Farewell, my friends
By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- For The Calgary Sun
'I'm really sorry to have to say that my professional wrestling career is over -- forever'
"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That'll be the beginning." -- Louis La'Amour
I'm really sorry to have to say that my professional wrestling career is over -- forever.
Although I've expected it to end for some time now, I could in no way ever prepare for it.
I suppose it doesn't do much good to speak negatively about how this or that has gone for me. I feel it is more fitting right now to remember the more positive aspects of my long and great career. I have not one regret.
I'm proud of all my achievements, especially my seven World Heavyweight Championships.
I will miss the cities, the countries, especially the people -- all colours, all religions, all ages, all languages. I've always tried my absolute best in every match, in every city, big or small, in countries all around the world.
I cannot begin to explain how proud I am to have touched so many people with the ability to wrestle. My heart is filled with memories.
Like when I was mobbed at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem by Palestinian children, tears in their eyes, kissing my hands.
In Belfast, Ireland, being cheered on by both Catholic and Protestant fans, the emotions that poured out as I walked around the ring, high-fiving our victory together.
The time I was in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, where they waved Canadian flags and chanted O Canada!
I could go on endlessly, but maybe it's easier to say I was privileged to be the only world champion who really travelled the world.
I hope that all my fans who have kept the faith, believing in me, may in some small way take some lesson from me that will help them in their lifetime. I will never forget how touched I was in Rochester N.Y., in one of my last matches, when a bunch of die-hard fans held up a big sign that read: Parking $10, Program $5, ticket $35, watching Bret Hitman Hart wrestle -- priceless!"
I'm forever grateful for the door that opened bringing me to America. Thank you for having me, for giving me so much. I thank all my fans everywhere. I owe you all for everything I am.
As for the wrestlers, it would mean a lot to me to always be remembered as "one of the boys."
I've made great friendships that will last my lifetime and look forward to an easier life filled with reminiscing.
To all of you who worked with me, protected me, carried me, and trusted me, those who allowed my success to continue while theirs did not, all from a deep sense of tradition and honour. I tried to always work hard to be champion in your eyes first. My greatest accomplishment is knowing that I never seriously harmed one wrestler. It may not seem important but I want it remembered that in all the years I never, ever refused to lose to another wrestler -- except once -- and that was that fateful day in Montreal, where it's clear that I stood up for "the boys."
I could begin to list all the great wrestlers I either watched or worked with, but it would take forever. I will simply say that I'd give anything to climb into the ring with so many of you just one more time.
To most people, wrestling is stupid, it's fake, it doesn't mean anything. When I think about it, I'm reminded of a quote by George Braque: "Art is a wound turned to light."
I drift back to a time when I was 23 years old, wrestling for my father, in Regina, making $150 a night. It looked like it was going to be a near full crowd on hand to see me take on my arch rival, The Dynamite Kid, in a ladder match. The title and a bag supposedly containing $5,000 dangled from a string above the ring. Whoever could climb the ladder and grab it first would be the winner.
We were both so young when I look back on it now, so intense, when the bell rang we tore into each other, ferociously, eventually spilling out onto the floor. I went to slam Dynamite's head into a steel chair. He, of course, had his hands up for protection, but I had no idea he would hit it so hard.
His head bounced back, I tried to turn but our heads smashed. I split the back of his head open and shattered my face, one of those rare accidents.
I could tell it was bad. I could poke my finger through a gaping hold in the middle of my nose.
The blood poured. We fought on.
I remember Dynamite jumping up high, gripping that heavy steel ladder coming straight down on my head. I didn't move. The crowd gasped. I dreamed a smile -- because he never even touched me. He really was the best.
Finally, I had him right where I wanted him, but the referee was down.
That's when J.R. Foley crept up on the apron and whacked me across the back with his heavy walking stick.
Down I went.
The crowd was furious -- so unfair.
Dynamite began to climb to the top, his fingers reaching.
Suddenly I jumped up, throwing a perfect desperation drop kick, just like he asked me, "...just barely touch the ladder with your toes. I'll control how I go over."
Sure enough, the ladder wobbled and tipped, he grimaced, over they both went, with amazing timing Dynamite leapt off, straddling the top rope, bouncing up and out right on top of J.R. Foley. But the ladder hit the top rope with such force, bouncing all the way back, heading right towards me. I was lucky I saw it. I rolled and rolled as fast as I could. It crashed with a thud missing my head by only inches. I sat up, checking to see if Dynamite was hurt.
He appeared to be all right, but still both of us knew we'd be going for some stitches.
He was riding with me, so he had to duck down when we drove past the fans on the way to the Pasqua Hospital. From there, we drove back home, all night, so that we could wrestle the following night, too tired to say a word to each other.
But if I can stop right there ... to somehow try and explain just what it is that I will miss the most about wrestling, I loved it all so much.
I stood that big steel ladder up, one step up, climbing higher and higher, the crowd soaring with me, louder and louder, the blood dripping off my nose ... reaching ... I pulled that belt down and there it was -- it happened. The crowd exploded.
We blew the roof off ... so loud I could not hear a single sound except the beating of my own heart.
If you're lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you also have to find the courage to finally say goodbye.
I'll put my guns in the ground, I can't shoot them any more.