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  June 3, 2000



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Rock bottom to the peak


By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- Calgary Sun

 The first time I ever wrestled for the WWF was in Hamilton in 1984. It was just my luck that for my big break I had a blown knee, could barely walk across the ring and hadn't been able to train for a while. My match was awful.

 A few months later, I wrestled for the WWF in Calgary. They'd just bought Stampede Wrestling from my dad and they demoted me to opening match status -- no matter that I'd main evented all over Western Canada, Japan and worked in Europe. I realized right away I was no longer a big fish in a little pond and that it would be a long, hard climb to the top. And I was at the very bottom.

 I walked around to every guy that I didn't know in the dressing room and introduced myself as Stu Hart's kid, Bret. I saw from their reactions that I'd have to work extra hard to overcome being labeled as just another promoter's son. The truth be told, most promoters' kids had attitude, drug problems and were crappy workers.

 Well, they didn't have a big crowd that night in Calgary because the local people weren't familiar with the top WWF guys and, in fact, it was kind of a slap in the face to even the fans that a top Stampede Wrestler didn't rate higher than opening match as far as the WWF was concerned.

 It was too bad but it didn't really surprise me all that much because the American wrestlers I'd met on various tours of Japan had all told me that the WWF was big man's territory and not to expect them to do much with me. Even Vince McMahon told me, the very first day he met me, that he liked his boys to be big.

 I'm sure the WWF didn't really expect much from me and, in fact, six months later, George Scott, Vince McMahon's then right-hand man, told me straight out that they had no clue what to do with me or with big Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart, so they just kind of stuck us in a tag team to get us out of the way. Boy, was everyone surprised when The Hart Foundation ended up being the hottest heel team they had back then, blowing the roof off the buildings with classic matches against the British Bulldogs that even the wrestlers peeked through the backstage curtains to watch.

 Twelve WWF titles later, with five of those being successful reigns as World Champion and most of them as a babyface and also having held the WCW World, TV, and tag titles, I think it's fair to say that I played a part in paving the way for young Canadian wrestlers coming up behind me. Of course, there were others, too -- the Rougeaus, Leo Burke, Rugged Ronnie Garvin, John Tenta, Archie Stomper Gouldie, Rick Martel, and even Rhonda Singh, who helped open doors -- but I think it was my first WWF World Championship reign, in '92, as a good guy, that was a huge ground-breaker for young Canadian wrestlers. And I'm proud of that.

 Even then, as their world champion, when I did interviews on the WWF shows, they wanted me to work at losing my Canadian accent, which I never consciously did. But the funny thing was they may have thought I was going along with it only because spending 300 days per year in the States made me talk funny. My accent became like I was the man from everywhere. So many times I wanted to yell out like Joe on the Molson ads. "It's zed, not zee ... I AM Canadian."

 Now, great Canadian wrestlers are given the respect that their talent so justly deserves. I'm told, by all accounts, the best match on the card when the WWF was here last weekend belonged to Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho.

 There's a part of me that wishes I could have seen them wrestle if circumstances were different, but the timing was in incredibly poor taste, which, by the way, I think accounts for the less-than-great turnout.

 I'm frustrated having this concussion because there are still things I'd like to do in wrestling and I don't know if I'll ever be able to come back and do them. If I ever do get medical clearance to have a few more matches -- politics aside -- give me Vampiro and Edge and Val Venis and Chris Jericho -- all great workers with incredible athletic ability and great timing.

 And as for Chris Benoit, in an ideal world, I'd love to end my career wrestling him all over the world, in the biggest arenas and smallest towns and have it all on videotape so that when they can't play 'can you top this?' anymore -- when there are no more stunts left to do and the pyro and explosions can't get any bigger and fans are bored at having seen all that glitz before -- someone would pull out an old, dusty tape of me and Benoit and go, "ya know ... here's a new idea for our wrestling show ... why can't we do it the way these guys did ... they ... er ... wrestled."

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