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  August 22, 1998



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You can't fool the people

True champions earn their crown over years of hard work

By BRET HART -- For the Calgary Sun
  The fightingest champion of all time. That's what they called me in the WWF.
 It was a nickname I earned by never ducking a challenge.
 I persevered through hundreds of title defences over the years -- sometimes hanging on by the skin of my teeth.
 Somehow the Hitman always sucked it up and dug down deep to that special place where courage and bravery are kept in reserve for desperate moments.
 I used to wonder how it was that the emergency reserves got replenished so my tank didn't come up empty.
 Now I know the answer. It has a lot to do -- or everything to do -- with another nickname I was given in the my WWF days.
 All the wrestling belts I've won over the years, along with awards and accolades from prestigious organizations in many countries. The informally-awarded moniker of "the people's champion'' ranks right up there at the top of the list. At a time when I was between titles, the fans voted me the guy who doesn't need a belt to be their champion.
 It was their thank you for giving 100% in every match, whether it was in a small town or the biggest arena, for working hurt, for missing only one match in 14 years (which was out of my control, due to transportation trouble), for always paying attention to what my fans think and never being too busy to sign autographs, and for living up to their expectations and maintaining a standard of excellence through it all.
 The People's Champion.
 It's a title that I'm honored to have earned and it's become a motto that I will always strive to deserve.
 Enter Diamond Dallas Page.
 Exactly who appointed him "the people's champion"? I mean, the WCW commentators go on and on about it every time DDP comes out. It bugged me at the beginning. Being singled out by the fans as "the people's champion'' means a lot to me and it's a distinction that I wasn't sure I wanted to share with anybody. I'm not sure how the DDP got this nickname but the one thing I have been able to determine is that it wasn't awarded to him by the fans, although you guys adopted it later.
 Was it an announcer who started it or did DDP decide that he's the self-appointed people's champion?
 The way I look at it now is that if Diamond Dallas Page, or any other wrestler, wants to call himself a people's champion that's a good thing -- as long as they do everything possible to live up to the title. As the original people's champion, I feel that it's kind of my responsibility to see who measures up.
 If you show up to fight me for the United States championship, or any other kind of match, be prepared for a fight.
 If you've got excuses, don't bother coming.
 Give credit where credit is due. DDP gave me one heck of a good fight on Nitro. Maybe he's on his way to becoming a people's champion. What do you, the people, think?
 Roddy Piper's an icon but he's injured because of me. And so are Macho Man Randy Savage and Canadian Crippler Chris Bennett and even Booker T. All out because of me.
 I would have sent Lex Luger home, too, but I didn't out of respect for his friendship with Sting. None of these guys are my enemies. I hope they'll all come back hungry for retribution. It'll make for some great matches.
 I'm still waiting for Bill Goldberg to answer my challenge. However impressive his won/loss record is, Goldberg still can't call himself a fighting champion as long as he's ducking the Hitman. Gene Okerlund 'advised' me on Thunder that Bill Goldberg prefers to just be called Goldberg.
 Does Bill need Geno to be his spokesman? There's one guy who can beat Goldberg -- me.
 I'm training for the next great match now. Hollywood Hulk Hogan and the Hitman will be teaming up with a surprise mystery partner at the War Games on ppv on Sept. 13 in a special 3-man/3-way tag. I'm not going to divulge who our ace-in- the-hole is but stay tuned for clues in these columns.
 Kevin Nash will head up the Wolfpac team and DDP leads Team WCW.
 I'm proud to have won the United States heavyweight title two times in the eight short months since I've joined the WCW. The U.S. title is generally thought of by the wrestlers as a stepping stone to the World Title.
 Look what it did for Goldberg's career.
 As a five-time champion I don't need any stepping stones. To me, being the U.S. champion is an opportunity to prove to all the wrestlers and fans of the WCW that the Hitman can still live up to the nicknames of my past.
 To prove why I'm the best there is, was, or ever will be.
 The best matches with the best wrestlers. What better way for this ring general to earn some new stripes in the WCW.
 Ever since the debacle in Montreal, fans haven't stopped asking me, "Why Bret, why?'
 The truth will come out in a documentary to be released soon. Stay tuned for details.

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