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  January 8, 2000



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From the heart


By BRET 'THE HITMAN' HART -- Calgary Sun

 A couple of weeks ago, I ended my column by saying I'd have some explaining to do. I haven't written since then because I have a lot on my mind and I wasn't sure how to say it. Even if it doesn't come out exactly right, I think this is going to turn out to be an important column and I didn't want it to get lost in the holiday shuffle.

 The holidays? I hardly even remember Christmas and New Year's because of the colossal pulverizing I've been through since the last time I wrote.

 The Starrcade match with Goldberg was extremely punishing. (Really.) For days, I pulled myself up feeling like I'd been beat around like a Samsonite suitcase. After him, Benoit was very physical and then there I was with Jerry Flint, a world-class kick boxer turned wrestler who I'm amazed didn't break his own feet with how hard he was kicking me.

 On Tuesday, I ended up in a hardcore match with Terry Funk and woke up with a big goose egg on my head from when he dumped me out of a trash bin.

 Hitman hardcore? In a trash bin? Ah yes, the times they are a changin' ... and don't blame me!

 I signed an autograph for a guy who asked me the ever present "is it fake" question and I was stunned to realize I'm not even sure I know the answer anymore. Is what fake? The lump on my head is sure real enough.

 I've been doing everything I can to help WCW compete in the ratings war with the WWF, and sometimes I find myself going against my personal beliefs in order to be a team player. I ask myself, 'how far do I compromise in order to help WCW beat Vince McMahon,' or do I find a personal victory in not bending at all? I'm having a harder time than people think finding that answer.

 What I do know is that in an effort to come up with their own version of the WWF's winning formula, WCW hired the WWF's script writers right out from under them. The phrase 'script writer' had no meaning in wrestling until very recently. People have always asked if wrestling is scripted and the honest answer to that was no. I never saw or even heard of a script for a wrestling match. But now the first thing they do when you arrive at an arena is put a script in your hand. It's not a script that tells you how to wrestle -- although I fear that's not far off. It's a script for all the soap opera stuff, which has taken precedence over the wrestling matches. I find myself memorizing lines and rehearsing scenes. I want to make it very clear to anyone who might still be wondering -- and I know there are a few of you -- that I never really tried to kill Sid Vicious by running him over with a monster truck. (That's fake.)

 But I could have killed myself screeching out of an arena in a speeding car in another scripted scene. (That's real). I'm flooring it, tearing out of backstage, with no time in the scene to even put on a seatbelt. And it turns out an icy rain had coated the ramp. There I am, careening out of control, towards a trailer truck filled with TV equipment. In the last moment, I somehow veered to safety.

 About a week later, I was awakened in the middle of the night by the realization that I had a concussion from when Goldberg kicked me in the head (for real) and I'd been walking around in a haze every since -- otherwise, there is no way I would have ever agreed to race a car up a narrow ramp flanked not only by expensive equipment but -- by the way -- what about whatever people happened to be around!

 Then look at Goldberg, who was scripted to punch through a car window, ended up nearly cutting his forearm off and now he'll be out for a while. It's actually sickening because in wrestling's proper context, it would never have happened.

 I'm a wrestler, not a stunt man. And even a stunt man has time to strap himself in. I'm a professional wrestler and I get paid to wrestle in a ring. What am I doing fighting in the back, taking falls on concrete and doing stunts in speeding cars?

 And then came the really scary part, when I realized that I'd done exactly what Owen had done. I made a mistake and before I knew it had done something really stupid -- and for what? I was hurt, weary and all I wanted to do was go home for the holidays so I didn't even see it coming.

 I made it clear to WCW I will never make that mistake again. Since pro wrestling has turned into a soap opera, there are very few skilled wrestlers -- like Chris Benoit. He showed up barely in time to make it as part of a lost era. Like the ghost of what wrestling used to be and was meant to be, Benoit made an indelible statement with me in Kansas City, one that is best defined not with words but by watching it. It is asking an awful lot of Chris Benoit to carry that legacy into the future when wrestling shows today don't pay homage to the past. I tried to do what I could to clean up wrestling and bring it back to what it's supposed to be and things are so far gone now that maybe Chris shouldn't try to be the morality police of wrestling any more than I could.

 Since wrestling is scripted now, I don't take it as seriously as I used to. I take my matches and wrestling seriously, but all this soap opera stuff is just -- a job. I hope no one actually believes for one second that I'd really beat up Arn Anderson with a baseball bat -- or some poor EMT for that matter! Yet I still get letters from people who call me a fallen hero. They just don't get it that there's no room for heroes in wrestling any more.

 The other day, in Roanoke, a mob of about 30 kids showed up in the hotel lobby, clambering for autographs, so happy to be there. I realized how much I miss seeing kids at the matches. As happy I was to see them, I was disturbed at the idea that someone might actually be taking them to the show. There used to be hundreds of kids that came out to the hotels every day in all the towns and thousands of kids came out to Calgary airport when I brought the World Title home to Canada for the fifth time. You don't see that any more -- and that was only three years ago. Feels like a time gone by.

 I still take it seriously to be a positive role model for kids and I even enjoy the responsibility that goes along with it, but now I'm finding other ways to do it.

 A couple of months ago, at the Special Olympics, a high-ranking official confided in me that they're considering not inviting the WWF back any more because of crude content of the shows. I hope the charities I donate my time to won't think any less of my association on account of something that I have no control over. I think about what my place in wrestling is now. After all, I am the World Champion.

 Meanwhile, I recently turned on Stampede Wrestling on TV.

 What I saw made me embarrassed for my family name. I was disappointed to see that my sisters, Diana and Ellie, would participate in such a farcical performance. When did they become wrestlers?

 To me it was pathetic to see 14-year-olds in the ring -- and when did they become wrestlers? For kids, they're great, but they're not seasoned professionals. Wrestling is an adult profession often intended for the amusement of children. Now we have children in the ring and this is one adult who is not amused. Here I've been saying wrestling isn't for kids anymore, that there are adult things happening in the ring that aren't for kids and meanwhile my own family has kids in the ring mimicking adults.

 So what's the point of all this?

  I'm not sure I know. I just know I've emptied my head ad my heart and this is a real as it gets.

 Maybe the whole wrestling business is pathetic .... including me.

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