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  Sep 30, 1998



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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

Tagging in for The Hitman




Mat Matters


Informative views and insights on the wrestling world from SLAM! Sports.


Bret Hart swarmed by hundreds of fans as he arrives in Toronto after winning the WWF World Title in 1997. (Toronto Sun Photo - Mark O'Neill)
By JOHN POWELL -- SLAM! Sports

I know that by publishing this column those who mistakenly regard SLAM! Wrestling as a mark site for Bret "The Hitman" Hart will roll their eyes to the heavens and shake their heads violently back and forth like they were auditioning for David Cronenberg's Scanners.

To those faithful readers, I would say while we do post Hart's weekly Calgary Sun newspaper column, remember we have also present opposing opinions as well. Namely, pieces written by our former columnist and good friend Donnie Abreu. Due to a potential conflict of interest (landing a full-time job elsewhere), Donnie chose to bid us a fond farewell. We still miss the big lug and wish him continued success.

As I pound the keys here, I am aware that I might incur the wrath of the Hitman-haters. That's fine. We here at SLAM! Wrestling are open to different points of view which is one reason we began posting original work written by you, the readers, and also your reactions to Mat Matters columns such as this one. Whether we agree with each argument or not isn't the point. Giving our readers a voice is of greater importance.

With that in mind, I ready myself to lay a "smack down" on Pro Wrestling Torch columnist, Bruce Mitchell.

Mitchell's "Canadian Hero" piece published in the September 26th issue of the Torch, centers around the impending release of the Bret Hart documentary "Hitman: Wrestling With Shadows". The column begins with an insightful lead-up spreading the blame around the Survivor Series swerve evenly then, as we knew it would, it predictably degenerates into another spiteful Bruce Mitchell rip on The Hitman and WCW.

Forget about Steve Williams or Steven Regal. Mitchell should be McMahon's official "corporate champion". He's got the right nose for the job.

Calling Hart a "complete fool", Mitchell writes..."I mean, I always knew Bret Hart took his job seriously, that he was proud that he never hurt anyone in a match, the he almost never missed dates, and that he was obsessive about how his pay-per-view matches were perceived. All of that helped make Hart a great wrestler. Worst for Bret and his family, though, it's just a part of the total picture of what makes Bret an insufferable jerk".

The distinction Mitchell can't understand is that there's a difference between having a "job" and having a "career". A "job" is a God forsaken place you trudge wearily to every day, put in your time and sprint like Donavon Bailey to the exit door once your shift is done. Though you approach your daily chores with a professional attitude, you'd really rather be working in another field entirely.

A "career" is something you build upon year after year. Whether it's being a brick layer, a nurse or a stock market trader, it's something so special to you that you make the occasional personal sacrifice. It is a part of who you are. It's more than just a job to pay the rent. It's a way of life.

Bret takes his image and his performances very seriously. Is there something wrong with that? It is Bret's livelihood afterall, isn't it? When did having pride in your work and how that work is perceived by others become a bad personality trait? Caring too much about your career isn't a crime.

Think about it. Bam! You're the well-to-do owner of a wrestling federation. Who would you hire? Hard-working, devote people like the Bret Harts, Chris Benoits and Mick Foleys or unreliable types like Scott Hall and Sycho Sid? Think about it.

Continuing his offensive, Mitchell scrawls..."As Bret Hart agonizes about his character's legacy, about his father's respect, about loyalty to the WWF, the phrase "Shut up and take the money" starts bouncing around your head over and over again".

I guess attributes like integrity, loyalty and respect don't mean much to Mr. Mitchell.

These aren't things you thoughtlessly toss away at the drop of a hefty sack of green. When all is said and done, these intangible qualities and not the size of a pay cheque are the true measure of an individual. As Wrestling With Shadows illustrates, Hart labored over the decision extensively pondering what would be best for him and also his family. He didn't greedily snatch up WCW's lucrative offer as soon as it was put on the table. He thought long and hard about it. That act in itself says a lot about the man behind the tinted sunglasses in a sports world where the allegiance of a professional athlete can be bought for the right price.

Mitchell also comments..."Uh, isn't a "Hitman" a guy who blows people's brains out when they're not looking - for money? And come to think of it, isn't a "Sharpshooter" the thing the "Hitman" uses to blow those people's brains out?".

What a stupid remark. If we were to subscribe to Mitchell's faulty thinking then The Undertaker is pure evil while Dude Love is the sunshine of our lives. Gimme a break.

"Granted, Hart was pro wrestling's Canadian home team but a hero? And what exactly does Bret Hart think he or even his character ever did that makes him a hero, particularly to kids? Give his sunglasses away," says an uninformed Mitchell.

The ignorance on display here is appalling. Not to upset our faithful American readers, but even though we are your best friends and neighbors, most of you really don't understand Canada's mindset and America's influence on it. Canadians don't think America is a "cess pool" or in need of an "enema". Yet, being on the outside looking in, grants us an unclouded perspective on your country.

While our media is saturated with American content detailing the good and the bad, America receives very little info on Canada. This would explain why some overzealous fans on both sides overstepped the fictional pro-wrestling boundaries and unfairly insulted each other's homeland during the WWF's repugnant Can-Am feud.

