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  August 26, 2000



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Kasavubu made big impact


By BRET HART -- For the Calgary Sun

 Picking up where we left off last week, nearing the end of 1979, I'd begun to fill out my 6-ft. frame and it soon became apparent that I was big enough to move up to the heavyweight division.

 That's where my dad needed me the most, but it was also where I'd lock up with Stampede Wrestling's biggest and toughest stars.

 Some of my first heavyweight battles were against the Ugandan giant, Kasavubu, managed by the rascally J.R. Foley. Actually, Kasavubu's real name was Jimmy Lee Banks and he was from Akron, Ohio. We were both in our early 20s and became close friends.

 This one time he hit the ring in street clothes and ended up giving me quite a pounding. As I lay in a heap, I saw Foley urging Kas to give me one more elbow drop.

 Kas came lumbering at me and I saw the heel of his shoe get caught in the cuff of his pant leg. Much to my horror, the 6 ft.-4 in. 330-lb goliath fell on me with all his weight, full force, almost obliterating my cute little face forever.

 Actually, it was pretty bad and I knew Kas felt horrible yet despite blood pouring from my nose, I couldn't help but laugh as my dad hit the ring and was busy popping Foley all over the place with his infamous elbow smashes.

 So much for my promise to my mother that I'd never break my nose. Welcome to the heavyweight division.

 Sadly, Kas, who had suffered in silence with diabetes, died just a couple of years later. His brother gave him a kidney, but the ordeal proved to be too much for him and he died on the operating table. I've often thought about him throughout my career and missed his big smile and his big heart -- not to mention all the great matches we would have had.

 One of my next opponents was Duke Myers, an ex-con from Portland, Ore. Passed over by all the American promoters, Duke was a classic example of what made Stampede Wrestling so great.

 He soon proved himself to be one of the most solid and steady wrestlers ever to work up here. Duke was usually aligned with Kerry Brown as the International tag team champs, with J.R. Foley as their manager.

 When my brother Keith and I weren't doing battle against Duke and Kerry, I faced them both one-on-one. I soon perfected my famous right handed punch on Duke's huge melon-sized head, and my English style elbow smash (known as a lifter) that would echo through the arena when I nailed Kerry. Yet I rarely used the lifter in my WWF/WCW days, simply because nobody could take it like Duke or Kerry.

 Then there was Dr. D David Shultz, from Memphis, who probably taught me more about ring psychology than anyone else I ever knew. Standing 6 ft. 3 in. with a huge ball of curly blonde hair, Dave was one of the most charismatic and gifted blabbermouths of them all.

 He and Ed Whalen were often the highlight of the show with their hilarious back-and-forth banter. On the other side of it, Dr. D was quite a scrapper. I'm sure many of you recall how he slapped that annoying 20/20 reporter John Stossel for disrespecting the wrestling profession once upon a time.

 Dave did have a serious temper on him but not with me. He gave me great advice and the opportunity of a lifetime to learn from him every time we worked. It was Dave Schultz who first told me, when I arrived in the WWF, that I didn't have to take a back seat to anybody there.

 When I finally did become the North American Heavyweight Champion, it was against the king of scientific wrestlers, Leo Burke. One of the many Cormier brothers from Moncton, NB, 'The Beast' Rudy, Bobby, and Leo were all standout wrestlers. With limited exposure in the States, Leo worked mainly in Canada and is often slighted because of it.

 Take it from me, Leo Burke was one of the greatest Canadian wrestlers ever and my dad was fortunate to have him from the start to the finish of his great career.

 One of my favourite memories is the look of awe on time-keeper Tommy Carr's face when Leo and I wrestled. We'd battle to the one-hour time limit and Tommy would be frozen with a stop watch in one hand and ready to ring the bell with the other.

 And then, the next week, we'd go to the full-time limit again.

 Some of my toughest battles and brawls were with guys like Archie the Stomper Gouldie and Bad News Allen.

 More next week in the last of my three-part retrospective and reminiscences on my career in Stampede Wrestling.

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