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  April 8, 2000



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Truth finally comes out


By BRET HART -- Calgary Sun

 The behind-the-scenes people at Off The Record went on the record and said that my interview with Michael Landsberg on Tuesday was the most anticipated and requested show they'd ever done.

 There were important issues I'd wanted to address with Landsberg for a long time, going back to his interview with Vince McMahon last July. McMahon said that I'd requested that he meet with me on the day before Owen's funeral and that when we met all I did was talk about myself, not Owen, and that I was like a non-human skeleton. The truth is that someone in the WWF begged me, on Vince's behalf, to meet with Vince and I told them straight out that Martha's lawyers asked that if I did, we not talk about Owen. Understanding that, if Vince still wanted to meet with me, I would, not to talk business, but as two ex-friends drawn into the same tragedy.

 And for him to say I was like a skeleton, well, considering my family was about to bury my younger brother, is that surprising?

 Fate had it that Landsberg interviewed me in the middle of a book tour I'm doing to promote my new paperback Hitman Hart, Best There is, Best There Was, Best There Ever Will Be, which I'm flattered to see is on the Globe & Mail best-seller list. By the time I got to Landsberg, I'd been through a media whirlwind that would make anyone's brain feel scrambled -- so imagine what that was like for me, still feeling the effects of a nasty concussion.

 Even so, I was looking forward to it because I wanted to set the record straight. But I was concerned that having concussion symptoms that blur and clear my thoughts unpredictably would make it even more challenging to tackle difficult issues.

 Strangely, I felt a wave of clarity come over me when the cameras rolled. I couldn't say everything that I wanted to say exactly the way I wanted, but I'm satisfied that I was able to get the big points across. If you saw the show, that's as good as it gets for me lately and I had a whopping headache for days after.

 I was in New York on the book tour and I found myself on the Queen Latifah show, a Jerry Springer sort of cacophony, where the topic was backyard wrestling. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the jargon, 'backyard wrestling' is a masochistic bloodfest where young men with stunted emotional growth intentionally inflict pain and injury on themselves and their willing friends with sharp objects, heavy implements and fire. The word `wrestling' as used in this activity bears no relation to wrestling as an athletic contest.

 When I got home, I dragged myself in the door. Waiting for me was a video tape left by a friend. It was simply labelled: Bret vs. Owen. Sept. 29 '94 -- White Plains, N.Y. -- an Overlooked Classic. Watching it, all the scattered thoughts in my mind suddenly made sense, defined by a feeling better than words can do.

 There we were, two athletes in great shape having a great wrestling match, safely, without chairs and tables and baseball bats. And the fans were really into it. The crowd was filled with families, as opposed to today when you hardly see kids at the matches. But pro wrestling isn't for kids any more. Those people in White Plains -- and all the other fans at that time -- knew that Owen and I weren't in there to do permanent harm to each other, but still the match was very real to them. They felt every painful hold.

 They followed every move and reversal. That's what wrestling has lost.

 Realism.

 It occurs to me that with all the questions from all the reporters about all sorts of complicated issues revolving around wrestling that were thrown at me, the only one I don't know the answer to any more is back to square one: Is wrestling real?

 I'm not sure the question even makes sense in wrestling any more. It was the fans' ability to suspend their disbelief that made heroes and villains and role models in the truest sense. The artistry of wrestling was scripted realism. Today, there's hardly any attempt to make wrestling realistic. Instead, wrestlers are really hurting each other in soap opera stunts outside the ring -- and fans know it and buy tickets to see it. Maybe that's too real?

 In the past couple of weeks, I've had my brain picked by some of the best in the business. Arlene Bynon, Vicki Gabereau, Katherine Crier, Entertainment Tonight, Extra, CNN -- and Mike Bullard. I've even done Internet interviews. I've been questioned and photographed by all kinds of magazines and newspapers, big and small, from all kinds of places. And after all that ... after all this time ... guess who called me.

 Eric Bischoff.

 They want me to come to Nitro on Monday. For what? I have no idea.

 Your guess is as good as mine.

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