Why is Bret Hart considered to be a hero amongst Canadian wrestling fans? For the same reasons why Sgt. Slaughter, The "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, Jim Duggan and Hulk Hogan were. He is proud to be a Canadian. He waves the flag. He doesn't forget where he came from and the love he feels for his country and its citizens is straight from the heart. That ain't a simple thing when you work and perform in a foreign country which is wildly patriotic too.

Just like when Sgt. Slaughter or Hulk Hogan ripped on Iran or Duggan clobbered The Iron Shiek with his 2/4, we polite Canadians enjoyed SOME of Bret's comments such as his rants on America's health care system and high crime rate. Why? Because he was saying things on American television that Canadians wished they themselves could.

Hulk Hogan and Rhodes employed questionable tactics and spouted ill-mannered statements now and again. In their time, American and Canadian fans thought them to be heroes. Why isn't Mitchell roasting Hogan and Slaughter too? I guess in Mitchell's mind whether you're a heel or a face depends upon which side of the border you're on.

I'm sorry, Bruce. Last time I checked, America didn't corner the market on nationalism.

 You can e-mail Torch columnist Bruce Mitchell at: bmitchel@guilford.k12nc.us.

For info on subscribing to the Pro Wrestling Torch, email editor Wade Keller at: kelle050@gold.tc.umn.edu.
Amidst his other bonehead observations which are too numerous to address, Mitchell writes..."Bret Hart is the graduated quarterback who keeps going back to the high school stadium and pretty soon people are going to snicker".

Am I to assume this applies to Ric Flair, Randy Savage and Curt Hennig too? Their best days are over. They'll never put on a great match again. Please. Stop the insanity. What Mitchell fails to mention is that it's not Hart's age or ability that put him in a rut. That honor belongs to Hollywood Hogan's booking influence as he intentionally buries any wrestler threatening to yank away his spotlight.




Agree? Disagree? .E-Mail me your response at jpowell@canoe.ca. Some responses may appear in the next column.


MAILBAG


The previous SLAM! Wrestling editorial

I must say that I agree with your article about Ric Flair. While I have not always like Flair or more appropriately his "gimmicks", he has always been "THE MAN". From his interviews to the show in the ring he has NEVER given less than his best.

To see the Eric Bishoffs etc. of today taking all credit for what wrestling has become is very disturbing. Lets face it, if it weren't for the fans enjoying the show, action and interviews their wouldn't BE a show at all!! I'll never forget, as a small child, hearing my grandfather say "watch that SOB, he's cheating, that rotten SOB!!" while he was watching some wrestling show. I think now about how pure that was, he knew about the acts etc. but he TOTALLY enjoyed the show!!

So, while enjoying the newcomers let's not forget to heave a little praise on the men who REALLY made this sport! I always had a local favorite when I was a kid, he appeared here fairly often, Bobo Brazil. I thought he was wonderful and he along with his dreaded headbut got me started watching wrestling.

Bless all of the:
  • Flair's
  • Hogan's
  • Jake Roberts'
...and many others that I grew up watching. BTW, thanks to the Crockett's for having a show to watch in my area.

Jim Simpson.




I just wanted to say that your article on Ric Flair really drove home a point. It's nice to see Ric Flair get one last kick at the can before he hangs up his tights and walks (or styles and profiles) off into the sunset (or Space Mountain). Even though Eric Bishoff deserves some credit for breathing life into WCW (budget increases and high-profile free agent wrestling superstar signings aside), the way he treated Flair from back in April was plain wrong.

There are very few who have given as much to wrestling as Ric Flair, and there are very few who work as hard to put on a good show. With Eric Bishoff concentrating TV time on confusing and irritating angles, as well as the three or four weekly "Hulk Hogan state-of-the-union addresses", there is little time left that is devoted to actually entertaining the fans (what a concept!). All in all, I still think that WCW produces a quality product (with that much talent on board, they'd better do that much), but I think Ric Flair gives one thing to WCW that no one else can... and that's Ric Flair.

I just wanted to say that it's nice to see the good guys win one for a change.

RazorDT1.




I must admit, for the longest time I was more than ready to see Ric Flair retire from wrestling. He's is older, slower and his matches aren't what they used to be. I couldn't see what good he was doing for the sport. That was until very recently.

Two things changed my attitude. The first was Flair's return to wrestling on Monday Nitro. I've been watching wrestling for 14 years and I can honestly say that that was the greatest wrestling moment I have ever had the pleasure of watching.

The second thing that changed my attitude was your article. It was perfect. It fully encompassed how important Ric Flair is to professional wrestling. His importance goes beyond titles and mic skills. Flair is a true performer and a true icon and I am ashamed of myself for ever thinking otherwise.

I think Flair put it best when he said, "Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park, but it has still got the longest line."

Martin Lastrapes.




I agree with your comment that though old, Ric Flair (et al) deserves respect, but c'mon! There isn't anything more embarrassing than an aging veteran losing his skills in front of the whole world (see: Joe Carter)....I would respect him a lot more if he knew when to call it a day, and retire.

Besides being slow and looking like he left his muscles from yesteryear at home, his gig just isn't believable, and that's what makes wrestling fans cheer even though they know it is entertainment and not sport (to paraphrase Mr McMahon).

By having someone who we can't even fathom taking out a mid-carder (realistically), be "the Man", let alone champion again, it insults our intelligence. And, if they are going to continue treating us like we have no brains (ie PPV's like that last piece of crap), then we'll go elsewhere like we did in the late 80's when they got arrogant.....Phew!

Ian Crump.