Smith grounded is his personality. Despite his pedigree and growing up with a famous father while running around in the legendary home of his grandfather Stu Hart, Smith is one of the most humble and genuine human beings you can have the pleasure of meeting.
"I am glad I have come across to that many people as being a genuinely nice guy. I have had a strong upbringing to be humble, and respectful of people. I heard a saying once before, that you don't need to tell people how good of a worker you are, if people watch your work and like it, they can be the judges. Most of the time, a guy promotes himself that he is a great worker and he is really not all he is hyped up to be. In this business you should never tell people how good you are. If you are a good worker, word will get around."
Smith has long felt the pressure of being "The Son of the Bulldog." Smith hardly the first third generation wrestler; however the fathers of Randy Orton and The Rock competed in an entirely different era, where as Davey Boy Smith is still the memories of more recent fans, having last competed in the WWF as late as 2000. Smith is aware of his legacy and responsibilities, but also hopes to be judged on his own merit and achieve his goals, including winning the title his father never did.
"I want to be the youngest WWE champion ever. It was something my father came so close to winning on a few occasions but never did, which makes me want to win it even more. I only live life once, and I want to accomplish everything I can in my lifetime. I am fully prepared to start in the WWE, and plan on making a huge impact. I want the fans to cheer me on, and appreciate my wrestling. Hopefully they won't just cheer for me cause if who my dad was, and I really hope they don't swerve and boo the hell out of me. I want to go out there and earn the wrestling fans' respect. I want them to appreciate me, and understand how long and hard I have worked to get where I am at today. In the end, I hope they will respect me. That's the most important thing."
Harry Smith's final Alberta wrestling appearances will be Friday, May 12th in Cochrane for Stampede Wrestling against TJ Wilson, and Saturday, May 13th in Edmonton for The Prairie Wrestling Alliance against Duke Durrango and TJ Wilson.
Never seen Harry Smith in action? Check out these DVDs!
Jason Clevett is from Calgary and has watched Harry Smith grow as a wrestler and a person. Jason is very proud of Smith's accomplishments and wishes him the best in the WWE.