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  August 18, 2001



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Best wrestling schools withstand the test of time


By BRET HART -- SLAM! Wrestling
 After reading last week's column about the demise of a feeder system in wrestling and the recent re-emergence of regional promotions and training camps, people have asked me how come I haven't opened a wrestling school.

 I'd like to but, unfortunately, my ring days ended with a concussion. It's bad enough that 18 months after sustaining the injury, I still have symptoms and maybe always will.

 This physical limitation prevents me from passing on what I know about wrestling because I don't see myself, as a teacher, being able to stand on the sidelines. That's not how I'd like to teach.

 It's perhaps the most tragic thing about my injury.

 I did teach a number of guys while I was still in the WWF which, for those of you who have asked, is why I had a wrestling ring in my house, seen in the documentary.

 Leo Burke and I worked with some well-known wrestlers in private because they wanted to refine their skills.

 We also taught guys such as Test and Edge. We never took a cent for it, just like my dad did for so many hopefuls and veterans alike -- Angelo Mosca, Superstar Billy Graham, Ivan Koloff and the Iron Sheik, just to name a few.

 My brother Keith did the same for Lance Storm, who I ran into in a WCW dressing room and he couldn't find enough good words to say about Keith.

 For anyone serious about learning the art of pro wrestling, my suggestion is go to one of a handful of established training camps that have withstood the test of time, survived the changes in the business, have emerged bigger and better than ever and continue to earn the right to call themselves the best.

 Two come to mind: The Wild Samoan Training Center and Larry Sharpe's Monster Factory.

 Afa, the Wild Samoan, was trained by his late uncle, (High Chief) Peter Maivia, in the early '70's. If the name sounds familiar to you younger fans, it's because Peter Maivia was the grandfather of Rocky Maivia -- a.k.a. The Rock.

 Afa trained his own brother, Sika, and together they formed the legendary tag team The Wild Samoans, who captured the Canadian tag team titles within two weeks of their arrival in Stampede Wrestling. They went on to travel the world earning 22 tag titles, including three in the WWF.

 Over the years, successful members of this extended Samoan family have included Samu, Phatu, Tonga Kid and, more recently, Rikishi and the late great Yokozuna.

 Billy Kidman graduated from their program in '94.

 The Wild Samoan Training Center is in Whitehall, Pa.

 The Monster Factory, in Westville, N.J., is run by Pretty Boy Larry Sharpe.

 After an award-winning career as an amateur, Larry turned pro with McMahon Sr.'s WWF in 1974. He did his stint for my dad's territory and wrestled around the world until he semi-retired in 1983 to open his wrestling school with Buddy Rogers.

 A partial list of graduates include King Kong Bundy, Bam Bam Bigelow, Chris Candido, Big Show, Godfather, D'Lo Brown and Tatanka.

 In August of '98, Larry was diagnosed with leukemia and things didn't look good.

 After 23 months of extensive chemotherapy and having a hole the size of a quarter drilled into his skull to access his nervous system, Larry is, miraculously, cancer free and still teaching.

 Shawn Michaels has a school in Texas. Whatever differences I had with Shawn doesn't change the fact he was one hell of a worker.

 Of course, if you can't get to the U.S., then there's my brother, Bruce, here in Calgary, which brings me to a common misconception that he taught Owen, Jericho, Benoit and myself.

 When guys say they "learned in Calgary," that refers more to the great legends we were fortunate to work with in my dad's old territory. Benoit was taught in Edmonton, Jericho with Keith. My teachers were Japanese.

 Wherever you train, work hard and do your best. You can make a good living in wrestling -- but only if you don't get hurt!

 Good luck.

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