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  April 15, 2000



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High risk

Greenhorns increase the danger factor



By BRET HART -- Calgary Sun

 People ask me why I refer to myself as 'The best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be,' even when they agree that I'm the best wrestler.

 They point out it's egotistical for me to go around announcing it. Nah, actually it's my way of keeping my ego in check because I have to always try to live up to what I'm proclaiming myself to be. But you know what? I realized that most people don't know what I really mean when I call myself the best there is.

 Sure, some of my matches are the best of all time -- and that's not ego talking either because all you have to do is check the record books.

 But what I think really makes me the best is that in the 22 years that I've been a pro wrestler, I have never, ever hurt anybody.

 I've overheard wrestlers bragging to each other about how they can do some spectacular looking and just as dangerous move just great, maybe eight times out of 10. My question is, what happens the other two times?

 What do you say to your opponent, "Oh, sorry bro, thems the breaks, sorry you're paralyzed, most of the time I do it good." And with some guys, their success rate is more like five times out of 10. Where I come from, being able to do a move right eight times out of 10 means you've still got a lot of training to do. You don't start bragging 'til you nail it every time, again and again and again.

 A big slogan and belief in wrestling today is to trust no one, yet everything that happens in the ring is based on trust. You put your safety and the security of your family in the hands of your opponent -- just as he does with you. It takes a heck of a lot of trust to just lay there when a 500-lb. blob is dropping an elbow on you from the top rope or to stand still when a powerful guy is swinging a baseball bat or a chair at your head -- but only a complete imbecile would dare move an inch -- don't even flinch -- 'cause if you do, it'll be your own fault if you go home in pieces.

 This idea of wrestlers "trusting no one" goes a long way toward explaining why too many matches lately look, to me, like poorly choreographed ballets, sort of like gazelles and antelopes leaping and running. When did you ever see a real fight that looked like that? The realism was lost when the trust was lost.

 A successful pro wrestler today can score more for one big pay-per-view purse than most wrestlers used to make in a year or in a career. It used to be the three prime ingredients were, first and foremost, you had to be able to wrestle, you had to have charisma and you had to be good on the mic.

 Once in a while, a guy came along who was an exception to the rule, whose wrestling skills weren't as good as his talking or his look, Hulk Hogan being the prime example. Yet, Hogan is the Elvis Presley of wrestling. Nobody put on a show like Hulkster. He always gave 100% to create a great fight and, more importantly, a safe fight.

 It used to be guys were like a team in which everyone pulled together to do what's best for business. But lately, some guys have been in it just for themselves with the idea that they can come into wrestling for a couple of years, get the big push and the big cheque and go home, and that's disrupted the team spirit a bit.

 When McMahon ran all the family-owned territories out of business, the irony is that he destroyed his own feeder system. So when there wasn't enough experienced wrestling talent, the promoters sought guys who had 'the look.' They could teach him a few holds and stick him in there with veterans who could make him seem better than he was. Enter the age of the Ultimate Warrior.

 The dwindling number of seasoned veterans was relied upon to make the inexperienced guys look good. You risk your body and your mind every time you climb into the ring with a guy who still has a lot to learn. And learning on live PPV gives a lot of new guys an understandable case of being nervous and that makes for mistakes. Enter Bill Goldberg.

 I like Goldberg. He's a great guy. He's got a great look. He's been great for WCW and it'll be nice to see him back in action. Bill Goldberg is the guy who gave me a mule kick that nearly knocked my head off my shoulders. A muscle that supports my skull is ripped and my brain rocked like Jell-O. There were other stiff shots to my head in that match, too. It was like the Samsonite commercial with the suitcase and the gorilla -- I was the suitcase.

 Yet, I have no bad feelings towards Bill. I don't blame him for what happened.

 Instead, I blame a business that pushed Bill too fast, which, I believe, will ultimately shorten his run. As a result of it, WCW has lost me in action for three months, so far -- and they've lost Bill also because the night after he blasted me in the head, they asked him to punch his way through a car window and he nearly severed his arm.

 The wrestling business may have gotten the last laugh. Here I am, the best there is, was, or ever will be because I never hurt anybody and I've earned respect in the locker room as a guy who brings out the best in his opponents and yet -- here I am -- downed with a brain injury in the line of duty.

 Wrestling broke my heart but I won't let it break my mind. If anything, being sidelined has given me a chance to think about a lot of things and you, loyal readers, are the sounding board for my ruminations.

 Which brings me to last week's Nitro. I was impressed Bischoff and Russo had the guts to publicly own up to past mistakes, learn from them and erase them as if they were a bad dream. Morale among the wrestlers was higher at Nitro this week than at any time since I've been in WCW.

 That alone is a commendable accomplishment.

 It's an exciting time and I'm intrigued with the possibilities.

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