David Hart Smith needed 'hiatus' from WWE
DEREK RUTTLE - For SLAM! Wrestling
|David Hart Smith as half of the WWE tag team champions. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
While most wrestlers would do anything it takes to make it to the top ranks of the WWE, David Hart Smith chose to step back and remove himself from the spotlight when nothing was clicking for him, the backstage politics were a hassle, and his career was in a rut.
Smith is the former Hart Dynasty member along with Tyson Kidd and Natalya, and the son of the late "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith. After many months of inactivity following the breakup of the trio late last year, Smith was released from his WWE contract on August 5.
Catching up with the youngest wrestling star to ever come out of the famed Hart family after an indie show in Saskatchewan, Smith says that it may be quite a while before he tries another go with the WWE.
"It's been great -- paradise," he joked, when asked what life's been like outside the WWE so far. "No, it's been good. I just need a really good, long, maybe two- or three-year hiatus from the WWE. I was starting to get burned out there, and there was just nothing really happening."
Smith appeared in the main event of a show held in Outlook, SK on Saturday, September 17 by Moose Jaw-based promotion Gold Dragon Wrestling. He wrestled independent sensation "Mr. Intensity" Mark Posey in a solid match that saw Harry take the win with the Sharpshooter.
The crowd may have been small, but the action was hot and Harry says the GDW roster worked hard.
"I thought the show was good and it was great being here," he said. "I've only been to Saskatchewan a couple of times, and it's a bit of a flat drive coming out here. The guys worked really hard, and I think the first match was the best I'd seen on the card. Hopefully they all learned something from the seminar (taught earlier that day), and I'm glad to see they all help with tearing down the ring -- there's no big egos or anything like that. We're out here to better ourselves and I hope to be back soon."
Since his WWE release, Harry has jumped right back into the independent scene, as well as returning to Japan in early September to wrestle for the Inoki Genome Federation, teaming up with Bobby Lashley in a losing effort against Kendo Kashin and Kazuyuki Fujita. Smith's previous Japan experience included a tour with New Japan Pro Wrestling in early 2005, where he wrestled under the moniker "Black Assassin."
"I really enjoy coming back up to Canada and doing shows up here," he said. "Vance (Nevada) brought me in and I did some shows in Calgary with my relatives, and I've got some conventions coming up with my uncle Bret in the U.S., as well as going back to Japan and wrestling a lot -- that's a place I really love working. I love the style, I love the food, the culture, and the wrestling over there is just great."
Smith says he feels more freedom on the indie scene as compared to the limitations that come with being under the watchful eyes of the WWE office. That being said, the skills he learned under some of the best minds in the company have allowed him to take more of a leadership role when he enters a new dressing room.
"Yes, certainly," said Harry, when asked if he found the indie scene more fulfilling than the WWE. "Today, I ran a seminar with some of the local talent here, and it seemed like they were all hungry and looking to improve their skills and hone their craft. (On the flip side) it was a really great experience being in the WWE for four to five years, and some of the stuff I learned up there from the wrestlers and agents such as Arn Anderson, Ricky Steamboat, Mike Rotundo and Fit Finlay I've really retained well, and I think being able to run these seminars with guys on the independent circuit is going to be great and it'll help them hopefully make the indie scene a great place to wrestle. I enjoy teaching it and it makes me feel good to see others improve."
David Hart Smith traps Mark Posey in the Sharpshooter. Photo by Derek Ruttle
As far as his future goes, Harry has been getting seriously involved in catch-as-catch-can wrestling and learning mixed martial arts (MMA). He's considering his options for the new year after some more time spent training and honing his skills.
"As far as MMA goes right now, I need some more striking ability because there are some dangerous strikers out there that are good sprawlers," said Smith. "I need about another six months to maybe a year of striking. I'm just putting it all together, and certainly doing the wrestling on the side. In the new year, I definitely want to start entering some grappling tournaments, so I'll see where it goes."
Harry has taken on a very notable name to help guide his new aspirations, and has already amassed so much training time that he can teach what he learns. Smith says that the wrestling industry can learn from the catch-as-catch-can style to help improve the overall image of what pro wrestlers should represent.
