December 10, 2010
Hitman has finally found contentment
By TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun
In his 53 years on this planet, Bret Hart has known pain and heartbreak. There have been tremendous highs and rock-bottom lows.
And now, arguably Canada's most famous wrestler has found contentment, a respite from years of bitterness spawned after a dispute with WWE kingpin Vince McMahon at Survivor Series in Montreal in 1997.
The awesome documentary Hitman: Wrestling with Shadows is out again on DVD and Hart knows it is a benchmark.
"It's always made me melancholy. It really captured the final fleeting moments of the the full Hart family.
"When I watch it, I have mixed emotions. It's very stirring, sad, but very powerful in its own way. They told a story which vindicated what I did (spit on McMahon, then later punched him)."
On the plane ride home from Montreal, Hart told Wrestling With Shadows director Paul Jay the film wouldn't work.
"I said, 'There was no point in filming anymore, you missed it,'" said Hart. "But he said, 'This is going to be amazing,' and he had this gleem in his eye.
"When I saw the first rough cut, I was like, 'Wow! I can't believe this.' I remember thinking, 'He did tell the story.'
"Paul and those guys happened to be there and got that moment. A week before, he had called me and said he didn't have an ending. I told him to come watch me wrestle one last match in Canada. That moment defined me as a person. It's a big compliment when you can take something as silly as a wrestling match and make it such a powerful moment. I was able to stand tall as a Canadian."
"Before it came out, (WWE) did everything they could to put a different spin on it, to make me look like the bad guy. But their story came out in the wash as being a bunch of baloney."
Hart says after being "screwed" out of his championship belt against Shawn Michaels, the after-match confrontation with McMahon was a doozy.
"I thought it was perfect the way it was," he said. "He defamed me as a character. I would have regretted it for the rest of my life if I hadn't (hit him).
"As time went on, it's always been such a serious thing for me. It wasn't only Survivor Series, it was Owen's (Hart) death. Wrestling has been such a touchy subject. With Survivor Series, people were saying, 'We get it and we understand why you got mad, but what is the purpose of you sitting down and being angry about it.'
"I gave so much and it bothered me. I didn't want to be erased. I always thought I would be the Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle of wrestling one day, but when I pounded Vince that day, I lose some of that."
Hart says his return to a WWE ring was good for him and for others.
"I believe that Shawn and me shaking hands buried the hatchet and it really did set him free. At the same time, I felt deep relief myself. And I'm sure Vince felt it, too."
Michaels endured plenty of heat in Canada after the incident, also partly because he put a Canadian flag on the ground and rolled around on it as Hart walked toward the tunnel.
"I think that set off a timebomb in every Canadian. My dad was furious. And I never forgave Shawn for that specific scene. On Nov. 11, I had my poppy on. I'm a proud Canadian. I don't think anybody thought Survivor Series could have the effect it did. It was a defining moment for Canadians. And how many guys get to knock out their boss on their last day of work?"
Hart says WWE purposely attempted to make him look bad.
"They put out a Best of Wrestlemania and they put my worst match on there -- Me against Bob Backlund in an I Quit match. When I saw it, I thought they did it as a thumb in the eye to me.
"Later, Vince let me do the DVD set the way he promised me. It was the first door that we really opened that made the hard feelings that still existed to melt. The Hall of Fame was another gesture, although I thought it should have waited awhile ... I wasn't ready for it.
"It's a very happy time for me right now. I'm remarried. I don't have to be a slave to my suitcase. I can sit home and watch hockey.
"And with wrestling, I get to dress up and put on my Batman suit again."
Tim Baines is the Sports Editor for the Ottawa Sun and can be emailed at Tim.firstname.lastname@example.org.