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A visit to the Dungeon


Jim (The Anvil) Neidhart and Tyler McLeod
By TYLER McLEOD -- Calgary Sun
  Retract. Rescind. Withdraw. Abnegate. Abjure. Retreat.

It's amazing, really. How quickly one can take back all the things nasty things he's ever said about professional wrestling. A simple body slam from Jim (The Anvil) Neidhart will do it every time.

Today is the really big shoe: The WWF Canadian Stampede -- In Your House. So I thought, to get properly geared up for In Your House, I would go to his house. Bret Hart's house, I mean.

It seems my reputation preceded me. They knew I'd written some things about the WWF before, but they agreed to show me the error of my ways.

You know, in my defence, all I said was that dressing up in tights and hitting people with fold-away chairs is a rather bizarre pastime for grown adults.

"I don't think bizarre is the word for it," The Anvil said. "It's extremely unusual, but it's basically pretty simple. In Third World countries, they don't understand English, but they understand wrestling."

After leaving UCLA for a short-lived football career (Raiders, Cowboys) The Anvil met Stu Hart and soon found himself in the infamous Dungeon.

It was there he learned the ropes (pun very much intended) and before you could say "ring-a-ding-dong-dandy," he was in the squared circle at the Pavilion. Bret's building his own version of The Dungeon. His basement features a gym, sauna, pool and yes -- a WWF standard-issue wrestling ring.

On this particular day, large, large men were filing down the driveway. "Those are what you call future prospects," Bret said. "I just teach certain guys."

Bret says his style in the ring is being lost to flashier, showier moves. "There's only a handful of great technical wrestlers, I want to pass the art form off. The rest is more and more rehearsed, acrobatic wrestling matches."

Wanted to pass the torch? From what I saw among the photos, magazine covers and belts on Bret's walls, a career in wrestling is anything but boring. Maybe The Killer Columnist could be the next Intercontinental Champion! Heck, I have the hair for it.

"We get recognized all over the globe -- everywhere," Jim said. Fame! "Contracts are becoming a big thing. It's like hockey or baseball: If someone times it right, they can make some serious cash," Bret said. Fortune! "I've got a good contract, but I don't think I could last another round," he said. Opportunity!

Put me in, coach. Where do I sign?

"It's very competitive. There's a lot of backstabbing going on," Bret warned. "The political stuff -- whose T-shirts are hotter, who gets more letters, whose name is on the Internet more often."

"Put up with all the rental cars and hotels," Jim continued. Hmmm, I don't look good in Spandex and I don't imagine wrestling rings are easy to find.

"Oh, you can pick those up at K-Mart," Jim smiled.

Kidding aside, there's all the working out and demanding fans. Jim practically wet himself when I asked if the WWF had a dental plan.

"You're always in jeopardy with the promoters," Bret said. "If they don't like you, they can cut the power."

Yeah, and I might get stuck with a really crappy persona, too. Like those guys who carry around pigs or that Goldust who covers himself in body paint and prances around in a cape. Did he lose the persona pool, or what? "Yeah, that's a little bizarre," Jim nodded. "It's hard to explain why, but that's how he chooses to act."

Then Bret shared a story of his early WWF years.

"They called me in one night and said `We got it: Cowboy Bret Hart! You'll have the chaps, the boots!' About 12:30 at night, I knocked on Jim's door and said I don't want to be a cowboy or The Electric Horseman or whatever. That's when we got the idea of tagging up."

That's when I had pretty good idea professional wrestling wasn't my calling in life. Of course, the body slam sealed the deal. Jim was pretty gentle, I must admit -- he just kind of let me fall instead of throwing me. And let me tell you, those ropes hurt when you bounce off them.

No thanks, guys. If I ever step into the ring again, it'll be in a three-man tag team: Myself, a good accident/injury lawyer and my chiropractor.

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