August 23, 2007
Hitman can't wait to talk to Ottawa fans10 years after Survivor Series Screwjob, Bret Hart returns to nation's capitol
By TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun
Bret Hart is anxious to visit Ottawa today.
He'll be in town for SuperEx Showdown: When Legends Collide, the star-studded card at the Civic Centre, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
It could get a bit emotional when The Hitman grabs the microphone. He was supposed to be front and centre on Nov. 10, 1997 when WWF (now WWE) brought its live RAW TV show to Ottawa. But the night before, at Montreal's Molson Centre, what's become known as the Survivor Series Screwjob changed the face of wrestling.
Hart wrestled Shawn Michaels in that night's main event. Inexplicably, before the match was scripted to end, referee Earl Hebner called for the bell with Hitman in a "submission hold." Hart lobbed a loogie at WWF owner Vince McMahon, one of the conspirators, then stood in the ring in disbelief.
Hart had just signed a deal with rival WCW and didn't want to "lose" his championship. The plan had been to forfeit the strap the next night on RAW in Ottawa.
McMahon wanted to take no chances. He forged ahead with his own plan, without letting Hart in on it.
"I was going to forfeit the title, but they had no intent on doing that," says Hart.
Hart hasn't spoken to an Ottawa wrestling audience since (he appeared in a stage production of Aladdin here last year). He can't wait.
"Ottawa was always a special place for me," he says. "I love the city ... it reminds me of Calgary size-wise.
"Knowing the history and that I never got a chance to close the chapter properly with the Ottawa audience, it'll be great to see the fans. It's important to go back to Ottawa.
"What I say will be from the heart. I was in Montreal recently and I was happily surprised to see that they remembered me even more fondly. Maybe absence does make the heart grow fonder."
Hart, who slugged McMahon backstage in Montreal, says his feelings have changed at least a bit since then.
"After surviving a stroke, I just thought it was better not to carry hard feelings," he says. "I will never forget that McMahon made me the success I was. I'm honest enough to know that. We're on okay terms ... I've moved on from being bitter and angry. But his betrayal of me was a serious thing."
After relenting and being admitted into the WWE Hall of Fame more a year ago, Hart has no intention of jumping back on board.
"They have feelers sent out to me all the time," he says. "But I'm limited in what I can do. It's probably not viable for me to consider wrestling again. And I'm sure (McMahon) probably understands that I don't want to be remembered as a ring announcer, a commissioner or a referee. I want to be remembered as the greatest wrestler of all-time.
"You have to realize what was going through my mind (after the match in Montreal). There was a point where I was looking out at the fans and thinking 'some day they're going to call you and want you to come back. They'll want to buy you again.'
"I was looking at the fans, some with tears in their eyes, and I had already made a vow to myself that under no circumstances would I work for that company again.
"I tell you this, I will never work for them. Never in my lifetime. It's hard for me to do business with people who don't do business honestly. There are members of my family trying to get on with WWE, so I don't want to be somebody who causes problems."
Hart has written a book, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling. It will be released in October.
"It's the best book on wrestling ever," he promises. "The only wrestling book I've read was Mankind's. It was honest and he gave his perspective.
"It's not a nasty tell-all book. I talked to Vince and he told me I should write whatever the heck I wanted."