"I'm being taught under Billy Robinson, and I'm actually a certified coach under him, meaning I've completed over 100 hours and I can actually teach catch-as-catch-can wrestling," said Smith. "So not just knowing the techniques, but being able to apply them and winning grappling tournaments will be great for my wrestling career and give me some sort of recognition, and not only that, but once I get going with that, I hope to be running seminars with catch-as-catch-can wrestling and perhaps opening up a school. Billy has a lot of faith in me that I'm going to be the man, myself with Josh Barnett, to carry on the catch-as-catch-can legacy in MMA, grappling and not only that, but in pro wrestling, too. Wrestlers need to be somewhat of a tough guy or tougher than the average person to do this, and they all need to learn some submission stuff to hold their own. Not only that, but it helps them move better in the ring with the footwork like Billy's been showing me."
Harry says the switch from professional to catch-as-catch-can wrestling has been relatively easy and this could possibly end up changing his career.
"A lot of the holds are actually similar to pro wrestling, so it's kind of a good transition," he said. "It could be a complete, whole turnaround career for me doing this instead, but I don't know yet."
For many young talents, the chance to perform at WrestleMania is like winning the lottery. Harry may not have wrestled a match, but he did take part in a memorable angle with the entire Hart family at WrestleMania 26 as his uncle Bret "The Hitman" Hart fought WWE chairman Vince McMahon in a street fight. Smith stood with partners Tyson Kidd and Natalya as the ring was surrounded with all the Hart siblings, cheering on Bret as he destroyed McMahon unmercifully. In one big spot, Smith grabbed his boss, lifted him off his feet and held him in bear hug position while Kidd sailed off the top rope and laid out McMahon with a clothesline, resurrecting and putting a different spin on the iconic Hart Attack double move used by the old Hart Foundation, Bret and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart.
Harry remembers that night fondly, and it wasn't long that the Hart Dynasty got a solid push as they captured the Tag Team Titles shortly after Mania.
"That was my WrestleMania moment," he said. "It was great. At the time, I felt pretty frustrated with the company prior to Mania; Tyson and I weren't really doing a whole lot, and so it happened to be Bret had this big match with Vince coming up and that opportunity came around. After that, we had a good skyrocket push and won the Tag Team Championships, including being the first holders of the new Unified Tag Team Championships - the titles that look like a big copper shield. It was definitely cool to be the first ones to hold those, and that was just a great WrestleMania moment being out there with the family, and I think it brought a lot of closure to the whole Bret Hart/Vince McMahon feud."
Every time Mania season rolls around, fans debate who should be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. One name that has come up more in recent years is the late Davey Boy Smith, and Harry says if his father does go into the Hall, he wants to be the one inducting him.
Davey Boy Smith:
"One of the most powerful superstars of all time."
Bret "The Hitman" Hart:
"Excellence of Execution."
"Excellence of Execution times two! A pioneer and someone I have the utmost respect for.
(after a pause) "Good psychology."
"Great charisma, great entertainer."
"Unstoppable, unbeatable; I don't know how he's still doing it."
"Most powerful Diva ever."
"My best friend. One of the best performers in WWE that I know."
"Sky's the limit. MMA, Japan, pro wrestling. I wanna work hard. Someday, MMA Champion but I still think, someday, I can become WWE Champion."
"I think that's something more than well deserved," said Harry, on the Bulldog getting inducted. "If I have a good run in MMA and perhaps come back to the WWE as a huge superstar, inducting my father into the HOF would be great. I'm kind of glad he hasn't been inducted yet, just due to the fact that I wasn't doing that much in the company, and I would prefer to be a big superstar and perhaps World Champion in inducting him as part of a big ceremony. That's years to come, I guess."
One name that's synonymous with WrestleMania and definitely HOF-bound is The Undertaker. Smith says the level of respect for the Dead Man in the dressing room is huge and he can't believe the high quality of Taker's matches given the laundry list of injuries that he's sustained over his career.
"There's a lot of respect for him," he said. "He's still out there, every single year at WrestleMania and having five-star matches with (the likes of) Shawn Michaels. The last match he had this year with Triple H was amazing. He's a guy who's been around for years and years, and he's injured beyond belief, but he still goes out there and performs. He's someone you can really learn from watching -- a big man who can move, jump over the top rope. Hopefully he'll be around forever, but there's going to come a time where he retires, and I don't know when that is."
Closing out our chat was a game of name association, as Harry gave a quick thought on his legendary relatives and other notable names in the business.
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Derek Ruttle is seeking the highly sought after position of "Saskatchewan correspondent" for SLAM! Wrestling. Email him your best wishes at email@example.com.