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King of the mat


By ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun
  Bret "The Hitman" Hart is known the world over as wrestling's good guy. In his trademark pink tights, Hart climbed to the very pinnacle of the World Wrestling Federation and ruled that glorious ring for a number of years. Now grabbing hold of the rival World Championship Wrestling ropes after a falling out with WWF boss Vince McMahon, Hart looks back on his life with Sun writer Eric Francis. In this, the last of our threepart series, we catch up on The Hitman today and look ahead to his tomorrow.

There's still a touch of bitterness in Bret Hart's voice when he speaks of his split with the World Wrestling Federation last November.

The unceremonious stripping of Hart's title in Montreal, followed by an ugly dressing room punch-up with WWF owner Vince McMahon, wasn't the way the five-time champ envisioned leaving his "family" of 13 years.

But in a way, it's helped him come closer to his real family -- the one that has seen Dad on TV more than at home.

"I've always been really sorry I've been away from my kids," says Bret, who was on the road as many as 300 nights a year in the late 80's and early 90's.

"My Dad was gone a lot, too, but when I really needed him was when I was a teenager. He made it up to me later and maybe it'll be the same for me and my kids."

Currently making just one or two appearances a week with the World Championship Wrestling loop, his new schedule allows him to spend Tuesday to Friday at his Northwest Calgary home.

He keeps his 6-ft 1-in., 230-lb. frame in top shape by working out twice daily in his home gym and is otherwise on the phone with lawyers, friends and media-types all day long.

However, at night he has now been afforded the opportunity to make up for lost time by spending precious hours with his four children -- Jade, 15, Dallas, 14, Alexandra (Beans), 9, and Blade, 7.

"There's more family time now -- that's the most important thing," says his wife Julie, who married Bret in 1983. "(In the WWF) he was gone for 10 days at a time but now he's involved with more of the kids things."

When talk turns to his family, Bret flashes his trademark grin and reflects on the little things that silently mean so much to a dad and his kids.

"Often I get on my hands and knees in the living room and basically tell Dallas and Blade they don't have what it takes to step in the ring with me," laughs dad, who's been driving all four to judo classes and Hitmen hockey games these days.

"They try to get me on my back and I'm not allowed to fight back..." his voice trails off but the smile remains.

It's clear he truly cherishes such moments with them.

For Bret, the path for a wrestling career was paved from an early age. His father, Stu, ran Stampede Wrestling and although Bret resisted it for years, he ultimately climbed into the ring.

Bret says he wouldn't be disappointed if his kids did the same.

"I wouldn't mind -- I'm proud of wrestling," he says. "There's fame and glory attached to it and I really believe it's an art form, although I guess I always kinda hope they'll be football players instead."

Bret's schedule will likely become more and more hectic through the summer and fall as he lines himself up for a title shot with either Hollywood Hogan or Sting by year's end.

He's never gone one-on-one with either of the two heavyweights, so a pay-per-view match is already being anticipated as one of the biggest draws in wrestling history.

A year or two after that, he plans on retiring.

More on Bret Hart